RIP Leslie Nielsen

“Yes, it’s true, I’ve been called the Laurence Olivier of spoofs. I guess that would make Laurence Olivier the Leslie Nielsen of Shakespeare.”

 

If you’re looking for a decent obituary for the recently departed Leslie Nielsen, there are far better places to visit than this site. All I’d like to do now is share my favourite story about the man.

During the early days of the medium, Leslie Nielsen was a staple of live television drama. In 1950 alone he appeared in almost 50 shows. One of these early acting appearances was in a science fiction anthology series called Tales of Tomorrow in an episode entitled Appointment on Mars. Nielsen played one of three astronauts, the first to land on mars. When the crew discover vast deposits of uranium they realise the riches in store for them back home but tensions begin to rise. At the climax of the episode a fight breaks out and one of the three are killed. As his shipmate closes in to finish off Nielsen’s character weapons are drawn. Nielson is shot but manages to return the favour before falling to the ground, dead.

At least that’s what should have happened. In the heat of the live television broadcast, Nielsen’s prop gun didn’t go off on cue. Faced with having no ending to the drama, and with millions of viewers tuned in to see everything go wrong, Nielsen thought fast and came up with a compromise. Tossing aside his gun, he ran up to his co-star and strangled him to death instead. So the legend goes.

That’s acting. And here’s the episode.

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