The world seems a meaner place right now.
Legendary funny man Leslie Nielsen died today of complications of pneumonia in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, this according to his agent. He was 84.
His agent tells TMZ Nielsen passed surrounded by his wife and friends at about 5:34 PM ET.
I had seen the story about an hour earlier when Ed Driscoll picked up the breaking news from a television station in Manitoba where it was first reported by Nielsen’s nephew. I hadn’t wanted to believe it, quite frankly, because, well, as I said, the world is a meaner place without Leslie Nielsen’s grace, genius, and sense of humor in it. But it has been confirmed and so it must be.
Most of us know Nielsen best from his comedy roles, but before he was Dr. Rumack or Lt. Frank Drebin or Dracula, he had already amassed a movie and television career of which any actor would be proud. Here is a partial list of shows in which he appeared before he reinvented himself as one of the best deadpan comedy actors in Hollywood.
- The Untouchables
- Route 66
- Ben Casey
- Peyton Place
- Dr. Kildare
- The Virginian
- It Takes a Thief
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- Night Gallery
- The Streets of San Francisco
- Hawaii Five-O
That’s an impressive list all by itself. Nielsen also appeared in one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Forbidden Planet, with Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis (and the debut appearance of Robbie the Robot). He had real acting chops and movie fans will surely miss him.
Of course, my favorite Nielsen role was as the hapless Lt. Frank Drebin in the three Police Squad! movies. This scene, from the first of the trio, will always, always make me laugh.
Okay, here’s another one. Rest in Peace, Mr. Nielsen.