Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen, actor, author (b at Regina 11 Feb 1926, d at Fort Lauderdale, Fla 28 Nov 2010). Leslie Nielsen was a veteran of more than 100 motion pictures and 1500 television appearances.

Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen, actor, author (b at Regina 11 Feb 1926, d at Fort Lauderdale, Fla 28 Nov 2010). Leslie Nielsen was a veteran of more than 100 motion pictures and 1500 television appearances. He built a sturdy reputation portraying mainly authority figures, including the spaceship commander in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956) and the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in the original The Poseidon Adventure (1972), before he turned his image inside-out with his surprisingly funny deadpan performance as the loopy doctor in Airplane! (1980).

This led to a short-lived television series, Police Squad! (1982; revived in 1991), and the 3 hugely popular Naked Gun films: The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear (1991), and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). The buffoonish Inspector Drebin became an instantly recognizable pop icon.

The son of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman and the brother of Conservative politician Erik Nielsen (deputy prime minister under Brian Mulroney from 1984-86), Leslie Nielsen grew up in the Northwest Territories where, according to him, "There was lots of Viking discipline." During the Second World War he trained as an aerial gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force, but did not see action overseas. He made his entry into show business at a Calgary radio station where he worked as an engineer, disc jockey and announcer. He studied voice at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto, and in New York, acting at the Actors Studio and dance with Martha Graham.

His television career began in 1950 with a Studio One appearance opposite Charlton Heston, and he went on to act in 46 live programs that year, the very heart of what has become known as television's "Golden Age." In 1954 he went to Hollywood, where he was signed to a long-term contract with MGM. Nielsen is still remembered for his role as "the bachelor" opposite Debbie Reynolds in Tammy and the Bachelor, a box-office hit in 1957. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he was seen regularly on television in series such as Wagon Train, The Fugitive, The Virginian and Kojak, and starred in several series of his own, including The New Breed (1961-62), Peyton Place (1965-70) and The Bold Ones: The Protectors (1969-70).

In addition to his film and television career, he made bestselling golf videos - Leslie Nielsen's Bad Golf Made Easier and Leslie Nielsen's Bad Golf My Way - and published Leslie Nielsen's Stupid Little Golf Book (1995), and his autobiography, The Naked Truth (1993).

Although he assumed American citizenship, Leslie Nielsen maintained a strong connection to his homeland and appeared in a number of Canadian movies, including the made-for-television Riel (1979), the tax-shelter films City on Fire (1979) and Prom Night (1980), and the curling comedy Men with Brooms (2002). In 1996 he received a Gemini Award nomination for a guest appearance on the series Due South and in 2003 he was awarded the Order of Canada.