Nielsen in October 2008
|Born||Leslie William Nielsen
11 February 1926
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
|Died||28 November 2010
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pneumonia|
|Resting place||Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Lauderdale|
|Alma mater||Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre|
|Notable work||Forbidden Planet
The Poseidon Adventure
The Naked Gun
|Spouse(s)||Monica Boyar (1950–1956)
Alisande Ullman (1958–1973)
Brooks Oliver (1981–1983)
Barbaree Earl (2001–2010)
|Relatives||Erik Nielsen (brother)
Jean Hersholt (half-uncle)
Leslie William Nielsen, OC (11 February 1926 – 28 November 2010) was a Canadian actor and comedian. He appeared in more than 100 films and 150 television programs, portraying more than 220 characters.
Nielsen was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and later worked as a disc jockey before receiving a scholarship to study theatre at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Making his acting debut in 1948, he made more than 50 television appearances two years later. Nielsen later made his film debut in 1956, with supporting roles in several drama, western, and romance films produced between the 1950s and the 1970s, with Nielsen crossing genres in both television and films.
Although his notable performances in the films Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure gave him standing as a serious actor, Nielsen later gained enduring recognition for his deadpan comedy roles during the 1980s and the early 1990s, after being cast against type for the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker comedy film Airplane!. Nielsen specialized in his portrayal of characters oblivious to and complicit in their absurd surroundings, which gave him a reputation as a comedian. Airplane! marked Nielsen's turning point, which made him "the Olivier of spoofs" according to film critic Roger Ebert; his work on the film also led to more further success in the genre with The Naked Gun film series, based on their earlier short-lived television series Police Squad!, in which he also starred. Nielsen received a variety of awards and was inducted into the Canada and Hollywood Walks of Fame.
Nielsen was born on 11 February 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan. His mother, Mabel Elizabeth (née Davies), was a Welsh immigrant, and his father, Ingvard Eversen Nielsen, was a Danish-born constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Nielsen had two brothers; the elder, Erik Nielsen (1924–2008), was deputy prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1986.
His half-uncle, Jean Hersholt, was an actor known for his portrayal of Dr. Christian in a radio series of that name and the subsequent television series and films. In a 1994 Boston Globe article, Nielsen explained, "I did learn very early that when I would mention my uncle, people would look at me as if I were the biggest liar in the world. Then I would take them home and show them 8-by-10 glossies, and things changed quite drastically. So I began to think that maybe this acting business was not a bad idea, much as I was very shy about it and certainly without courage regarding it. My uncle died not too long after I was in a position to know him. I regret that I had not a chance to know him better."
Nielsen lived for several years in Fort Norman (now Tulita), Northwest Territories where his father was with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ingvard was a troubled man who beat his wife and sons, and Leslie longed to escape. When he graduated from high school at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force even though he was legally deaf (he wore hearing aids most of his life). Following graduation from Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts in Edmonton, Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and trained as an aerial gunner during World War II. He was too young to be fully trained or sent overseas. He worked briefly as a disc jockey at a Calgary, Alberta, radio station, before enrolling at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts, Toronto. While studying in Toronto, Nielsen received a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse. He noted, "I couldn't refuse, but I must say when you come from the land of the snow goose, the moose and wool to New York, you're bringing every ton of hayseed and country bumpkin that you packed. As long as I didn't open my mouth, I felt a certain security. But I always thought I was going to be unmasked: 'OK, pack your stuff.' 'Well, what's the matter?' 'We've discovered you have no talent; we're shipping you back to Canada.'" He moved to New York City for his scholarship, studying theater and music at the Neighborhood Playhouse, while performing in summer stock theatre. Afterward, he attended the Actors Studio, until making his first television appearance in 1948 on an episode of Studio One, alongside Charlton Heston, for which he was paid $75.
Nielsen's career began in dramatic roles on television during "Television's Golden Age", appearing in almost 50 live programs in 1950 alone. He said there "was very little gold, we only got $75 or $100 per show." He narrated documentaries and commercials and most of his early work as a dramatic actor was uneventful. Hal Erickson of Allmovie noted that "much of Nielsen's early work was undistinguished; he was merely a handsome leading man in an industry overstocked with handsome leading men." In 1956 he made his feature film debut in the Michael Curtiz-directed musical film The Vagabond King. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nielsen remembered Curtiz as "a sadist, a charming sadist, but a sadist". Nielsen called this film "The Vagabond Turkey". Though the film was not a success, producer Nicholas Nayfack offered him an audition for the science fiction film Forbidden Planet, resulting in Nielsen's taking a long contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Forbidden Planet became an instant success, and roles in other MGM films such as Ransom! (1956), The Opposite Sex (1956) and Hot Summer Night (1957) followed. In 1957 he won the lead role opposite Debbie Reynolds in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor, which, as a Chicago Tribune critic wrote in 1998, made people consider Nielsen a dramatic actor and handsome romantic lead. However, dissatisfied with the films he was offered, calling the studios "a Tiffany, which had forgotten how to make silver", Nielsen left MGM after auditioning for Messala in the 1959 Ben-Hur. Stephen Boyd got the role. After leaving the studios, Nielsen landed the lead role in the Disney miniseries The Swamp Fox, as American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion. In a 1988 interview he reflected on the series, saying, "That was a great experience, because the Disney people didn't do their shows like everyone else, knocking out an episode a week. ... We only had to do an episode a month, and the budgets were extremely high for TV at that time. We had location shooting rather than cheap studio backdrops, and very authentic costumes." Eight episodes were produced and aired between 1959 and 1961.
