RIP, Leslie Nielsen

I was never much a fan of Police Squad and the Naked Gun franchise, but I still think Airplane! is one of the greatest comedies ever made, and can quote basically the entire movie. Which is sad and funny in and of itself.

RIP, Shirley.






69 replies
  1. 1
    DanF says:

    And stop calling me Shirley.

  2. 2
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let ’em crash.

    And the title of the movie is Airplane!, with an exclamation mark.

  3. 3
    Geeno says:

    I liked Police Squad, especially the intros. In one he’s talking about how there’s a rapist operating in laundromats around town, then he gets the call that starts that show in his squad car, and his laundry is in the passenger seat.

  4. 4
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The baseball sequence in The Naked Gun his just hilarity perfected.

    Poor Ricardo Montalban….you can feel his pain in that scene.

  5. 5
    brantl says:

    He actually bought into Zuckerman’s wingnuttia, though, sadly.

  6. 6
    Tom Hilton says:

    Oh, that is sad. He had such an amazing second career; you never would have suspected from his early stuff that he had any comic potential at all.

    Speaking of Airplane!, if you haven’t seen Zero Hour (’50s air disaster movie starring Dana Andrews), you absolutely have to watch it. More than that I will not say…

  7. 7
    Ferd of the Nort says:

    Most people do not realize that during the “Police Squad” era, his brother was the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.

    He and his family are all long tie conservatives. And nothing wrong with that, ’cause a Canadian Conservative is an American Liberal.

  8. 8
    bjacques says:

    Damn, I used to have all of Police Squad! on videotape. I think I’ll snag it on Amazon.

    I heard about Nielsen being conservative from other people, but I didn’t hear it from him, say, around election time or on Breitblart’s Blig Hollywood. So good for him. RIP, speedy journey to the Western Lands, etc.

  9. 9
    Dennis SGMM says:

    He made me laugh and I’m grateful for that. RIP.

  10. 10
    JohnR says:

    I don’t know where I’ll be, but I won’t smell too good, that’s for sure.

  11. 11
    Violet says:

    I really love “Airplane!” It hasn’t faded over the years. RIP, Mr. Nielsen.

  12. 12
    Carnacki says:

    He was named an honorary West Virginian by Gov. Bob Wise

  13. 13
    gene108 says:

    I loved Police Squad as a kid. I still get a kick out of the gags as an adult.

    I’m glad actors can still make it big, even if they aren’t stars in their 20’s or younger, like Nielsen did.

  14. 14
    WayneL says:

    I am a huge fan of Airplane!, on the the funniest movies of all time, along with Young Frankenstein–that’s Fronkensteen.

    Two things most people miss. The movie was not a sendup of Airport. You could almost overlay the entire plot on top of a 1954 John Wayne movie called “The High and the Mighty.” You can’t watch it without thinking of Airplane!

    The second thing people miss is not the cheesy “special effects” of the airplane, where you can almost see the strings holding it up, but the sound–the jet airliner has propeller engine sounds. People my age don’t realize it because we are accustomed to the right sound, even when it’s the wrong sound.

    No matter how many times you watch Airplane!, there is always something you missed.

    And Leslie Nielsen was the center of it. Speculum at the ready, even when on intruments.

    RIP, dude. Wonder if they’ll bury him with his fart machine?

  15. 15
    Jon says:

    Sad about Leslie and all, but just as depressing is the passing this morning of Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back (aka the best Star Wars film). Ugh. I wonder who the 3rd will be?

  16. 16
    Dennis SGMM says:

    “Leslie Nielsen is headed for the cemetery.”
    “What is it?”
    “It’s a place where they bury dead people but, that’s not important now.”

  17. 17
    Randy P says:

    Have any of you Leslie Nielsen fans seen him as just another pretty face in “Forbidden Planet”?

    I loved how he reinvented himself.

    In our house, we’re fond of the “that’s just what they’ll be expecting” joke. Original (as I recall):

    “Should we turn on the runway lights?”
    “No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do”.

