Leslie Nielsen R.I.P. Yes, I’m Serious, And Don’t Call Me Shirley

November 30, 2010

And… another one has just left our planet. Actor Leslie Nielsen died on the 28th November at the age of 84 after suffering from Pneumonia. I heard the news in the morning and felt sad, but also happy because as soon as I thought of him, I couldn’t help but smile. Is that weird?

Leslie Nielsen actor in the naked gun movie

Obituaries are great because you find out things you didn’t know about a person. Unless you’re a super fan. Or a stalker in common parlance. He was born in 1926 in Saskatchewan, Canada to a Welsh mother and Danish born Father who was in the Canadian Mounties. Saskatchewan – I’ve loved that place name since I first heard it in a Geography class, but I digress. He made several films and TV shows from the 50s to the 70s. At that time, he was known as a serious actor, playing figures of authority like policemen, mainly because he was tall, handsome and had a voice that sounded like the gentle rumble of thunder. His best-known films at that time were Forbidden Planet, and The Poseidon Adventure, one of many disaster films of the 1970s. Then something happened in 1980. Airplane! a spoof on all those disaster movies was released, featuring one Leslie Nielsen. His deadpan quotes and particularly that line gave a new lease of life to his career and he went on to star in the TV spoof Police Squad as inept Lt Frank Drebin. Although short lived (6 episodes), Police Squad spawned the Naked Gun movies I, 2 1/2 and 33 1/3: The Final Insult.

While scanning t’internet, I discovered a film I had never heard of called Wrongfully accused. It was mentioned several times by commentators so I decided to have a look at it on YouTube. This was the first clip I came across:

I was crying with laughter. The man’s a genius. Next, I was reminded of the Red Rock Cider commercials he made in the 90s. It’s Frank Drebin – in pubs!

Here’s the trailer for the 1956 film Forbidden Planet:

And finally here’s a clip from the film Airplane! With the famous quote.

His list of films and TV appearances are exhaustive. You can check out Wikipedia or IMDB for the rest if you wish. For those who remember his work from the 1950s to the 70s, he will be respected as a serious actor. For those who remember him from Airplane! Onwards, he will be respected as a brilliant comedian whose ability to deadpan a line was peerless. I don’t believe he would’ve done so well in that genre if he hadn’t had 30 years of playing it straight under his belt.

R.I.P, Leslie Nielsen. You’ll be sorely (Shirley?) missed.



  1. You also have to have supreme confidence in yourself to make a fool of yourself in public display. These were goofy, crazy movies and I was crying from laughing so hard, especially his baseball bit as the opera star singing the Star Spangled Banner, and then the crazy umpire.

    • You certainly do need that confidence. That’s what 30 years of stage and screen gives you. How many of the serious actors today would be willing to look a fool for a laugh… and get respect for it? Leslie Nielsen was a top bloke and don’t let anyone tell you different.

  2. Thank you for those clips. I have had a very jolly start to my day which is a bit ‘off’ as this man has died but what a brilliant actor, his timing wonderful and as you say a genius. You can imagine him arrive at the pearly gates to be greeted by St Peter ‘Ah surely you are that wonderful comic actor…’ and his reply (all together now), ‘Yes I am an actor but don’t …. .. …….!’

    They’ll be rolling in the aisles ‘upstairs’………….

    • I hope they’re wearing incontinence pants ‘upstairs’ now that Mr Nielsen has arrived – they’ll be needed…

  3. I had no idea until last night that he was in forbidden planet. casting him in airplane was such a great move, i have to wonder if they had any idea what they were really getting.

    Wrongfully accused was a television only release here in the state, if I remember correctly. It is very worth seeking out.

    • I don’t think anyone had an idea of what they were getting, and thank goodness for that. In these days of focus groups and micro management of anything resembling spontaneous pleasure, he’d have had his wings clipped before he had a chance to fly. For that reason, Oma, I feel desperately sorry for the young ‘uns now. I’d be amazed if they manage to see the likes of him in their lifetime.

      Wrongfully Accused was a TV show shown stateside only? That would explain why I’d never heard of it. I must try and seek it out. If the clip I’ve put here is anything to go by, I expect to thoroughly enjoy it.

      • I think I mislead you. It is a movie, but I believe it was only shown on cable television. It has to be out there and available.

        • That’s OK, Oma, I would’ve trawled the net for it anyway. I had a quick look at Amazon (uk) and it’s available. I will probably go for it in January when the Christmas madness has gone and things are cheaper.

  4. Thank you so much for posting those clips. What a great tribute — he’d be honored to know how much joy he’ll continue to bring.

    That bouncing car……

    • Isn’t it great? Seriously, that nearly finished me when I saw it the first time. I’ve seen it several times since and it still makes me laugh. Thanks for your kind words, Jacki. I was just saying what I felt at the time and I haven’t changed my mind yet…

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