Vale: Leslie Nielsen – and his lesson for all of us

Posted on August 25, 2012

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In a very sad day, Leslie Nielsen has passed away at age 84.

To a great many of us, Nielsen was best known as a comedy actor but this came very much in the latter part of his career. During his approximately 60 years in front of the camera, he was for the longer part a serious actor. Looking back, his was one of those faces that only in later years were you able to recognise.

In my opinion at least, Nielsen’s turning point for wider-spread popularity and recognition was being featured in the 1980 film Airplane (Flying High in Australia). There he was able to play some very  funny lines with a wonderful deadpan attitude. I vividly recall seeing this at a drive-in theatre one evening in the small northern Victorian town of Kerang, together with my fellow boarder where I lived. We were both bored and he suggested we go see a film. We didn’t know what was being shown and it just happened to be Flying High. And this became the start of Nielsen’s career as a comic actor, best known for his role in The Naked Gun series of films although those were far from the only comic roles he played.

Nielsen was a real prankster behind the camera and sometimes in front of it as well. Some years ago I saw a clip of him being interviewed. He was answering things in a generally serious manner. But the whole time he had a rubber bulb secreted in one hand, squeezing it as he spoke, making copious farting sounds. And he had the poor interviewer completely fooled into thinking Nielsen was indeed suffering from copious flatulence until late in the interview when he revealed just what he had been doing.

It was this transition into comedy later in his career that saw Nielsen doing what he really wanted to do. And he was damned good at it in terms of delivery, timing, body language and facial expressions.

I think that there is a lesson there for all of us. What is that we really want to do? And if we aren’t already doing it in some way, then why not?

Rest in peace, Mr Nielsen and thank you for the entertainment – and the inspiration.

Now if you have an opinion on what I’m blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don’t be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t bite – at least not always.

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