Vale Leslie Nielsen, OC

In General by John2 Comments

Today’s issue of The Times includes an obituary for Leslie Nielsen, OC.  Elsewhere in the paper is the above cartoon which covers two events:  (1)  It comments on the news report this week that, according to US diplomatic cables leaked by the website WikiLeaks, America was repeatedly urged in 2008 by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to bomb nuclear facilities in Iran “to cut off the head of the snake”.   (2)   The final line in the cartoon, “Don’t call me Shirley”, is paying a tribute to Leslie Nielsen and a line he spoke in one of his movies.

Here is an extract from The Times obituary which explains it:

His early credits include the commander in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet and the captain of the ship in the original 1972 version of The Poseidon Adventure. His career took a dramatic change of direction in 1980 when he played Dr Rumack, the hopelessly logical, but rather dim doctor who takes control in an airborne crisis in Airplane! “This woman has to be gotten to a hospital,” he says. “A hospital! What is it?” says the stewardess. “It’s a big building with patients,” Nielsen replies.

Although it looks likely that the plane is about to crash and everyone is going to die, his character’s greatest concern seems to be the way in which everyone keeps calling him Shirley — “Don’t call me Shirley”, when in fact he repeatedly mishears the word “surely”.

I suppose I first saw Leslie Nielsen in early TV shows, and then in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but he first came to my notice in Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds.

In 2002 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (hence the OC after his name).

Here’s a great photo from The Times (yes, I’m thrilled with my subscription, and I hope to arose your interest).  Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!”


  1. Sorry to see him go. I loved “Forbidden Planet” (I have it on DVD and my iPad). The Flying High films (“Airplane” as the rest of the world calls it) were absolutely fantastic. Fortunately he kept working, and I believe there are two more films yet to be released. I think it’s amazing that he was deaf, which I remember reading some years ago made it tricky for him to react at the right time when acting.

    1. Author

      There was a scene I loved in Flying High (Airport!) which might have looked a bit silly, although amusing, to younger viewers. A passenger on the plane is a girl on her way for a heart transplant. In this scene, Flight Attendant Randy sings a song – Peter, Paul and Mary’s “River of Jordan” – while playing a guitar and knocking out the little girl’s IV endlessly (causing her to gasp for life). They were in the back row. What I loved about the scene is that all the other passengers on the plane had turned around to watch Randy singing, and they had adoring looks of approval on their faces. Yes, it was silly. But what amused me is that was a wonderful spoof of all those old Hollywood movies in which, when the star sings, everyone in the scene stops, and turns to look on in adoration. That’s not how it works in real life.

      However, in about 1983-84, shortly after I’d moved to Melbourne, I attended a wedding in the outer west of Melbourne, with you Colin, of a friend from Adelaide. A guitar playing sing song broke out during the wedding, and the whole performance and guest reaction, reminded me of the scene from Flying High.

      If there are two more films to come, I’ll make a point of seeing them.

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