The world of comedy has lost one of its greatest. Leslie Nielsen the comedy legend who starred in “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” movies . . . died Sunday at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 84.Nielsen had been in the hospital almost two weeks battling pneumonia. His nephew Tweeted that he was surrounded by family and friends as he, quote, “just fell asleep and passed away.”
People under a certain age probably wouldn’t know this, but Leslie Nielsen was actually known as a serious actor throughout the first half of his career, in movies such as the 1956 sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet”. And he was the captain in the 1972 disaster film “The Poseidon Adventure”, but he’s killed off before the ship flips over by a wave hitting the bridge.
He also did a ton of TV guest appearances, on shows like “Gunsmoke”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “M*A*S*H”, “Hawaii 5-0”, “Kung Fu”, “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”.But his career exploded when the writer-director team of Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker had the brilliant idea of putting his deadpan delivery to comedic use in their 1980 masterpiece “Airplane!”
The four of them teamed up again for “Police Squad!” a TV series in the same comedic vein. Nielsen played bumbling police lieutenant Frank Drebin . . . and it was hilarious . . . but it only lasted a mere 6 episodes in 1982. But it did spawn the 1988 film “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad” and its two sequels.
From there, Nielsen became the go-to guy for spoof-type comedies . . . none of which lived up to the brilliance of “Airplane!” or the “Naked Gun” flicks.They included “Repossessed”, Mel Brooks’ “Dracula, Dead and Loving It”, “Spy Hard”, “Wrongly Accused”, “Superhero Movie”, “Stan Helsing” and the third and fourth flicks in the “Scary Movie” franchise. Let’s pay tribute to this comedy genius with a compilation of some of his funniest moments on the big screen:
Listen to Scott Vanderpool’s tribute to Leslie here: