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Don't Call Him Shirley

Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010.

1:15 PM, Nov 30, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Last Sunday, actor Leslie Nielsen died of complications from pneumonia. He was 84. Although he is best known for the Naked Gun trilogy and Airplane!, Nielsen had been in the acting business for more than 60 years, playing a good number of unfunny roles, such as Commander Adams on Forbidden Planet and the captain in the original Poseidon Adventure. But it was precisely by having played the straight guy for so long that made his brand of comedy work.

Don't Call Him Shirley

Nielsen's deadpan delivery was his trademark, such as in this famous exchange with Robert Hays in Airplane! (A lengthier clip can be found here, in which Nielsen, as Dr. Rumack, makes his debut and shares some terrific scenes with Peter Graves.) It is unfortunate that his work on the Naked Gun series was tainted by the casting of O.J. Simpson—otherwise we'd probably see it more often on TBS. But there are a number of priceless gems, such as when Nielsen, playing Frank Drebin of Police Squad (also from the television show) impersonates an umpire and, of course, this notorious one-liner.

Much of the Naked Gun's charm is in the details (innumerable props to David Zucker) where Nielsen fits in nicely. Take this scene at the Blue Note Bar from Naked Gun 2 1/2.

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