One of the first news items I saw this morning was about the death of actor Leslie Nielsen. Now, I know that’s not happy news. But he did make it to the ripe old age of 84, and he was surrounded by family and friends at his passing, which sounds pretty good to me.
Plenty of actors from small towns end up making it big in Hollywood, but it would hard to find a smaller town than Nielsen’s childhood home of Fort Norman (now called Tulita) in the Northwest Territories of Canada, about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Nielsen once said that the town consisted of 15 people, 5 of them his family members. Given that its present population is less than 600, he may not have been exaggerating much. What an amazing accomplishment for the son of a Mountie in a minuscule aboriginal settlement to become an entertainer beloved by millions.
Like many of my generation, I first saw Leslie Nielsen in the classic spoof of disaster movies, Airplane! Arguably one of the funniest films of all time, it spawned the line that Nielsen will always be most remembered for: “Don’t call me Shirley!” Although comedy doesn’t always cross national and cultural boundaries, I think that if any film were capable of bringing about world peace, it would be Airplane! How could hate continue to flourish if sworn enemies were forced to watch it together with a bag of popcorn, laugh together about their favorite parts of the movie, and then discuss their problems while calling each other Shirley?
But I digress. Instead of mourning Leslie Nielsen’s death, I prefer to celebrate his life and the legacy he left behind through his work. Join me by watching some of the highlights of his long career.
For a quick refresher on Airplane!, here’s the trailer:
Or watch the whole movie on Amazon for $2.99.
Leslie Nielsen first appeared as Frank Drebin in the short-lived but funny t.v. show Police Squad! Follow the link to see all four episodes.
The character of Frank Drebin returned in The Naked Gun movie series. If you have a Netflix subscription, all three are available as DVDs. If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you can buy or watch The Naked Gun movies at Amazon.
Prior to filming Airplane!, Nielsen performed dramatic roles. One of his best-known films from his earlier career is the sci-fi cult classic Forbidden Planet. Again, you can add the DVD to your Netflix queue or watch it online at Amazon.
In addition to Police Squad!, Nielsen appeared in a number of other television shows. You can watch Nielsen in t.v. episodes from such programs as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Tales of Tomorrow, and Night Gallery for free at Hulu.
© Karen Joslin, 2010