It’s a rare thing that two films would define a genre, but that’s exactly what Airplane! and The Naked Gun do for spoofs. They are the ultimate in that brand of comedy, simultaneously showing how funny drama can be and how difficult mining the laughter truly is. It’s an even rarer thing that a single actor would so thoroughly define a particular brand of storytelling.

Leslie Nielsen made people laugh by not laughing. It’s a trait not shared by anyone else in the comedy world. Yet Nielsen consistently took every absurd situation he found his characters in, treated it with life or death certainty, and delivered punch lines without even seeming to notice them.

After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Nielsen trained at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York. He went on to become a force in television and a presence in a variety of movies as diverse as the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet and romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor.

Of course he didn’t reach iconic status when he starred in Airplane!, but he was laying the foundation. It was the launch pad to a relationship with Jim Abrahams, and David and Jerry Zucker that would create a trilogy of movies where Nielsen revived his television role as a hard-boiled police detective mired in a world of absurdity and one-liners.

One of his best legacies might be from what Roger Ebert had to say about the first Naked Gun movie: “You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing.”

It’s a powerful skill, and one not owned by many people. Who else could make us forget that a plane was about to crash and kill everyone on board? Who else could distract us from the eminent plot to kill the Queen of England by donning an umpire’s outfit? Nielsen was a master at being serious when no one else around him was.

He also single-handedly took down a group of terrorists:

Nielsen’s died in his sleep on November 28th from complications with pneumonia at the age of 84. He will surely be missed.

Reject HQ will be playing his best films all day starting with Airplane!. Which films were your favorite?


ARTICLE TAGS
Like this article? Join thousands of your fellow movie lovers who subscribe to The Weekly Edition from Film School Rejects. Our best articles, every week, right in your inbox!
  %
%  
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!
Twitter button
Facebook button
Google+ button
RSS feed



Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3