"Naked Gun" actor Leslie Nielsen dead at 84

Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:48pm EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Canadian comic actor Leslie Nielsen, star of a string of madcap spoof movies including "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," died of complications from pneumonia in Florida on Sunday, a spokesman said. He was 84.

Nielsen is probably best known for playing the bumbling cop Lieutenant 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 p.m. EST.

Born on February 11, 1926, 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 "Casablanca" director Michael Curtiz.

For the first 30 years of his career, Nielsen worked steadily in TV shows such as "Peyton Place" and "The Virginian," and built a reputation for playing authority figures such as the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in the 1972 feature "The Poseidon Adventure."

But later generations got to know the silver-haired actor for his deadpan performances in comedies such as 1980's "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" trilogy.

As Dr. Rumack in "Airplane!", Nielsen delivered inane non sequiturs with a straight face. "Can you fly this plane, and land it?," he asks a passenger. "Surely, you can't be serious," the passenger exclaims.

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

 
<p>Leslie Nielsen, a cast member in "Superhero Movie," arrives at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>