He will be missed by us all – including Shirley
Farewell then, Leslie Nielsen. The great man died earlier this week at the age of 84. It was, surely, a most peculiar life. Born in far Saskatchewan, Leslie spent the first three decades of his career wearing a serious face as he essayed various authority figures. He was the captain of two important cinematic vessels: a spacecraft in Forbidden Planet and a ship in The Poseidon Adventure. If he popped up on TV in Columbo or The Virginian, he would, surely, be playing a serious, responsible individual with a straight face and a calming word.
Of course, it was, surely, just this sobriety that caused the directors of Airplane! to cast him as the disingenuously unperturbed Dr Rumack. No actor can, surely, have spun through such a sudden hairpin at so late a point in his career. For the rest of his life he was, surely, one of the most reliably amusing comic actors on the planet.
Some critics claimed that his technique simply involved doing exactly what he did when playing straight roles. It was, surely, simply the context that made him funny. Not so. It required, surely, a great appreciation of comic dynamics to deliver his absurd punchlines with such immaculate timing.
He was, surely, one of the very great funny men. I’ll stop calling you “Shirley” now.
Assured of immortality: Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun 33 1/3