  18. 18
    aimai says:

    How I loved him! Really, I”m old enough to remember him as a second string leading man and when he made the jump to comedy it was all the funnier. You almost had to know him as a straight actor to really enjoy his second career, as Tom Hilton said upthread. I feel the need to go out and see Airplane again. But what I’d really like is just to see a compliation of his greatest hits.

    aimai

  19. 19
    quaint irene says:

    Dammit, that is just sad.

    Speaking of Airplane!, if you haven’t seen Zero Hour (‘50

    I dare you to watch ‘Zero Hour’ without replying with the punchlines out loud.

  20. 20
    SST says:

    D’you like movies about gladiators?

  21. 21
    Corner Stone says:

    I still think Airplane! is one of the greatest comedies ever made, and can quote basically the entire movie.

    I would argue that anyone of our (roughly) age cohort who could not quote the entire movie has led a sad and pathetic life to this point.

  22. 22
    Corner Stone says:

    @WayneL:

    the jet airliner has propeller engine sounds. People my age don’t realize it because we are accustomed to the right sound, even when it’s the wrong sound.

    That was the entire gag. Of course it had propeller sounds. Made you think the damn thing was going to fall out of the sky at any moment.
    So many little things. I could go on and on.

    Personally I love the disco dance scene in its entirety but the part where the sailor has the knife stuck in his back and he’s awkwardly pointing at it and Elaine starts imitating the move as a new dance.

  23. 23
    eric says:

    @Corner Stone: Airplane, Ghostbusters and Stripes have given me a bounty of one-liners to randomly throw into conversations…from abandoned cars (Stripes) to sailors in NY (ghostbusters) to gladiator movies and Bob Lanier (Airplane).

  24. 24
    Blurm says:

    I used to love Police Squad when it was on. I was 8 and it was the greatest show ever. The best was at the end of the show, instead of the film stopping at some final moment like all the other shows did, they would just freeze. I will always remember that moment when they were pouring coffee and they all freeze and the coffee is pouring all over the cup and onto the floor. Great stuff. When Naked Gun came out I was so excited. I still doubt if I have ever laughed as much as I did to that film the first time.

  25. 25
    Hubertus Bigend says:

    And Forbidden Planet is the greatest 50s space opera movie.

  26. 26
    bjacques says:

    @Hubertus Bigend:

    It should be. Its plot was swiped from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Not only was Leslie Nielsen the captain, but Hal Holbrook was the crewman who got Robby the Robot to brew up a case of bootleg hooch.

    Impossible! That door is made of good Krell metal!

    And Night of the Demon (1957 – great movie!) swiped the invisible demon footsteps bit from Forbidden Planet.

  27. 27
    Eric S. says:

    @Jon:

    I wonder who the 3rd will be?

    I was thinking Nielsen, Barbara Billingsley, and Peter Graves (all died this year) constituted the trifecta.

  28. 28
    PaulW says:

    I have to say the original tv showing of Police Squad were total classics. I’m kinda glad they only made six because there was no way they could have kept that kind of insanity going.

    It’s a pity that Nielsen’s career ended up with all those terrible parody movies of the past decade. A paycheck is a paycheck but Hollywood ought to have been sending him better scripts…

  29. 29
    Jay in Oregon says:

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

    R.I.P., Leslie Nielsen.

  30. 30
    ThresherK says:

    @aimai: “You almost had to know him as a straight actor to really enjoy his second career”

    Leslie Nielsen, ZAZ, and all that crowd made so much out of “doing things funny” (rather than “doing funny things”). Unnatural overracting is the death of comedy as well as drama.

    And the little “jabs” you had to pay attention to catch just set you up for the “uppercuts”.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the part of town known as Little Italy.

  31. 31
    scarshapedstar says:

    I was never much a fan of Police Squad and the Naked Gun franchise

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but what the fuck is wrong with you?

  32. 32
    kd bart says:

    First Barbara Billingsley. Now Leslie Nielsen. It’s the Curse of Airplane!! I tell you. Better watch out Robert Hayes.

  33. 33
    ricky says:

    “and can quote basically the entire movie. Which is sad and funny in and of itself”

    I would say it is less sad and more likely evidence you had the fish.

  34. 34
    scarshapedstar says:

    For the record, my favorite part of Police Squad was at the end of one episode, when they did the thing where the credits start rolling and everyone freezes, and so Leslie Nielsen is pouring a cup of coffee which eventually starts overflowing, and then a chimpanzee starts jumping around and knocks over the cubicle walls in the office and somehow the whole place ends up basically demolished.

    Also, The Naked Gun is one of those series that got 10 times better several years after it was made, because seeing OJ fall down stairs and get run over by a car and dragged thousands of miles not only makes you laugh, but cheer. And kinda cringe at the same time because you like seeing bad things happen to him even though it’s fake.

    I dunno, maybe that’s just me.

  35. 35
    Sly says:

    “Who are you and how did you get in here?”
    “I’m a locksmith… and I’m a locksmith.”

  36. 36
    Citizen_X says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Ayatollah Khomeni in an orange mohawk.

    That is all.

  37. 37
    Corner Stone says:

    @kd bart:

    First Barbara Billingsley. Now Leslie Nielsen. It’s the Curse of Airplane!! I tell you. Better watch out Robert Hayes.

    Peter Graves, also too.

  38. 38
    Corner Stone says:

    Everyyy..thinnngs coming up…roh sezzz..

  39. 39
    Corner Stone says:

    And not one of the more subtle points in the movie but the look on Joey’s face when Kareem grabs him by the shirtfront and pulls him close:

    The hell I don’t! LISTEN KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.

  40. 40
    Tom Hilton says:

    @quaint irene:

    I dare you to watch ‘Zero Hour’ without replying with the punchlines out loud.

    Indeed. If you take a drink every time you recognize dialogue lifted verbatim by Airplane!, you’ll be passed out within an hour.

  41. 41
    ThresherK says:

    @Tom Hilton: Just how much intersecting is shown here.

  42. 42
    S. cerevisiae says:

    Noooooo! Dammit. I am old enough to remember him as a dramatic actor, usually a heavy or enforcer. I heard even then he was always cutting up on the set.

  43. 43
    "Fair and Balanced" Dave says:

    @aimai:

    How I loved him! Really, I”m old enough to remember him as a second string leading man and when he made the jump to comedy it was all the funnier. You almost had to know him as a straight actor to really enjoy his second career, as Tom Hilton said upthread.

    IMO, casting a group of television icons from the 50’s and 60’s for Airplane! was a brilliant move. It’s ironic that the actors who were best known as dramatic actors–Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack (best known for portraying Elliot Ness in The Untouchables), and Lloyd Bridges–delivered some of the best comic lines in the movie and basically stole the picture from Robert Hayes and Julie Haggerty.

  44. 44
    JohnR says:

    ..basically stole the picture from Robert Hayes and Julie Haggerty

    .

    Of course, credit where it’s due – charming as Hayes and Haggerty are, the old pros are infinitely better. Even Ethel Merman stole her scene, and she was hardly on-screen for 10 seconds.

  45. 45
    gene108 says:

    IMO, casting a group of television icons from the 50’s and 60’s for Airplane! was a brilliant move. It’s ironic that the actors who were best known as dramatic actors—Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack (best known for portraying Elliot Ness in The Untouchables), and Lloyd Bridges—delivered some of the best comic lines in the movie and basically stole the picture from Robert Hayes and Julie Haggerty.

    People really underestimate how good the actors in the 50’s and 60’s were on the big hit shows. I watched the Steve Correl (sp?) Get Smart movie, with Anne Hathaway and couldn’t get over how the acting of Don Adams and Barbara Felding would never get recreated; it was that good and original in portraying those characters.

    Good actors are good actors no matter what they do. I think nothing surprises me more than watching John Lithgow on 3rd Rock, since I had him pegged mainly as a dramatic actor.

  46. 46
    The Bobs says:

    @aimai:

    Of course, the major innovation in Airplane! was the casting of these serious actors in comedic roles. It’s easy to forget that now, since it has become common.

    Also, too, Leslie Nielsen wasn’t the only one to get a new career in comedy after this movie, Lloyd Bridges did it as well.

    Now all four of those actors are gone. Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen.

    If you have never watched it stoned, you ought to try it. Don’t do it if you have a heart condition. It might kill you, and they would never be able to get the smile off your corpse.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    @bjacques:

    Not only was Leslie Nielsen the captain, but Hal Holbrook was the crewman who got Robby the Robot to brew up a case of bootleg hooch.

    I’ve seen Forbidden Planet a gazillion times and didn’t realize that Hal Holbrook was in it. Hmmm. Don’t see Holbrook in the cast at IMDB. Maybe you mean Earl Holliman?

    Anyhoo, it was cool that Leslie Nielsen discovered his inner funny man for the next leg of his career. Whenever I travel through Los Angeles International Airport, I think about Airplane! and the loading zone gags.

    Male announcer: The red zone has always been for loading and unloading of passengers. There’s never stopping in a white zone.
    __
    Female announcer: Don’t you tell me which zone is for loading, and which zone is for stopping!
    __
    Male announcer: Listen Betty, don’t start up with your white zone shit again.

  48. 48
    Gus says:

    @Corner Stone: Peter Graves died in March. Maybe that’s the trifecta and the rest of the cast is off the hook for the time being.

  49. 49
    SFAW says:

    For the record, my favorite part of Police Squad was at the end of one episode, when they did the thing where the credits start rolling and everyone freezes, and so Leslie Nielsen is pouring a cup of coffee which eventually starts overflowing, and then a chimpanzee starts jumping around and knocks over the cubicle walls in the office and somehow the whole place ends up basically demolished.

    One of my all-time favorites. Although I thought the first tip-off was the paper in the background, tacked to a bulletin board (or perhaps on a desk?), flapping in a fan-created breeze.

    Either way, great stuff.

  50. 50
    Phyllis says:

    Also have to give a Golden Girls shout out-he was Dorothy’s (Bea Arthur) beau. They were so delightful together.

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:

    @Geeno:

    “Police Squad” was unimaginably funny during its fleeting run, but nobody “got it.” Problem #1: no laugh track, which simply wasn’t done at the time. Problem #2: the pacing, which was incredibly fast with no traditional set up for the jokes.

    I suspect if they’d kept it on air for at least a season they’d have developed a cult following, but that wasn’t how the networks rolled back then. Hold up your timeslot or make way for another “Happy Days” spinoff. You know, that Fonz fellow was really hilarious.

    RIP Mr. Nielsen, and thanks for the laughs, even the perfectly good beer tragically lost through my nose.

    “Cigarette?”
    “Yes, it is.”

  52. 52
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    No mention of Nielsen’s role as General Marion of the American Revolutionary War, aka Swamp Fox, anywhere. I’m old enough to remember this Disney creation from the mid 50’s – but not even the NY Times obit mentioned it. I had to google-ize it just to make sure I wasn’t making it up!

  53. 53
    Neo says:

    My biggest memory of Mr. Nielsen is from a 70’s TV commercial for Philadelphia Electric Company in regard to their building of Limerick I & II nuclear power plants.
    The commercial was punctuated by the words “… but these environmentalists …” said in stern terse voice.

  54. 54
    Geoduck says:

    And in a complete change of pace, check out his performance in the first Creepshow; he convincingly plays a total monster. “I can hold my breath a llooooonnngg time!!”

  55. 55
    Brachiator says:

    @Howlin Wolfe:

    No mention of Nielsen’s role as General Marion of the American Revolutionary War, aka Swamp Fox, anywhere. I’m old enough to remember this Disney creation from the mid 50’s – but not even the NY Times obit mentioned it.

    The LA Times obit got it right on this score:

    Nielsen played Debbie Reynolds’ sweetheart in the 1957 film “Tammy and the Bachelor,” was the Revolutionary War fighter Francis Marion in the Disney TV adventure series “The Swamp Fox” and had roles in such TV series as “The New Breed” and “Bracken’s World.”
    __
    “I just always worked,” he said. “I played a lot of leaders, autocratic sorts. Perhaps it was my Canadian accent.”

