Leslie Nielsen was probably best known for his comedic roles. However, the actor also had a more serious side. Early in his acting career, which spanned sixty years, he did more dramatic performances. Here is a list of five of his best roles over time.
Lucas Hollingsworth on The Golden Girls
Blanche Devereaux was notorious for her love affairs and Southern pride. In the final two episodes of The Golden Girls,her Uncle Lucas Hollingsworth, played by Leslie Nielsen, comes to visit. Blanche tricks him and Dorothy into going out on a date. When they discover the trick, they decide to pretend that they fell madly in love with each other, and got engaged after only one date. After a few days, though, they decide that they really have fallen in love with each other, and get engaged for real. The series end is the wedding between Dorothy and Lucas, and her moving away to start her new married life.
While this was a guest appearance on a comedy, it also showed a more serious side of Nielsen. He was subtly funny, in a realistic human way. He also looked very handsome, making it completely believable that someone could easily fall in love with him.
Max Muldoon on Who’s the Boss?
Leslie Nielsen also played the role of Mona’s love interest in Who’s the Boss? Mona was the sexy grandmother who was determined to live a bachelorette lifestyle, living it up with as many men as she could. Then, Angela, her daughter, brings home a new client. Max Muldoon quickly becomes a close friend of the family, and Mona falls in love with him. Suddenly, he disappears for no reason, only to return some time later with a marriage proposal. Mona is upset with him, but then changes her mind when his twenty-four year-old ex-wife comes back to reclaim him. Mona wants to prove that she is just as wonderful as a woman just about young enough to be her granddaughter. Of course, she ends up not marrying him.
Again, it’s a more dramatic role in a comedy. An attractive man is wooing a single older woman, except this time he is a bit more of a sleazeball, yet still lovable to his fans.
Frank Drebin in Police Squad!
Police Squad!was a short-lived TV series about cops. Yet, within those six episodes lay some of the funniest TV moments. The show relied on many sight gags, in conjunction with ridiculously literal puns, and Leslie Nielsen was the master of the straight face when delivering them. For example, every time Frank would offer someone a cigarette, he would say, “Cigarette?” The potential recipient always replied, “Yes, I know.” Drebin also regularly changed his rank every time he introduced himself, depending on his situation.
The point of the show was to make fun of all of the police and crime dramas that were on the TV in the early 1980s.
Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun
Leslie Nielsen reprised his role as Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series of movies. In the first movie, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, Drebin is hired to foil a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. Using many of the same visual gags and puns as in the TV series, the first Naked Gun was comedic genius. It also starred Priscilla Presley as Nielsen’s eventual love interest, George Kennedy as the straight-laced partner, and a pre-white Bronco chase O.J. Simpson, playing the accident-prone partner.
The series spawned two sequels, which became subsequently less amusing. Nevertheless, they were full of plenty laughs, at least the first time around. In Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, Drebin finds out that his ex-girlfriend’s new man is involved in a kidnapping plot. And, in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, all of the actors return, as Drebin comes out of retirement, to help save the Academy Awards from a terrorist.
Dr. Rumack in Airplane!
While this movie focuses on the lost love relationship between Ted Stryker, the former pilot, and Elaine Dickinson, stewardess, Leslie Nielsen steals the show as Dr. Rumack in Airplane! Playing a character as literal as his later role as Frank Drebin, Nielsen is called upon to care for the passengers suffering from food poisoning from the fish served at dinner. One-liners from this movie are quoted time and time again, especially during the holiday travel season. Nielsen’s most famous line? When Stryker says to him, “Surely, you can’t be serious!” he replies, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
Commander J.J. Abrams in Forbidden Planet
Long considered one of the landmark movies of its genre, Forbidden Planet was the movie that established Leslie Nielsen as an actor in the movies. In the movie, Commander J.J. Adams is called upon to take his crew to a faraway planet that was inhabited by scientists. The planet has suddenly become quiet, and Adams is to find out why. It turns out there is a sinister and deadly secret.
The film is lauded for its electro-acoustic music. The crew is the basis for the crew of the “Enterprise” in Star Trek. The robots are quite possibly the inspiration for the robot in Lost in Space. This movie, which is essentially Shakespeare’s The Tempest transformed, also demonstrates one of Nielsen’s finest dramatic roles.
Leslie Nielsen passed away on November 28, 2010, but his legendary career will live on forever.
Leslie Nielsen on IMDB