Leslie Nielsen: 1926 – 2010

Longtime actor Leslie Nielsen has passed away at the age of 84 due to complications from pneumonia. The actor died in Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday at a hospital near his home.

Best known for his comedic turn in lauded comedies Airplane! and The Naked Gun series, Nielsen began his career in more dramatic roles before turning his talents to comedy. His early career was noted for his starring appearances in the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet and a string of MGM films like Ranson! (1956) and Hot Summer Night (1957).

His comedic stock rocketed into the stratosphere with his supporting turn in the successful 1980 film Airplane! before landing his recognized role as Frank Drebin in the television series Police Squad. The show was abruptly cancelled in 1982 but six years later, Nielsen returned to the character for the feature length film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad. The comedy spawned two sequels and cemented Nielsen’s ability as a comedic leading man.

His later years were recognized for the spoofs he did, like the sometimes funny Spy Hard, the not so funny Scary Movie 3,4 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

My first encounter with Leslie Nielsen was, like a lot of people of my generation, with The Naked Gun. I was 7  and living in Indonesia when the film was released and my father rented it on laser-disc(!) not long after. I had no grasp of world politics, I didn’t know who Muammar Gaddafi, The Ayatollah or Yasser Arafat were (but for some reason, I knew who Mikhail Gorbachev was) or their significance to the world. I had not seen Airplane! yet and I didn’t know what a spoof was, but from those opening minutes of the film, I knew this comedy, and those involved, were something special.

Here is that short clip, the opening sequence of The Naked Gun:

You will be missed Leslie Nielsen, thanks for showing a kid growing up in Indonesia (and countless others around the world) what it meant to be funny.