Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Naked Gun actor Leslie Nielsen dies

Canadian-born actor Leslie Nielsen has died aged 84 (AP)
Actor Leslie Nielsen, star of the Naked Gun movies, has died aged 84

Leslie Nielsen, who went from drama to inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in Airplane! and accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun comedies, has died at the age of 84.

His agent John Kelly said Nielsen died on Sunday at a hospital near his home in Fort. Lauderdale, Florida, where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Canadian-born Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York.

With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6ft2ins height, he seemed ideal for a leading man.

He quickly became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster - an aspect of his personality never exploited until disaster spoof Airplane! was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

Canadian-born 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.

His first film for that studio was auspicious - as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet. He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure.

After Airplane!'s success, film-making trio Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker cast their new-found comic star as Detective Drebin in a TV series, Police Squad, which sent up Dragnet and other cop shows. But despite good reviews, NBC cancelled it after only four episodes.

Then the Zuckers and Abrahams converted the series into a feature film, The Naked Gun, with George Kennedy, OJ Simpson and Priscilla Presley as Nielsen's co-stars. Its huge success led to sequels The Naked Gun 2 1/2 and The Naked Gun 33 1/3. His later movies included All I Want For Christmas, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and Spy Hard.

Three-times-married Nielsen leaves two daughters, Thea and Maurah.

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