As Mel Brooks said when his friend Harvey Korman passed away, the world is a more serious place today.
Leslie Nielsen, the actor best known for starring in such comedies as Airplane! and the Naked Gun film franchise, died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.
“We are sadden by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen, probably best remembered as Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun series of pictures, but who enjoyed a more than 60-year career in motion pictures and television,” said a statement from Nielsen’s family released through his rep.
Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His acting career spanned several decades, starting in the 1950s with episodes of series including The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Tales of Tomorrow and encompassing several genres. But he became known in later years for his deadpan delivery in comedies featuring absurd situations, including 1980s’s Airplane!, a parody of Zero! Hour, Airport and other movies about flying.
Airplane! is, of course, one of the greatest movies ever made. The Naked Gun was sheer genius, too. Here are the opening credits to its first show, for those of you who never had the pleasure:
It goes on like that – if you’ve seen Airplane!, you’re familiar with the idea. Don’t care how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me laugh. For more on Nielsen’s long and distinguished career, see Roger Ebert and Mark Evanier. Rest in peace, Leslie Nielsen.