Rosemary Clooney smoked for much of her life until her death in 2002 aged 74. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer just a few months prior.
Find out more about Rosemary Clooney’s life and career, as well as more on whether she smoked, below.
Rosemary Clooney was born in Kentucky in 1928 to father Andrew and mother Frances. She was one of five siblings.
Clooney had a complicated childhood. Her father worked as a decorator but suffered from alcoholism and was jailed for drunkenness.
His alcohol issues worsened after the death of his mother, Clooney’s grandmother. She and her siblings began living with their maternal grandparents, firstly in Ohio and later in Cincinnati.
Andy, one of her brothers, died from drowning as a child. She remained in close contact with her three remaining siblings throughout her life.
Her brother Nicholas would go on to marry Nina Warren, and the two would parent the now globally recognizable actor George Clooney.
Rosemary Clooney’s first venture into acting came at the age of 10 in a school production. In high school, she won a local radio talent contest alongside her sister Betty.
The sisters began performing together, firstly as part of existing bands. Their grandmother made dresses for their gigs while their uncle acted as chaperone.
Rosemary Clooney’s first solo song came in 1946 with ‘I’m Sorry I Didn’t Say I’m Sorry When I Made You Cry Last Night’. She soon bagged a contract with Columbia Records.
She began frequently appearing on TV and recorded the song ‘Come On-a My House’, which became a hit. A number of songs followed though these were not the style of music that Clooney hoped to be creating.
“I always wanted to sing sad ballads, but I didn’t get many opportunities,” she reflected of that era.
In 1954 she starred in the festive movie ‘White Christmas’ alongside Bing Crosby. This marked the beginning of a long friendship between the two musicians.
She was aged 26 when she starred in the now-classic movie.
Following the breakdown of her marriage, she was experiencing personal issues that would eventually see her spend time in a psychiatric hospital, putting a pause on her career.
After this incident, she became more committed to her charity work.
In 1974, she was invited by Crosby to sing with him at a show, marking a turn in her fortunes. The two went on to tour together, reviving her career.
Throughout the 1990s, she continued to create music with the label Concord Jazz and regularly performed.
“The last 20 years of her life were glorious,” her son Gabriel says. “She was recording jazz albums and appearing in New York at least once a year. It became a celebration of a life that wasn’t perfect, but had come back around.”
Her achievements were recognized when she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a feat she achieved in 1960. Just months before her death, she won the Grammy’s lifetime achievement award.
Health Issues and Death
In 1996, Clooney suffered respiratory failure. When she was hospitalized, she was encouraged by doctors to stop smoking.
Quitting smoking was a challenge for Clooney, but she did eventually manage to beat her addiction. “It was so hard for her to stop,” says her daughter Monsita Ferrer, “Though she finally did.”
Five years on, she again began having breathing issues. These health issues started while she was touring and became progressively worse during the final months of 2001.
“She could hardly get up the stairs,” her daughter recalls. “After two steps, she would have to stop and rest.”
Clooney was diagnosed with lung cancer, a disease she would ultimately not recover from. She died at home in Beverly Hills in 2002.
Her death came just six months after her diagnosis. Her final moments were spent in the company of her loved ones.