Canadian-born actor and star of such comedy classics as Airplane! and The Naked Gun series, Leslie Nielsen, died today, Sunday November 28 at the age of 84. He passed away at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, FL due to complications from pneumonia.
Leslie Nielsen started out his acting career in dramatic television during the 1950s and got his big break with the 1956 film, Forbidden Planet, which became a huge success landing Nielsen a line of other MGM films. However, despite his dramatic background, Nielsen was most widely known for his comedies, particularly his role as Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun series.
Nielsen was the absolute master of deadpan comedy. His calm, matter-of-fact delivery paired with the absurdity surrounding him made such simple lines like, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” all the more hilarious. That line of course comes from the 1980s satire, Airplane! in which Nielsen plays a doctor on board an airplane where people are falling sick from food poisoning. It’s ranked on AFI’s top 100 comedies of all time and is the host of one of my favorite lines in comedy history:
“A hospital? What is it?” the flight attendant asks, referring to the illness
“It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.” replies Nielsen in perfect deadpan.
It’s difficult to see a tremendous talent pass, especially when it is held by someone as good-hearted as Leslie Nielsen. And so in our own special way, Bitchy Queens is going to honor his talent and impact on the film world by Chris and I each watching our favorite Nielsen comedy and posting up our ramblings about it as a sort of thank you and final good-bye to a comedy legend.
R.I.P. Mr. Nielsen.