Funny people are important. They remind us not to take things so seriously and lighten up once in a while. From the mold of such comic geniuses like Lucile Ball, John Candy, and many before him, Leslie Nielsen made us laugh, and laugh hard. While the actor was never really handed material considered Oscar worthy, he was never visibly just going through the motions. He embraced the characters he was playing, putting every effort of sincerity into movies that have become the stuff of comedy legend. Leslie Nielsen passed away Sunday November 28 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was 84.
While the early career of Leslie Nielsen is a course in serious drama roles, the iconic parts that I can remember him being a part of were from “The Naked Gun”, “Spy Hard”, and “Airplane!”. All completely outrageous and none taken seriously. As Frank Drebin, Nielsen brought a smile to my face, and to the faces of millions. His antics were funny, and he demonstrated top comedic timing. He even managed to deliver lines like “I’ve been swimming in raw sewage, and I love it” with a straight face. For a time, Leslie Nielsen was perhaps the funniest guy on the silver screen and perhaps in all of Hollywood.
While he will be missed, like all great actors, he leaves behind a catalog of work that stands the test of time and often serves as inspiration to many comedians and spoof makers. Anyone who happens to check out any of his movies will be stunned to the lengths at which the films go to get a laugh, and it is that dedication to his craft that sets Nielsen apart from any of his peers. He did not just get into character, he was the character, and we are all better for it. While the awards and box office acclaim were not as great as some actors, the appeal of Nielsen and the films in which he acted will live on for generations to come.
Rest in Peace, Leslie Nielsen. Thanks for the smiles and the great memories through the years. Surely, you can be greatly missed. And, I promise to stop calling you Shirley.