Leslie Nielsen passes away

Star of Forbidden Planet, Airplane! and Naked Gun series was 84…

Forbidden Planet

Canadian radio station CJOB has reported, and TMZ has confirmed, that legendary comic actor Leslie Nielsen has passed away from complications resulting from pneumonia. He was 84.

Nielsen began his acting career in the late 1940s, quickly becoming a veteran of Hollywood’s live action dramas. The Saskatchewan native failed to achieve a wide breakthrough until 1956, however, when he starred in MGM’s Forbidden Planet, a film that many sci-fi aficionados consider a forerunner to the Star Trek television series. Many feature films followed in the mid-to-late 1950s, including the short-lived Disney series Swamp Fox.

For the next two decades, Nielsen became one of the more prolific actors in Hollywood, but was featured almost exclusively in dramatic roles. It wasn’t until his famous turn as Dr. Rumack in 1980’s smash hit Airplane! that Nielsen’s comedic talents were given a wide audience. From then on, Nielsen’s reputation shifted to that of a versatile comic presence. Airplane!‘s success led to Nielsen being cast in the lead role in Police Squad! as Frank Drebin, a bumbling but good-natured police detective. The series only lasted six episodes, but garnered Nielsen an Emmy nomination for his work, and led to his most famous big-screen role when he reprised his Drebin character in three Naked Gun films.

Nielsen never again achieved the success and prominence that he enjoyed during his run as Frank Drebin in the 1980s and 1990s, but continued to act until his death, primarily in small, comedic roles. The man that Roger Ebert once called the “Laurence Olivier of spoofs” starred in over 100 films and 1500 television programs in his lifetime, playing over 200 characters.

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