Leslie Nielsen is best known for playing bumbling cop Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series and the doctor in Airplane! who hated being called Shirley.
Yet the Canadian actor spent nearly 30 years playing it straight in hundreds of film and television productions before he became a cult comedy figure.
In 1956 he went to Hollywood to make a film, The Vagabond King, with Casablanca director Michael Curtiz.
The movie, which he dubbed “The Vagabond Turkey”, flopped. But MGM still signed him to a seven-year contract which saw him appear in sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.
Tall and prematurely white-haired, Nielsen began a long career playing villains, cowboys, doctors and officials in films like Beau Geste, Gunfight in Abilene and The Poseidon Adventure.
In 1980, the star was cast as the doctor in Airplane!, a spoof disaster film that launched him into comedy.
His role as Dr Rumack saw him deliver inane non-sequiturs with a straight face, as well as utter his most famous phrase.
My favourite Leslie Nielsen quotes:
Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.
Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.
Frank: That’s the red-light district. I wonder why Savage is hanging around down there.
Ed: Sex, Frank?
Frank: Uh, no, not right now, Ed.
Mayor: Now Drebin, I don’t want any trouble like you had on the South Side last year, that’s my policy.
Frank: Well, when I see five weirdos, dressed in togas, stabbing a man in the middle of the park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards, that’s *my* policy!
Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of ‘Julius Caesar,’ you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones!
Rest in Peace Leslie Nielsen 1926-2010.
Bastard Type has a really good blog about Leslie, see below: