I read the sad news tonight that Leslie Nielsen has passed away. This really plucked at my heart strings a bit more than expected – perhaps because I have no unhappy memory of him. Even now when I see him in a serious role, such as the captain in The Poseidon Adventure, it still makes me laugh just because it’s so difficult not to think of his slapstick while he’s playing a dramatic part.
So, in the spur of the moment, I decided I must have a “watch memorial” for Mr. Nielsen. However, with IMDB listing him in 239 titles, I will have to limit what to watch. Thus, I’ve decided it will be a 5-movie viewing, not necessarily consecutively…but you never know.
So, I must pick my personal Top 5 Best Funnyman Films. Also, I’m limiting this to movies. Nielsen appeared in an impressive number of TV series, such as The Fugitive, Peyton’s Place, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., M*A*S*H and was the narrator for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World for ten year. However, I accept the challenge to honor this somehow with my five movie titles.
Below are what I’ve chosen and the explanation why:
|This is a seemingly odd pick for several reasons. The movie is several short stories of which he only appears in one. However, this is a tribute his transition from serious actor who loved to play “the heavy” to his light-hearted slapstick roles. His appearance in Creepshow torturing Ted Danson is a throwback to his evil character days, while oddly carrying a presence of humor in this short act.|
|A wonderful spoof of The Fugitive, which ties links him back into the TV series in which he made an appearance two times.|
|#3||Dracula: Dead and Loving It|
|A Mel Brooks film where Nielsen is alongside not only Brooks but also Harvey Korman. This film has a few odd tie-ins to reciprocate Nielsen’s career. Co-star Chuck McCann, the innkeeper, is the voice of DuckTale’s Duckworth which gives a link to Disney. And in a weird duck segue, Steven Weber was in Duckman; however, that doesn’t really tie back except perhaps as an A.D.D. reference. But Weber appeared in a Kojak movie and Nielsen starred in one episode of the original Kojak series.|
|#2||The Naked Gun|
|You knew Frank Drebin would have to appear. The TV show Police Squad, although lasting only 6 episodes, changed everything for Nielsen and gave us his most recognizable character. It also allows me to detail many cop-references for the funnyman. He appeared in S.W.A.T., Columbo, Cannon, Hawaii Five-O (original), Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, The F.B.I. and The Bold Ones.|
|How can this not be top pick? “It’s a big building with patients in it, but that’s not important right now.” Or “Yes, I had lasagna.” This is the film the introduced us to his delivery – and we all loved it. Leaving us with his most famous: “I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.”|