LOS ANGELES - Leslie Nielsen, who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in "Airplane!" and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" comedies, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.
The Canadian-born actor died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home at 5:34 p.m., surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John S. Kelly said in a statement.
Nielsen was known most recently as a comic personality, but he had a very serious start as a dramatic actor.
His first film for [MGM] was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic "Forbidden Planet." He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."
He became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.
I liked Nielsen as both a serious actor and a funny actor, but his best work was on television in the short-lived "Police Squad!" Man, I loved that show. If you aren't familiar with it, it was the show that spawned the Naked Gun series of movies. And if you've never seen it, try to get ahold of a DVD copy and watch the episodes (there are only six). That was a TV series that was definitely underappreciated at the time.