In Memoriam: Leslie Nielsen

Considering how significant the Naked Gun films were to my formative years, I thought I should say something about their star Leslie Nielsen, who died on Sunday at the age of eighty-four. Although now largely known (including by me) as a comic actor, he had actually had a fairly long career as a television and movie actor before his first comedic role in Airplane!, released in 1980. Following this came the funny but unsuccessful TV series Police Squad!, and then the much more successful Naked Gun films based on the show. Nielsen made these roles work with his deadpan delivery, managing to deliver utterly absurd lines with a totally straight face. I can’t say I really saw much of him after the forgettable Spy Hard, one of a series of parody films that seemed to be of the variety where they’re apparently supposed to be funny just because they’re parodies. I just found out that the screenwriters for Spy Hard also worked on a lot of the recent spoof movies of that sort, including some of the “[Insert Genre Here] Movie” series. After all these years, they apparently still haven’t learned that referencing something else isn’t automatically funny. I also don’t recall hearing anything good about Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which I never saw despite growing up on both Nielsen and Mel Brooks. I’m not sure any of these failures were necessarily Nielsen’s own fault, though. He seems to have been the type who just wanted to keep acting as long as humanly possible, and if the roles he could get weren’t that great, they were still SOMETHING. He continued acting into his eighties, a quite impressive feat.

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2 Responses to In Memoriam: Leslie Nielsen

  1. vilajunkie says:

    I saw Dracula: Dead and Loving It in the theater when it came out. It was definitely funny, but the quality wasn’t the same as Mel Brooks’ other horror comedy, the infamous Young Frankenstein. There’s really weren’t any memorable lines. Mel himself played Van Helsing, but he did he usual self-deprecating Jewish character, which doesn’t exactly work for a Christian German(?) vampire hunter. The damsel in distress character (Mina Harker? Not the other girl who gets turned into a vampire immediately.) was played by the same actress who did Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. She was OK, but she certainly isn’t Teri Garr or Madeline Kahn. So I guess I’d recommend it as a way to honor Leslie Nielsen and complete your viewing of Mel Brooks’ line of films, but I don’t know if it’s worth watching more than once.

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