Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Leslie Nielsen R.I.P. (1926-2010)

"Surely you can't be serious?"
"I am serious - and don't call me Shirley." (clip)

On Sunday 28th November 2010, Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away due to complications arising from pneumonia. Although Nielsen appeared in hundreds of movies and television shows, it is without doubt his deadpan comedy roles, beginning with Airplane! (1980) (clip) and ending with Spanish Movie (2009) (clip), which became his trademark.

Leslie began his career as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and as a disc jockey before beginning his path as an actor in 1949 in an episode of the drama series "Studio One" (clip).  Some of his most popular early work includes Forbidden Planet (1956) (clip) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972) (clip).  Arguably his best-loved performance came as Dr Rumack in 1980's 'airplane disaster movie' spoof "Airplane!" (clip).  The plethora of comedic lines delivered by Nielsen has rightfully earned him spots on many "Top Movie Quotes" lists (link) and are oft-quoted by fans.  Nielsen himself has repeated his characters lines in several other films.

After the success of Airplane!, Nielsen teamed up again with the writing team for the short-lived 'cop show' spoof "Police Squad" (1982) (clip).  Essentially cancelled for being too quick-witted (the show is quoted as being cancelled "because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it."), Nielsen thankfully got the chance to reprise his role as Detective Frank Drebin six years later with 1988's "The Naked Gun".  Spawning two sequels, 1991's "The Naked Gun 2 1/2 - The Smell Of Fear" (which grossed more box office revenue than Airplane!) and 1994's "The Naked Gun 33 1/3 - The Final Insult", the series provided Nielsen the platform to showcase his slapstick chops (clip) alongside the quick-fire comedic line delivery that had became his trademark.

Continuing on in his career, Nielsen would attempt to recapture the laughs in films including 1995's "Rent-A-Kid" (clip) and "Dracula - Dead And Loving It" (clip), 1996's "Spy Hard" (clip), which had their fair share of fans and detractors (personally speaking, Spy Hard was one of my favourite films in 1996), general consensus has it that the Nielsen brand had begun its decline definitively with 1997's "Mr Magoo" (clip), but by now Leslie Nielsen had become a worldwide much-loved actor and icon.  His delivery was so well-known and specific he could make a Dutch telephone advert look good (clip) and even brought some gavitas to terrible movies late in his career (clip).

Despite what some of his later movies may imply, Leslie Nielsen himself was a genuinely funny guy, as many interviews (link), friends and fans will testify to. Whether you remember him from his early 'serious' work, or just as "that guy from that funny film", maybe now is the time to delve into his back catalogue and enjoy the legend that was.  Leslie Nielsen, rest in peace, you will be sorely missed.

"Good luck. We're all counting on you."


  1. :( What a guy! Good comedian & will be sadly missed!xxx

  2. Interesting use of punctuation...