x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Leslie Nielsen dies aged 84

Canadian comic actor Leslie Nielsen, star of a string of madcap spoof movies including 'Airplane!' and 'The Naked Gun', has died of complications from pneumonia in Florida.

Leslie Nielsen
Leslie Nielsen

LOS ANGELES // Canadian comic actor Leslie Nielsen, star of a string of madcap spoof movies including "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," has died of complications from pneumonia in Florida, a spokesman said. He was 84.

Nielsen is probably best known for playing the bumbling cop Lt Frank Drebin in the "Naked Gun" franchise, but enjoyed a movie and television career spanning more than 60 years.

The spokesman said Nielsen died in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends at 5.34 pm.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of a Canadian mounted policeman, Nielsen served stints as an aerial gunner in the air force and as a radio disc jockey before studying acting in Toronto and then in New York City.

He got his first big break in 1950 with a "Studio One" television appearance, and came to Hollywood in 1954 to star in the film "The Vagabond King."

For the first 30 years of his career, he built his reputation playing authority figures such as the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in "The Poseidon Adventure." But later generations got to know the silver-haired actor primarily for his deadpan performances in comedies such as 1980's "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" trilogy, which ran from 1988 to 1994.

As Dr Rumack in "Airplane!", Nielsen was won fans among the younger generation for inane non sequiturs delivered with a straight face. "Can you fly this plane, and land it?," he asks a passenger. "Surely, you can't be serious," is his answer.

"I am serious, and don't call me Shirley," Rumack replies.

Nielsen also appeared in the 1996 spy spoof "Spy Hard" as Agent WD-40, and in 1998's "Wrongfully Accused," a parody of "The Fugitive." More recent acting roles included the 2003 Hollywood parody "Scary Movie 3" and its 2006 sequel.

But Nielsen also had a serious side. During the 1990s, he took to the stage in "Darrow", a one-man drama about legendary "attorney for the damned" Clarence Darrow.