Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday. He will be missed. One of my favorite comedians of all time, Leslie headlined some of the best comedy of the 80's and early 90's. The Naked Gun series and Airplane! are some of the finest examples of slapstick comedy.
Heroism in American movies always lives a whisker away from self-parody, and Leslie Nielsen was blessed with the skill and the opportunity to play in the cracks between the two. Would the actor, who died Sunday at 84, have been as mindblowingly funny in 1980's "Airplane!" if his Dr. Rumack had camped it up and played for laughs? Of course not: The genius of the performance is that it's the exact same one Nielsen had given eight years earlier as the ship's captain in "The Poseidon Adventure" -- same stoic deadpan, same wooden professionalism, same earnest cluelessness. The only differences were the surrounding madness and the star's knack for timing,