Image via WikipediaLeslie Nielsen in "Naked Gun"
On Sunday, November 28, famed actor Leslie William Nielsen, passed away from pneumonia complications at the age of 84 at Fort Lauderdale hospital. He is survived by his wife, Barbaree Earl Nielsen, and two children.
Doug Nielsen, Nielsen’s nephew, stated on radio station CJOB, that “Leslie’s been in the hospital with pneumonia now for a number of days, approximately 12 days and just in this last 48 hours the infection has gotten too much, and today at 5:30 with his friends and his wife Barbaree by his side he just fell asleep and passed away.”
Nielsen was born on February 11, 1926 to Welsh and Danish immigrants. He was born in Canada and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force after high school. He credited his acting abilities to the persistent lies he often told his strict father to avoid punishments. After receiving a scholarship to New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, Nielsen vigorously started to pursue acting.
Nielsen’s early career was that of a dramatic actor, however, after several years in the industry he reinvented himself into a satirical comedian. His comedic breakthrough was his role in the movie, “Airplane!” In an interview he said, “When I read the [Airplane!] script, I knew exactly what they were after," he said. "It was the greatest break of my life, in a sense, that I ended up working with people who spotted me for being the closet comedian that I was.”
He managed to stay relevant in this industry for about 60 years and appeared in over 200 movies. He is best known for his role as incompetent and accident prone Detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun trilogy.
Although he started his career as a dramatic actor, he was often behind the scenes pulling pranks and being a jokester. For him, comedy came naturally. In an interview in January 2010 Nielsen said, “I love doing comedy. I am also happy doing drama but my main baby is comedy!” When asked what his secret for great comedy was, he answered, “I don’t know what the secret is. I don’t wanna be the champion of the great secret. I remember when I was in New York to see a Charlie Chaplin festival, on a dull winter’s day and I came out after seeing a couple of the movies and it was sunshine, bright and cheerful and I came out laughing. That is the secret of great comedy.”