Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian-born actor who in middle age tossed aside three decades of credibility in dramatic and romantic roles to make a new, far more successful career as a comic actor in films like “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” series, died while being treated for pneumonia at a hospital near his home on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.
His best-known pre-80s roles included the stalwart spaceship captain in the science fiction classic “Forbidden Planet” (1956), the wealthy, available Southern aristocrat in “Tammy and the Bachelor” (1957) and an ocean liner captain faced with disaster in “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972).
Into the 80s he became known as a comedic genius in the Police Squad (cut too short) television series which fortunately was then spun off into a few rather hilarious movies you may know as the Naked Gun feature films. My husband’s favorite Nielsen movie from the 80s is Airplane! and I think most people my age remember Nielsen most fondly from his role in Airplane! as Dr. Rumack. It is from that movie where everyone is remembering his deadpan, straight faced scene during which these famous lines were spoken… “Surely you can’t be serious,” one character says. Mr. Nielsen’s doctor replies: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
Nielsen, who was cast as the voice of Ready Espanosa in the animated comedy “The Waterman Movie,” finished his voice work over a year ago. But, according to the website, the movie’s producers were unable to pay for the final animation. Maybe in light of his passing there will be donors willing to get his final job out on the big screen.
Vincent Ludwig: Nice to meet you too. [offers Drebin a cigar] Cuban?
Lt. Frank Drebin (Nielsen): Err, no, Dutch-Irish, my father was from Wales.