After suffering complications arising from a bout of pneumonia, Canadian-born actor Leslie Nielsen died at his Florida home yesterday at the age of 84.
He was best known for his comedic roles although Nielsen actually started his acting career doing drama: his half-uncle was Jean Hersholt (best known for playing Dr. Christian in the radio show of the same name) and Nielsen aspire to be an actor as a result. He first appeared in television roles during “television’s Golden Age”, appearing in 50 live shows in 1950 alone. He was offered a role in Forbidden Planet, and later played the captain in the popular disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure.
However, Nielsen is best known for his roles in spoofs. Now in his 50s, his deadpan delivery as a doctor in Airplane! gave Nielsen’s career a much-needed boost and would set him up as a comedy great. Roger Ebert even called Nielsen “the Olivier of spoofs”. High praise indeed for Shirley:
It would be as Frank Drebin that Nielsen would gain his defining role. Originally a character in the TV series Police Squad! the character was revived for The Naked Gun: Files From The Police Squad! six years after the show was cancelled. The movie spawned two sequels (The Smell of Fear and The Final Insult) and cemented Nielsen’s place as a spoof comedy great. It remains to this day one of his greatest and most cherished roles, and the movies have stood the test of time:
RIP Lt. Frank Drebin.