It’s never good to hear about the passing of a popular celebrity, but there’s certain days when someone passes away you expected to be here forever, and those days hurt the most. Today is one of those days.
Legendary performer and universally popular talent Leslie Nielsen died Sunday at a hospital near his home in Florida. Nielsen passed away after a suffering from pneumonia. He was 84 years old.
For many of us who grew up in the ’80s, Nielsen was a man with purely genius comic delivery who made many appearances in parody films. What those people may not know is that Nielsen had been around for decades prior to his best-known works, and spent the majority of his career as a generally serious actor.
Over his 60-year career, Nielsen compiled an incredible 239 acting credits to his name. Many of his jobs were small roles on TV series, including many classics like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, The Mod Squad, M*A*S*H, Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, Kung Fu, Swiss Family Robinson, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island.
Though he had done movies along with these great TV gigs, Nielsen made his true cinematic mark on history with his performance in the 1980 comedy classic, Airplane!, where he played Dr. Rumack. This was his segway into the world of comedy, where this generation will always hold him dearest.
After Airplane!, he starred in a 1982 TV series called Police Squad!, which spawned three movies for which Nielsen is perhaps best recognized: The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. This solidified Nielsen as a parody legend, and led to appearances in others in the genre like Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused, and Scary Movie 3 & 4, not to mention many others.
Most recently, he starred in Stan Helsing, Superhero Movie, and Spanish Movie. He also had two titles in development at the time of his death: Stonerville, which has completed production, and The Waterman Movie, which is currently filming. It’s unclear whether or not his work on the latter was completed before his death.
For me personally, though a fan of many of his movies, Dracula: Dead and Loving It has always had a special place in my heart and has to be my favorite of his. This may be an odd choice with all things considered, but there’s just something about that movie and his performance that always brings a smile to my face, no matter how badly any particular day was going. Watching it and his other movies will never be the same.
Leslie Nielsen was one of those actors who felt like a grandfather to myself and many others. A world without his smile and his talents is a world that is undoubtedly less happy and less warm than it was but a few short days ago.