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Airplane! actor Leslie Nielsen dies at 84

entertainment Updated: Nov 29, 2010 19:09 IST

Reuters
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Canadian comic actor Leslie Nielsen, star of a string of madcap spoof movies including

Airplane

and

The Naked Gun

, died of complications from pneumonia in Florida on Sunday, a spokesman said. He was 84.



Nielsen is probably best known for playing the bumbling cop Lt. Frank Drebin in the

Naked Gun

franchise, but enjoyed a movie and television career spanning more than 60 years.



The spokesman said Nielsen died in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends at 5:34 p.m. EST (2234 GMT).



Leslie Nielsen

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of a Canadian mounted policeman, Nielsen served stints as an aerial gunner in the air force and as a radio disc jockey before studying acting in Toronto and then in New York City.



He got his first big break in 1950 with a

Studio One

television appearance, and came to Hollywood in 1954 to star in the film

The Vagabond King

.



For the first 30 years of his career, he built his reputation playing authority figures such as the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in

The Poseidon Adventure.

But later generations got to know the silver-haired actor primarily for his deadpan performances in comedies such as 1980's

Airplane!

and the

Naked Gun

trilogy, which ran from 1988 to 1994.



As Dr. Rumack in

Airplane!

, Nielsen was won fans among the younger generation for inane non sequiturs delivered with a straight face. "Can you fly this plane, and land it?," he asks a passenger. "Surely, you can't be serious," is his answer.



"I am serious, and don't call me Shirley," Rumack replies.



Nielsen also appeared in the 1996 spy spoof

Spy Hard

as Agent WD-40, and in 1998's

Wrongfully Accused

," a parody of

The Fugitive

." More recent acting roles included the 2003 Hollywood parody

Scary Movie 3

and its 2006 sequel.



But Nielsen also had a serious side. During the 1990s, he took to the stage in

Darrow

, a one-man drama about legendary "attorney for the damned" Clarence Darrow.