Monday, 29 November 2010

Leslie Nielsen 1926 – 2010

I was sad to hear about the passing of Leslie Nielsen, an actor who has been in a number of films I loved as a child and still love to this day. Though known and loved mainly for his comedic roles Nielsen started out as a serious actor, and I remember him well from Forbidden Planet (1956) and hadn’t realised until now that he was also the captain in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He also popped up in a large number of TV shows (he was one of those actors you would go “hey, isn’t that that guy? You know, the guy who was in that other thing we watched? You know... that guy!”) 

In 1980 he starred in Airplane! as Dr. Rumack, and immortalised himself with his dead pan delivery and brilliant comedy timing. I remember loving this film as a kid, and I still laugh like a loon with Nielsen’s lines, with one in particular being a line I consider one of the greatest in cinema history (more to come on that later). Naked Gun followed and was an excellent TV show, though it made a less impressive trilogy of films. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) was a little strained but still has its moments of comedy gold, and looking at his IMDB list I see a huge amount of shows and films I had never consciously connected with Leslie Nielsen but watched regularly. Like I said, he was one of those guys.
In honour of Mr Nielsen these are some of my favourite lines of his. The top one is the aforementioned favourite, even though I know it’s so silly I probably shouldn’t find it funny. But you try to keep a straight face when people in everyday life say “surely” to you…

Ted Striker: “Surely you can’t be serious?” Dr. Rumack: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” (Airplane, 1980)

Dr. Rumack: You'd better tell the captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital. Elaine: A hospital? What is it? Dr. Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now. (Airplane, 1980)

Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girl dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. Jane: Goodyear? Frank: No, the worst. (Naked Gun, 1988)

Frank: This is Frank Drebin, Police Squad. Throw down your guns, and come on out with your hands up. Or come on out, then throw down your guns, whichever way you wanna do it. Just remember the two key elements here: one, guns to be thrown down; two, come on out! (Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, 1991)

Ah, you will be much missed Leslie Nielsen. Rest In Peace.

(edit: As I wrote this I saw the news that Irvine Kershner has also passed away, at the age of 87. Well known for directing The Empire Strikes Back, the best of the Star Wars trilogy - we all know it's true - he is another loss to the talent pool. RIP Mr Kershner)

1 comment:

  1. Leslie Nielsen was great. In addition to the credits you listed, he was the first Hollywood Swamp Fox way before Mel Gibson. I paid him a tribute on my blog, too.