The world just got less funny with the passing of Leslie Nielsen. Growing up in the 80′s, he was the face, and voice, of comedy, mainly when it came to parodies. Nielsen’s deadpan approach to his films was something that may never again be duplicated. His ability to deliver a line like, “Jane, since I’ve met you, I’ve noticed things that I never knew were there before… birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights” with such a straight face that you almost could miss the humor in it. Believe it or not, he had been in the business since 1948, typically in more serious roles. That all changed with Airplane! in 1980. That famous deadpan delivery marked a turning point for the veteran actor. There was no looking back after that. Throughout his career, Nielsen appeared in over a hundred films and some 1,500 television programs. To honor the genius that Leslie Nielsen was, here’s seven things that we’ll remember him for.
Nielsen was no stranger to horror films. He had previously appeared in two Hitchcock TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in the early 60′s, as well as, minor roles in the films Prom Night (1980) and Creepshow (1982). By 1990, he already established himself in the parody business, so naturally, it only made sense for him to play the part of Father Jebedaiah Mayii in Repossessed. The movie spoofed the classic Exorcist, and it also featured the pea soup vomiting star Linda Blair. While not Nielsen’s best work, it’s a guilty pleasure, and I’m pretty sure it paved the way for the Scary Movie franchise, which Nielsen would later join as President Harris.
6. Forbidden Planet
This 1956 sci-fi flick was Nielsen’s first major role in a movie. While campy for today’s standards, it’s highly influential in the realm of science fiction. It featured ground breaking special effects, an all electronic musical score and Robby the Robot, who was one of the first robots to have a personality. It’s also been said that it influenced Gene Roddenberry when he created Star Trek.
5. Monday Night Football Promo
How could Monday Night Football get any better? How about including a promo starring Leslie Nielsen? That’s how.
4. The Poseidon Adventure
This 1972 action-adventure flick pretty much had everything you could want. Gene Hackman, an ocean liner sinking, a tsunami, and a New Year’s Eve Party gone horribly wrong. Not too mention Nielsen, who portrayed Captain Harrison.
3. SummerSlam ’94
The main event at SummerSlam 1994, held on August 29, was the Undertaker vs. the Undertaker. The build-up to the match had been going on since the Royal Rumble, which is in January, after the Taker lost a casket match to Yokozuna. After several months, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase informed the WWF universe that he found the Dead Man, after-all, it was DiBiase that first brought the Taker into the WWF. However, Paul Bearer said that it was an impostor, and that he knew where the real Undertaker was. To help solve the mystery, Leslie Nielsen was brought in, reprising his role as Frank Drebin, to add some much needed comic relief.
In my opinion, this was the movie that spawned the parody, since Airplane! spoofed the disaster films Airport and Zero Hour! so perfectly well. Nielsen’s role as Dr. Alan Rumack was a milestone in his career, as we already mentioned. After that, Nielsen became the quintessential actor to call when a parody film was in the works.
1. Lt. Frank Drebin
Nielsen first portrayed his most iconic role, Lt. Frank Drebin, in the short lived TV series Police Squad! in 1982. Six years later Drebin returned, this time to the big screen, in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! The film was such a success that it was followed by two sequels, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994). There were rumors of a fourth film being in the works, which remained up until Nielsen’s death. There’s a possibility that the franchise could receive the reboot treatment, which would be an absolute travesty. Leslie Nielsen will always remain as the one and only Frank Drebin.
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