Nov 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen: A Tribute.

Leslie Nielsen has died, aged 308. Nielsen is one of the most prominent influences on the Lords of Luxury, and so here's a breakdown of exactly who he is, and just how deeply he's touched us. And we mean that in the most provocative sense. The first role taken by Leslie Nielsen which grabbed people's attention was this:

Yeah, that's a young Leslie Nielsen, looking all studly, as the lead in the 1956 science fiction masterpiece Forbidden Planet. Just check out that jawline. Holy shit, you could slice a venison sandwich in half on it. The point is, he began his career in dead earnest; he always had comic timing, but he picked films that were serious. Hell, Forbidden Planet was modelled after The Tempest. Nielsen even lent his name to the American Board of Certification, who had just instigated a system to be used for rating the public's ardour or disdain for the burgeoning 'talkies'. They named this system 'The Nielsen's', a name both comforting and arousing. The name so captured the public imagination that Warner commissioned a soap opera, called The Nielsen's, about a family of chiselled men living in a log cabin in the mountainous district near the Rockies dubbed by locals 'Cockhard McManCove'. The series was never produced.

Nielsen's ability to appeal to women, young, old and even deceased, may be due to his being born in the town of Regina, Saskatchewan. Throughout the fifties, he appeared in a wide array of dramatic roles, bagels and danishes. However it wasn't until 1980 that he graduated from his degree in Televisionistic Ambulation, a strictly honorary degree written into his extensive performers contract after a drunken evening with his agent and a gibbon known as Phil Spector III. Already white-haired and something of a veteran, he was cast in Airplane!, a parody of various movies which were addressing the looming threat to the nations youth at the time: the stewardess. He also delivered one of his most famous lines:

Part of his genius was his ability to appear impervious to comedy. He was the serious trustworthy actor who just didn't get it. This astounding ability, coupled with his bewilderingly enormous genitals, led to the creators of Airplane! asking him to create Police Squad with them. Police Squad only lasted six episodes, and apart from being one of the most searingly well written and acted comedies of all time, it also contained brilliant epilogues, all of which you can see below. Spoiler alert: they contain cast lists, which, if typed into google, MIGHT reveal plot points of the episodes of Police Squad or, if you're really lucky, the season finale of Dallas.

Six years after the totally bullshit cancellation of Police Squad (for which Nielsen was nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy), the creators decided to make a feature length film version for moviegoers. If you weren't a moviegoer, you were told to fuck right off. The series exploded into a trilogy, combining the razor-sharp timing of Nielsen, the harsh weathered face of Priscilla Presley, and the impending and hilarious non-glove fittery of O.J. Simpson.

It's pretty much mandatory to get all three films and watch them; they're peppered with comedic genius, as well as actual pepper, which was included with the original film prints as they were distributed to the cinemas. Nielsen's comedic roles after Naked Gun ranged from solid in Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It, to making everyone else look bad in Scary Movie 3.

It's a terrible traginold that he died, and we're eternally grateful for what Nielsen has done for comedy. He strolled into our lives, kicked everything we owned in dicks we didn't know the things we owned had, and walked away with a totally straight face. He was a pioneer, a shameless and entirely deliberate ham, and by all accounts, a shit-hot golfer. And the world is poorer without him. Although this is due partly to the fact that Nielsen, as everyone knows, had his bones filled with gold.

We'll miss you, Leslie.

- The Lords of Luxury