Canadian-born actor Leslie Nielsen was one of the lucky stars that was able to work throughout the decades of his career with a film that made himself familiar with every generation of his career.
20th Century Fox didn't count on "Forbidden Planet" (1956) being a blockbuster, but it was. Directed by Fred M. Wilcox, and co-starring with Nielsen was Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis. The film took William Shakespeare to another planet - literally with the characters and various similiarities being lifted from Shakespeare's play "The Tempest." Before "Forbidden Planet," Nielsen was known for his dramtic roles on television, after the film's success, Nielsen was a contract player at MGM Studios and generated a few more credits to his name.
Although "The Posiedon Adventure" (1972) was a flop at the box office when it was first released it has made a cult following through the years. And anyone who has seen the film, or is at least familiar with it, knows that Nielsen has a brief cameo as the Captain Harrison of the doomed cruise line. His straight dramatic portrayal of Captain Harrison gives the film all the more of a B-movie appeal.
With Nielsen's supporting role as "Dr. Barry Rumack" in the classic comedy "Airplane" (1980), this film took his career in a different direction. With his talent and skill of nailing the deadpan portrayal of the doctor, including his trademark line, "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley," Nielsen was introduced to a new generation of movie audiences who were quick fans of seeing him doing comedy. In spite of critics saying Nielsen was going against his type and would not be successful at it, even though "Airplane" grossed almost $83 million dollars, it had been Nielsen's dream to do more comedic roles and "Airplane" allowed him to accomplish that.
The Naked Gun film trilogy was born out of the cancellation of the short-lived television series Nielsen also starred in called "Police Squad." The Naked Gun trilogy, starting with "The Naked Gun: From the Filmes of Police Squad" (1988) was in Nielsen's now iconic deadpan comedy with his portrayal as "Lt. Frank Drebin," who's incompetency is our pleasure to watch. The films co-starred Elvis Presley's ex-wife Priscilla Presley as "Jane Spencer," as his love interest and O.J. Simpson as one of Drebin's partners "Nordberg."
In the last decade of his life, Nielsen was known for teaming with comedic genius Mel Brooks in his underrated adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" as "Count Dracula" in "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" (1995). In 1997, Nielsen took on the famous cartoon character Mr. Magoo in the live-action movie "Mr. Magoo" (1997). Nielsen also played "President Harris" in the third and fourth additions of the Scary Movie series as well. His last film was as the voice of "Ready Espanosa" in "The Waterman Movie" set for a 2011 release.