When you think of Leslie Nielson, it is hard to imagine that at one point he was looked at as a serious actor in leading roles and a ladies man. Yet in the late 1950’s he was tall, handsome and charismatic, and got lead roles in films such as 1956’s Forbidden Planet pictured at the top. But through the years he never blossomed into the mega-star that some expected, as his serious on-screen personas couldn’t compete with other actors, and no one got a look at his comedic side until 1980.
His image now is the one cemented by his roles as Dr. Rumack in Airplane, and Detective Frank Drebin from the Police Squad television series and three movies. He also starred in a number of parody films throughout the 90’s and 2000’s, from terrible ones like Mr. Magoo to funny hits like the Scary Movie franchise.
He died of pneumonia according to sources, after two weeks in the hospital fighting the infection:
His agent confirmed that the actor died Sunday near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., surrounded by his “lovely wife and friends” at 5:34 p.m. ET, due to complications of pneumonia.
Nielsen had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks as a result of pneumonia, his agent said.
“Just in this last 48 hours, the infection has gotten too much,” his nephew Doug Nielsen told Canadian radio station CKNW. “He just fell asleep and passed away.”
Of all his roles, my favorite was Frank Drebin and the television series Police Squad, which I still have on video tape from their original run back in 1982 (though I got the DVD as soon as I could!). So I thought that the best way to remember him would be to show a clip from Police Squad. This is actually a 10-minute clip from one of the episodes, bearing all of the hallmarks of the series: opening shootings, guest star dying during the opening credits, title screen not matching what was said, and more! Enjoy this hilarious clip as we mourn the loss of a great voice in comedy, one whose true voice wasn’t discovered until he was 54 years old.
Well, just because it is such a comedy classic and has become one of my kids’ favorites as well as mine, here is the trailer from Airplane!