Actor Leslie Nielsen has died at the age of 84. It is a real loss for anyone who enjoys movie spoofs and broad comedy.
Neilsen had a long career as an actor that included playing a stalwart astronaut on Forbidden Planet and the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in The Poseidon Adventure. He really didn’t come into prominence, however, until he was featured as the doctor in the classic Airplane! In that role — where he spoke the memorable line “And don’t call me Shirley!” — Nielsen perfected a deadpan comedic style that was well suited to the parody-type movies that made him a star. He went on to star in the TV series Police Squad! where he first played Lieutenant Frank Drebin. After the series was canceled, Nielsen played Drebin in three excellent Naked Gun movies. Thanks to Nielsen’s deft comedic timing and talent for physical comedy, Drebin became an iconic character who was a kind of combination of Buster Keaton and Inspector Clouseau. Although Nielsen went on to make many more movies, none returned to the level of Airplane! and the Naked Gun films.
Airplane! is now generally regarded as one of the best movie comedies ever made, but my favorite Nielsen movie is The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, which featured Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, and Robert Goulet as the bad guy. The clip below aptly captures both Nielsen’s comedic skills and the nuttiness of the series. Leslie Nielsen will be missed.