Friday, November 29, 2013

Remembering Leslie W. Nielsen February 11, 1926 - November 28, 2010

"Let er Rip"

This is the epitaph on the marker of one of the funniest comedic characters in the history of film and television.

Leslie W. Nielsen appeared in more than one hundred films and over 1500 television programs and took on the role of nearly 220 characters over his career.

He was born in Canada.  His mom was a Welsh immigrant and his father was a Danish born constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Leslie and his brothers suffered from physical abuse from their father.  After Leslie graduated from the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts in Edmonton at the age of 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force even though he was for the most part, deaf. He was trained as an aerial gunner. Leslie's uncle was a popular entertainer on a long running radio series.  He eventually worked as a disc jockey for an Alberta Canada radio station and enrolled in the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto.  He received a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse where he studied theater.

Nielsen made his television debut in 1948 on an episode of "Studio One" alongside Charlton Heston.  His career began with serious roles  during the "Television's Golden Age." having appeared in fifty live programs in 1950.  In 1956, Nielsen made his first feature film in the musical film "The Vagabond King" and his career began to move to another level.  He was offered a role in "Forbidden Planet" that resulted in his signing a long term contract with MGM.  He would soon appear in "Ransom" "The Opposite Sex" and "Hot Summer Night" and then appeared with Debbie Reynolds in "Tammy and the Bachelor"  After leaving MGM, he took on roles in "Ben-Hur" and "The Swamp Fox"

Leslie Nielsen also appeared in many television episodes including "Justice, "Alfred Hitchcock" "The Virginian" and "The Wild Wild West"  He also had a major role in "Hawaii Five O and a police officer in "The Bold Ones: The Protectors."

He is probably most remembered for his exemplary performances in "Airplane!"and "The Naked Gun." He continued his acting career in

his eighties having performed serious roles in his one man theater show "Darrow" and provided voiceovers in "Zeroman" and "Pumper Pups" He also appeared as a celebrity contestant on the CBS Gameshow Marathon having played on "The Price Is Right" "Let's Make A Deal" and "Beat the Clock"

He received numerous accolades during his career that included a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars.  Grant MacEwan College named its school of communications after him.

Leslie Nielsen died from pneumonia on Nov. 28, 2010 at the age of 84.

Cover of Leslie's funeral program designed by his wife
Kleenex created by Leslie himself
His funeral was unlike most in that it was an open casket cocktail party.  Leslie's wife is an artist and her painting was the cover of the funeral program (pictured).  the memorial was billed "Cocktails With Leslie and Barbaree"  Nearly 100 family members and friends socialized in the Lago Mar Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  It was reported that Leslie got a final laugh when a whoopee cushion was placed underneath his remains and its sound penetrated during his service.  As part of the celebration of Leslie's life, clips of Leslie's films and television shows were played.  Because of Leslie's love of law enforcement, the Broward County retired police organization provided the color guard and the Broward Sheriff's motorcycles escorted the casket from the funeral home to Lago Mar.

Those in attendance each received a container of kleenex (pictured)
that were inscribed with Leslie's own words "Stop Crying!!!! This is supposed to be a fun night.  Love & Laughs   Leslie

Leslie rests in the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort
Lauderdale that not only includes his epitaph but a bench sits near his gravesite with the words "Sit Down Whenever You Can  Leslie Nielsen.

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