Surely, You Can’t Be Serious?
Yes, I am… and don’t call me Shirley. Uttered in complete deadpan by Leslie Nielsen in ‘AIRPLANE!’ , that line resonates with all of us as one of the funniest and most memorable moments in film. Millions of us will be trying to work that into our conversations for the next week or so as we remember the great comedic talent of Nielsen.
If you’re under the age of 45, you grew up with him as Dr. Rumak, the slightly idiotic physician trapped on-board the doomed Flight 209 in ‘AIRPLANE!’ or Lt. Frank Drebin unzipping and tinkling to a stunned Royal audience in Naked Gun, you probably only know him as a comedic actor. But for the first 24 years of his movie and TV career, he was a bona-fide hard-core serious actor. His resume bursts with authoritarian roles like Col. Armstrong Custer in ‘The Plainsman’, Commander John J. Adams in the cult-classic sci-fi film ‘The Forbidden Planet‘ and even the Captain of another doomed vessel in ‘The Poseidon Adventure‘.
The Canadian-born Nielsen served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and then went to a radio school run by another TV/movie legend: Lorne Greene. He also attended the famous ‘Actor’s Studio’, where, shortly after graduating, he was paid $75 for his first role alongside Charlton Heston in an 1948 episode of ‘Studio One’.
Thanks Leslie, we’ll be laughing til we cry.
Check out the trailer for the classic ‘The Forbidden Planet’ it’s hard to watch this and NOT wait for the punchlines…