The comedy world has lost one of its legends. Leslie Nielsen, he of Naked Gun and Airplane fame, passed away from pneumonia aged 84 in hospital (a big building with patients, but that's not important right now). Nielsen was admitted to hospital earlier this month and died last night at 10.30pm GMT surrounded by family and friends. His death will be met with great sadness, fond memories and many, many Airplane quotes.
Nielsen was one of the rare breed of comedic actors who was able to get laughs without speaking any lines, often just a raise of an eyebrow or indeed his mere presence on screen was enough. His movie career is synonymous with spoof movies, a genre in which he is the undisputed king, but not so many are aware that Nielsen spent the majority of the early part of his career toiling in standard leading-man dramatic roles. He even turned up as a villain in Columbo once.
It was Airplane in 1980 which really defined the direction which the next 30 years of his career would take. It was a massive hit and Nielsen was the breakout star of it, spawning dozens of repeatedly quotable lines. The Zucker Brothers, creators of Airplane, then cast Nielsen in Police Squad, a TV show for which he would receive and Emmy Nomination, but this success was short-lived as it was cancelled after only 6 episodes. However this temporary cloud had the shiniest of silver linings, as Police Squad was segued into the Naked Gun Series and introduced a far greater audience to Lt. Frank Drebin, the bumbling cop who, usually inadvertently, always gets the job done.
Surely we can't be serious. Unfortunately, we are. And we won't call you Shirley.
Commissioner Brumford: Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to introduce a most special American. Tonight, he is being honoured for his 1000th drug-dealer killed.
Lt. Frank Drebin: [to applause] Thank you. But, in all honesty, the last three I backed over with my car. Luckily, they turned out to be drug-dealers.