Leslie Nielsen, who started out his career playing serious heroes and later became more successfully known as a comic actor in films such as “Airplane!,” and in the short-lived “Police Squad” TV series, has died. He was 84.
Nielsen died at a hospital near his Florida home and had been treated for pneumonia, Nielsen’s obituary in The New York Times says. A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Nielsen started his career in radio and then made his television debut in 1950 when he appeared in the CBS series “Actors Studio.” He made TV appearances throughout his career and was nominated twice for Emmy Awards, in 1982 for his work in the comedy series “Police Squad!,” and in 1988 for his guest appearance in NBC’s sitcom “Day by Day,” the story notes.
His serious film roles included the spaceship captain in 1956’s “Forbidden Planet” and as an ocean liner captain in 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure,” but his career was reborn when he took the role as the clueless doctor on a jetliner in 1980’s disaster-movie parody “Airplane!,” the article notes. Praised for his deadpan delivery, his comedy work led to “Police Squad!” and its three “Naked Gun” film sequels, which were released in 1988, 1991 and 1994, respectively. He called his career transition to comedy “too good to be true” in a 1988 interview, the article notes.
“It’s been dawning on me slowly that for the past 35 years I have been cast against type,” he said, “and I’m finally getting to do what I really wanted to do.”
Here’s a funny clip from “Police Squad.” It’s been up on YouTube for about four years and has received about 230,000 hits: