Life is funny.
Me and my Mom were JUST talking about Leslie Nielsen last week.
I was telling her how I finally got a chance to catch the groundbreaking classic spoof film, Airplane! starring the legend.
She mistakenly told me that he used to star on the hit show, Mission Impossible, as we talked about his earlier career as a serious actor, which made me want to research him. Little did I know that this research would be prompted by the news of hearing of his death yesterday.
What my mom was right about, was that Nielsen was indeed a veteran actor, with an acting resume full of stage and Big Film roles ranging from Drama to romance to thriller and suspense. From Forbidden Planet to The Poseidon Adventure, he’s been apart of history. His foray into television branded him as a go to guy for Man-in-uniform roles.
It wasn’t until the final quarter of his life and career that Nielsen began doing primarily comedy roles. However, what Nielsen did for the genre was groundbreaking. He almost singlehandedly helped usher in the spoof movie craze. He mastered the art of slapstick comedy with a straight face and was sought after for this quality because the classical training he embodied added a less deliberate comedic element and made for a funnier effect.
After the success of Airplane!, he went on to star in a short lived television series Police Squad! which earned him an Emmy nom, but also gave birth to the detective character Frank Drebin, whom he revised when the show got revisited years later as the movie, The Naked Gun; From The Files Of Police Squad! This cemented his iconic presence as the man when it came to taking shots at films that took themselves too seriously.
It’s the kind of movie my cousins and I would rent every time we got together and still quote to this day! Just as I have sang the praise of Groundhog’s Day before, I will do so about this movie. It’s good ‘ol 90′s movie humor without the low-blows and raunch of all the Seth Rogen, Seth Green and Seth McFarlaneism going on today.
One of the greatest things about an acting career is that you can work until you can no longer work. I just heard Robert Duvall say that you don’t retire from acting, acting retires you. Well Nielsen showed no signs of slowing down and continued working right up until his passing. He died the way many of us glorify and idealize ourselves going…In His sleep. Dead…And Loving it, I’m Sure.