Veteran actor Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday November 28th in a hospital in Florida after suffering complications from a bout of pneumonia, aged 84. Born in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926, Nielsen began his career in the entertainment industry as a radio disc jockey before gaining a scholarship at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse. After attending the Actors Studio Nielsen made his television debut alongside Charlton Heston in an episode of Studio One (1948), and went on to star in a range of TV productions before making his theatrical debut in the musical The Vagabond King (1956).
Nielsen’s performance earned him a role in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956), the success of which opened the doors to further film and television roles with credits including Hot Summer Night (1957), Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958-1961), The Swamp Fox (1959-1961), The New Breed (1961), The Bold Ones: The Protectors (1969) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). After appearing in the David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker comedy Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) in an uncredited cameo, Nielsen’s career received a major boost when he was cast in the classic spoof Airplane! (1980), with his deadpan delivery and comic talents opening the doors to a career in comedy.
Nielsen was cast as Detective Frank Drebin in the parody series Police Squad! (1982) and starred in its three spin-off features, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988), The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). He continued to thrive in the genre, appearing in efforts such as Repossessed (1990), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), Spy Hard (1996), Wrongfully Accused (1998), Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006), along with family features such as Mr. Magoo (1997) and Santa Who? (2000). Nielsen’s latest release was the 2009 parody Stan Helsing (2009), while he had recently completed voice work on the animated comedy The Waterman Movie, set for release in 2011.