  56. 56
    drunken hausfrau says:

    I had the pleasure of doing a TV movie with him, back in the day… he was playing a bad guy, but was so funny offscreen! the Crew loved him, the cast and extras loved him… he had a fart machine which he would use to occasionally ruin a take… just to lighten the mood of shooting. He was lovely. Just lovely. I adored him. I got to descend a staircase with him, and had a really hard time not giggling. That was the fun of working with him. So, I’m sure St. Peter got the buzzer handshake… and the fart machine is rocking the heavenly casbah!

  57. 57
    Corner Stone says:

    You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

    FYWP

  58. 58
    Corner Stone says:

    @gene108:

    I think nothing surprises me more than watching John Lithgow on 3rd Rock, since I had him pegged mainly as a dramatic actor.

    I posted something on this but FYWP ate it.
    Anyway. If you want to see Lithgow do camp check out Buckaroo Bonzai with Peter Weller and Lithgow, circa 1984.
    Awesome.

  59. 59
    buckyblue says:

    Someone mentioned Steve Carrel and Anne Hathaway in Get Smart. Not even close. What about Steve Martin in the Pink Panther movies. My kids thought they were funny but I kept wishing Peter Sellers would walk onto the set. I think making remakes of classics other stars have memorialized is impossible. Kind of like making a movie called “Colbert” twenty years from now. Impossible to remake. The Naked Gun movies are some of my favorites, especially the Baseball scene. Or when George Kennedy is frisking some guy and Nielsen is behind him so Kennedy takes Nielsen’s gun and wallet and accuses the criminal of having a picture of Nielsen’s wife; so Leslie punches him out. Oh, classics. I’ll have to watch the series this weekend.

  60. 60
    Psychobroad says:

    “Over Macho Grande?”

    “No, I’ll never get over Macho Grande.”

    Sometimes I call my brother & feed him an Airplane! line. His response is always correct. :-)

  61. 61
    honus says:

    @Carnacki: Neilsen used to hang around Charleston a lot, I never knew the reason. there were a bunch of inscribed pictures of him at old The Strand pool hall on Hale Street. Nick Nolte too, but he was married to two Charleston girls.

  62. 62
    YellowJournalism says:

    “Nice beaver!”

    “Thanks! I just had it stuffed.”

    My dad and I bonded over the Naked Gun and Airplane! movies. We owe a lot of laughs to Nielson.

    One of the oddest memories I have associated with Leslie Nielson, though, is when I was watching the Debbie Reynolds movie Tammy and the Bachelor with a friend in college. The “bachelor” of the movie has a scene where he’s out in the rain trying to save his crops from a storm. There’s a great open-shirt shot during which I commented something along the lines of “hubba hubba” and “nice abs” before making a comment about how the actor looked really familiar. My friend turned to me with a grin on her face and said, “Uh, that’s Leslie Nielson. The Naked Gun guy.” The look on my face made her laugh so hard she fell off her bed.

  63. 63
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Corner Stone: Or you could just watch Raising Cain. You can’t tell me that that movie is not meant as a joke, and I say this as someone who sincerely loves it.

  64. 64
    mclaren says:

    Don’t forget his earlier role as commander J. J. Adams of interplanetary cruiser C-57D in the classic 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet.

  65. 65
    Jamey says:

    As Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Into Something Good” plays in the background, a movie montage cut shows Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley coming out of a movie theater, laughing hysterically.

    Camera pans back to show theater marquee. Title on marquee: “Platoon.”

    I defy anyone to name a better sight movie sight gag.

  66. 66
    Corner Stone says:

    @honus:

    Nick Nolte too, but he was married to two Charleston girls.

    No wonder he looked so damn bad in those mugshot photos.

  67. 67
    Corner Stone says:

    @YellowJournalism: Nothing’s going to top him stomping around, chewing up scenes while boldly proclaiming his unquenchable desire for the “Overtruster!”
    But Raising Cain was hilarious despite itself.

  68. 68
    WayneL says:

    Ah, one of my alltime favorites–Buckaroo Bonzai.

    Christopher Lloyd–John Bigbooty. No, Big Bootay! Big Bootay!

    Classic.

  69. 69
    bjacques says:

    @47 Brachiator: Ack! Yes, Earl Holliman. My bad.

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