Remembering Leslie Nielsen
Leslie William Nielsen, OC (February 11, 1926 – November 28, 2010) was a Canadian–American actor and comedian. Nielsen appeared in over one hundred films and 1,500 television programs over the span of his career, portraying over 220 characters.
Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as a disc jockey before receiving a scholarship to Neighborhood Playhouse. Beginning with a television role in 1948, he quickly expanded to over 50 television appearances two years later. Nielsen appeared in his first films in 1956 and began collecting roles in dramas, westerns, and romance films. Nielsen's lead roles in the films Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972) received positive reviews as a serious actor.
Although Nielsen's acting career crossed a variety of genres in both television and films, his deadpan delivery as a doctor in Airplane! (1980) marked a turning point in his career, one that would make him, in the words of film critic Roger Ebert, "the Olivier of spoofs." Nielsen enjoyed further success with The Naked Gun film series, based on a short-lived television series Police Squad! he starred in. His portrayal of serious characters seemingly oblivious to (and complicit in) their absurd surroundings gave him a reputation as a comedian. In the final two decades of his career, Nielsen appeared in multiple spoof and parody films, many of which were met poorly by critics but performed well in box office and home media releases. One of his more famous television roles was as Lucas Hollingsworth, the uncle of Blanche Devereaux in The Golden Girls, who married Dorothy Zbornak (Beatrice Arthur). He was recognized with a variety of awards throughout his career and was inducted into both the Canada and Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Nielsen married four times and had two daughters from his second marriage. On November 28, 2010, Nielsen died in his sleep in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida hospital of complications from pneumonia.