Nathan Heller writing for Slate eulogizes the comic actor, Leslie Nielsen. Here’s a sample from what he wrote.
Nielsen, by then a veteran of the very genre films the Zuckers were lampooning, was an ideal conduit for this sort of parody. Retaining a ’60s-TV-style polish and white-bread masculinity, he was both what the directors once called “oblivious to the comedy” and a key part of its aesthetic. And unlike many B actors who tried to leap the chasm from bad drama to good comedy, Nielsen nailed the landing. If the success of Airplane! redounds mostly to the movie’s writing and directing, the humor in The Naked Gun, its first sequel, and Police Squad (the early-’80s TV show that served as a testing ground for this material) rested largely on Nielsen’s shoulders. The films’ extended parody of noir procedurals depended on his wizened, faux-debonair polish and inveterate lack of self-awareness—in short, his ability to channel a screen ethos from the time of Cary Grant and Cavett.
I have already written about my regret at Nielsen’s passing. I always felt that he was a gentleman who I would have loved to chat with.
But I have an ulterior motive. As an “older” American, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing films like “Airplane,” when they came out. They were raw and exciting and I remember them with great pleasure. I want to recommend to “younger” Americans (pretty much, all of you) to take a look at Nielsen’s work, his legacy and profit by the work of a comic genius.