Incredibly sad news: Leslie Nielsen, best known for his roles in the Naked Gun films and Airplane!, has passed away from pneumonia, at the age of 84.
While acting in a huge amount of films beforehand, including the 1956 Forbidden Planet, Nielsen came to the forefront as Dr. Rumack in 1980’s Airplane!, and was the man who uttered the now infamous phrase, “Don’t call me Shirley.” This brand of zany comedy is probably what’s most associated with Nielsen, and carried on into the role of Detective Frank Drebin in the TV show Police Squad!, which spawned the absolutely hilarious Naked Gun trilogy. It was changing the channel and accidentally seeing part of the crazy randomness of Naked Gun 33 1/3rd when I first saw Nielsen’s acting, and realised what a hilarious man he was. The absolute naivety of Frank Drebin, the seeming lack of awareness of the craziness that is going on around him, is just very funny to watch.
And whatever you thought of the Scary Movie films, Nielsen’s portrayal of a likely George Bush-inspired President was brilliant too, providing some surprisingly memorable, laugh-out-loud moments (particularly when he decides that aliens have invaded, and shouts something along the lines of, “OH GOD, THEY’RE HORRIBLE!” when witnessing a woman with lots of make up on). Of course, while I’m only mentioning a few films here (I am familiar with the man through these more popular works), Nielsen starred in a very large amount of movies, right up to the end of his life. Among these were Spy Hard, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, The Patriot, Disney’s Mr. Magoo, and many recent spoof movies such as Superhero Movie. If you don’t know any of Nielsen’s films, please do yourself a favour and watch the montage of Naked Gun moments below, or start watching Police Squad! on YouTube.
Harry and Quint at Ain’t It Cool News have written a nice piece about the man and his work.
It’s always horrible to see such a loss, but we, and indeed Nielsen himself, can be happy that he provided so much joy and laughter throughout his long life.
Nielsen died from pneumonia complications while asleep, at around 5:30pm last night, and was reportedly surrounded by family and friends when he left. He leaves behind his wife and two children, and of course the rest of his loved ones. Please spare a thought for them.