Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010
by Leslie Nielsen
When told of actor Leslie Nielsen's death this Sunday night, a nation of comedy-lovers were in disbelief.
"Surely you can't be serious!" they pleaded with the doctor.
"Yes," said Dr. Surely. "And you're right, you have me mistaken with this man 'Serious.'"
Actor Leslie Nielsen, 84, died on November 28, 2010, at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale. Though the cause of death has not yet been determined, doctors say that he was probably not gored to death by a unicorn. He is survived by a wife, two daughters, and Gloria Gaynor in a hit 1978 song.
About two days ago Nielsen was checked into the hospital with pnuemonia. When asked if they would have done anything differently, family members conceded that if they had to do it again, they would probably check him into a hospital that wasn't infested with pnuemonia.
Leslie William Nielsen was born on February 11, 1926, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe. The nephew of Danish actor Jean Hersholt, Nielsen prepared to be an actor by studying at the Academy of Studio Arts in Toronto and at the Neighborhood Playhouse; unfortunately he studied biophysics at these institutions, so he didn't learn very much about acting.
In the late 1940s Nielsen began his career in radio, transitioning to television when he managed to escape the insides of the overlarge FM/AM machine that had mysteriously entrapped him. Nielsen found success on television, notably for his recurring roles on "Tales of Tomorrow" on ABC and "I Can't Hear What You're Saying to Me!" on DEF.
In 1956 he made his film debut in "Ransom!" for which he earned acclaim (the claim: "You stink at acting"). Nielsen stuck with it, though, and went on to thrive in two decades of dramatic and romantic roles, notably in "Forbidden Planet" (1956), "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) and "We're Gonna Party Like It's" (1999). In the 1970s, as his hair turned a snowy-white, he began playing army generals, police captains, and Pong, a really fun table tennis game for the Atari system.
Though he found success in drama, Nielsen wanted more, and he also wanted some good pizza--not the fake kind you get at the grocery store, but the good kind, like they sell in New York. You know the stuff.
In 1980 Nielsen appeared in a comedy, "Airplane!" Though audiences were used to seeing him in dramatic roles, they were also used to seeing him on a big white screen in the dark where light is projected from behind them in the form of a moving picture, so the transition was not as difficult as feared. As Dr. Rumack, Nielsen won universal praise, as well as kudos from 20th Century Fox and Paramount. His line "Yes, I am serious; and don't call me Shirley," is still often quoted today, as well as another line of his from the film, "Hello."
Nielsen celebrated his newfound success by drinking a lot, berating Asian masseuses and wagging his genitals around in public--you know how those Hollywood types are. He continued to make comedies throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, starring in "The Naked Gun" trilogy, "Spy Hard," and "2001: A Space Travesty," a movie whose title parodies the title of the well-known Stanley Kubrick film "Spartacus." Though "Spy Hard" and "2001" did not earn the rave reviews of his earlier work, they did at least earn techno reviews from some critics.
Despite questionable appearances in Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4, and Scary Movie: Knock at the Door, Leslie Nielsen will be remembered by a generation of comics and moviegoers as one of the funniest actors with one of the best deadpans in cinematic history; and it is certainly quite sad that, thirty years after his legendary pan, Nielsen had to die, too.