Leslie Nielsen Dies at Age 84
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 died surrounded by family including his wife, Barbaree, and friends.
Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live TV dramas in New York. His acting career spanned several decades, starting with episodes of series including The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Tales of Tomorrow and encompassing several genres.
Moving into film, Nielsen first performed as the king of France in the Paramount operetta The Vagabond King with Kathryn Grayson. The film -- he called it The Vagabond Turkey -- flopped, but MGM signed him to a seven-year contract and he starred in 1956's Forbidden Planet for that studio.
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.
Critics argued he was being cast against type, but Nielsen disagreed.
"I've always been cast against type before," he said, adding comedy was what he'd really always wanted to do.