Surely Leslie Nielsen can't be gone! Tribute to an American classic
All together now: He is gone, and stop calling me Shirley. Today we also lost Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back. This is the saddest I've been since I learned Pat Boone was still alive.
Leslie Nielsen was an American treasure. Like most American treasures, he was Canadian. In fact, his brother was a prominent Canadian politician who rose to become deputy prime minister.
He began his career in serious films, including Forbidden Planet and Poseidon Adventure, but he won our hearts in Airplane!, the best movie ever named for a way of getting from one place to another, including Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Sunset Boulevard, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Its most memorable quotes can be found here.
IMDB describes Nielsen's trademarks as "Delivering sophomoric punchlines with a deadpan expression," "Whoopee cushion" gags," and "appearing oblivious to everything that's happening around him." But there was so much more to it than that.
Leslie Nielsen had the same magical quality that makes cats so entertaining: excess dignity. He was silly, but he was silly with a gravitas that bordered on the sublime, whether starring in the Naked Gun franchise as Lt. Frank Drebin, or in Airplane! in his comedic breakout role as Dr. Ruback ("Surely you can't be serious!" "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!").
Other credits included "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" (as Dracula, Dead and Loving It), and "Mr. Magoo," as Mr. Magoo. He even had a cameo in the Scary Movie series as President Baxter Harris.
How to commemorate a man like this? Stare at a photo gallery? Google his memorable quotes? I would deliver a sophomoric punchline, but without his trademark deadpan, I don't think it would land. Wander around making sad "surely" references? In fact, today's hidden casualties are all the people named Shirley who are going to be confused. "Shirley, we'll all remember Leslie Nielsen!" "Why are you singling me out?"
Now, in his wake, a modern tradition continues -- that when any great and popular person dies, a misspelled version of his name becomes a trending topic on Twitter. Leslie Nielson is fine, guys. And I don't know who Leslie Nelson is, but, oof. Really?
He may be misspelled. But, surely, he will not be forgotten. And in case you worried you might, here are a few suggestions for remembering Leslie Nielsen:
- Name your child Shirley. Whenever Shirley says anything, shout, "Shirley, you can't be serious!" Sure, Shirley might grow up confused and filled with crippling self-doubt after a few repetitions of this.
- Try to watch one of his movies without laughing. This is impossible, but that's not important right now.
- Tweet your favorite #nielsenline for the BlogPost. "You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street or sticking your face in a fan."
| November 29, 2010; 1:04 PM ET
Categories: Petri, Worst Things Ever | Tags: America, Leslie Nielsen
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