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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: LESLIE NIELSEN - ACTOR

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

250px-LeslieNielsenOct08 OK, I have to admit that I'm a closeted fan of 1970s disaster movies. You remember them - Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Airport (and Airport '75, Airport '77, Airport '79: The Concorde(!)) and assorted lesser known films of that lost genre. Tonight The Poseidon Adventure is on and I'm of course watching it for the umpteenth time. That's the great 1972 adaptation of the Paul Callico book about a cruise ship that flips over after encountering a rogue wave. Won't those people realize this time that the only hope for rescue is to go up?!!

Anyway, the film has one of those amazing 70s disaster movie casts - Gene Hackman, Roddy McDowall, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons and Shelley Winters. And then there is Canadian-born Leslie Nielsen who I forgot played the role of the captain. Nielsen was already a veteran dramatic actor of many years at that point having acted since 1948 in a number of films and television shows.

Nielsen's career took a dramatic turn in 1980 when he starred in the classic comedy film Airplane! which was a spoof of those great 70s disaster movies. I was in junior high school when that movie came out and remember it was such a huge hit that all my classmates were quoting lines from the movie. Remember the classic line

"Surely you can't be serious?" to which Nielsen responds "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."


And from that point on, he basically has owned the spoof genre with great roles as Dr. Frank Drebbin in the Police Squad!/Naked Gun films and more recently President Baxter Harris in the Scary Movie series. Roger Ebert called Nielsen "the Olivier of spoofs" for good reason.

Nielsen is 83, but still very active in acting. Just last year he had a role in a new spoof - Superhero Movie.

By the way, two very interesting points of trivia regarding Mr. Nielsen. His father, a Danish native, was a Canadian Mountie. And Mr. Nielsen's late brother Erik Nielsen was Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. 

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