As most of my peers, my first contact with Canadian-Born actor Leslie Nielsen was in “Airplane” as Dr. Rumack, the voice of reason on a flight from LA to Chicago. You’ve all seen it. If you haven’t, go watch it. Then come back.
But like almost all actors in the 1950s, Nielsen worked for Disney (and deserves a spot on this blog) starring in “The Swamp Fox” as Colonel Francis Marion (why did they give this character two ladies names??) and the narrator for “The Boy Who Flew with Condors” on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”
Of course, his other famous role was that of United Planets Cruiser C-57D Commander J.J. Adams in “Forbidden Planet,” a science fiction tale inspired by “The Tempest.” The film is widely known for fantastic special effects, Robby the Robot and is credited as the first completly electronic score. No, the theremin was not used in the film as many believe. Amid the crazy jumpsuits, funny hats and a scantily clad young woman walking around all the time, Nielsen brought a bit of grounding to the role. Playing Adams as a down-to-Earth pragmatist. The wife and I watched this on AMC 3 or 4 weeks ago. It holds up amazingly well, given its lack of giant transforming robots and few explosions. There is, however, a groovy invisible monster. Go watch it.
Word is that Nielsen was fantastically nice and a joy to his fans who met him. I can only assume that he was living the actor’s dream of always working. His IMDb listing has him working steadily from 1950 until his untimely death this weekend. And, as with most actors working their way through the ends of the Hollywood studio system and into the thicket that was 1970s TV crime drama, he’s timing was perfect. The deep voice and piercing eyes knew when to work and when to not. Yes, the Zuckers wrote his dialogue, but would you be walking around today saying “…and don’t call me Shirley” if anyone else had said it?
You will be missed sir.