His television appearances include Justice, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ,The Virginian, and The Wild Wild West. In 1961, he was the lead in a Los Angeles police drama called The New Breed. He guest-starred in a 1964 episode of Daniel Boone with Fess Parker in a minor but credited role. In 1968, he had a major role in the pilot for the police series Hawaii Five-O, and appeared in one of the seventh-season episodes. In 1969, he had the leading role as a police officer in The Bold Ones: The Protectors.
In 1972, Nielsen appeared as the ship's captain in the The Poseidon Adventure. He also starred in the William Girdler's 1977 action film, Project: Kill. His last dramatic role before mainly comedy roles was the 1979 Canadian disaster film City on Fire, in which he played a corrupt mayor. In 1980, he guest-starred as Sinclair on the CBS miniseries The Chisholms.
Airplane! and The Naked Gun
Nielsen's supporting role of Dr. Rumack in Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker's 1980's Airplane! was a watershed in his career. The film, a parody of disaster films such as Zero Hour! and Airport, was based on building a comedy around actors known for dramatic roles. Other stars included Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and Lloyd Bridges. Nielsen's deadpan delivery contrasted with the absurdity surrounding him. When asked, "Surely you can't be serious?", he responded with a curt, "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley." In several interviews he reflected on the line: "I thought it was amusing, but it never occurred to me that it was going to become a trademark. It's such a surprise...the thing comes out, people say, 'What did he say?!'" Nielsen said he was "...pleased and honored that [he] had a chance to deliver that line." The comedic exchange was at #79 on the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. The American Film Institute included the film in its list of the top ten comedy films of all time in 2008, and a 2007 survey in the United Kingdom judged it the second greatest comedy film of all time, while in 2012 Empire magazine voted it No. 1 in The 50 Funniest Comedies Ever poll. Critics praised the film, which also proved a long-term success with audiences. In 2010 Airplane! was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
The directors cast Nielsen for his ability to play like "a fish in water", saying "You could have cast funny people and done it with everybody winking, goofing off, and silly... we wanted people to be oblivious to the comedy." For Nielsen, Airplane! marked a shift from dramatic roles to deadpan comedy. When it was suggested his role in Airplane! was against type, Nielsen protested that he had "always been cast against type before," and that comedy was what he always wanted to do. The same directors cast Nielsen in a similar style, in their TV series Police Squad!. The series introduced Nielsen as Frank Drebin, the stereotypical police officer modeled after serious characters in earlier police series.
Police Squad's opening sequence was based on the 1950s show M Squad, which starred Lee Marvin, which opened with footage of a police car roving through a dark urban setting with a big band playing a jazz song in the background. The voice-over and the show's organization into acts with an epilogue was homage to Quinn Martin police dramas including The Fugitive, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, The F.B.I., and Cannon. Nielsen portrayed a serious character whose one-liners appeared accidental next to the pratfalls and sight gags around him. Although the show lasted only six episodes Nielsen received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Six years after cancellation of Police Squad!, the film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! returned Nielsen to his role as Frank Drebin. It involved a ruthless drug king trying hypnosis to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II. Drebin, like the doctor in Airplane!, seemed unaware of the absurdity around him even when contributing to it. Nielsen did many of his own stunts: "You have an idea of how you're going to do something, and it's your vision... unless you do it, it really doesn't stand a chance." This movie grossed over $78 million and was well received by critics. Ebert's 3½–star review (out of four) noted, "You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing."
The Naked Gun spawned two sequels: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994). Naked Gun 2½ grossed more than the original, with $86.9 million, while Naked Gun 33⅓ grossed $51.1 million. Nielsen remained open to a fourth Naked Gun film, although he doubted that it would be produced — "I don't think so," he said in 2005. "If there hasn't been one by now, I doubt it. I think it would be wonderful."
Nielsen briefly appeared on the World Wrestling Federation program in the summer of 1994 on WWF Monday Night Raw; capitalizing on Frank Drebin. Nielsen (and George Kennedy) were hired as sleuths to unravel the mystery of The Undertaker who had disappeared at January's Royal Rumble event. At SummerSlam 1994, in a Naked Gun parody, they were hot on the case (in fact, they were standing on a case). Although they did not find The Undertaker, the case had been closed (the literal case had been shut) and thus, they solved the mystery. In 1990, Nielsen appeared as a Frank Drebin character in advertisements in the United Kingdom for Red Rock Cider.
Non-comedic roles after Airplane! included Prom Night (1980) and Creepshow (1982), both horror films, and as a dramatic and unsympathetic character in the 1986 comedy Soul Man. His last dramatic role was as Allen Green, a violent client of a prostitute killed in self-defense by Barbra Streisand's character, Claudia Draper, in Martin Ritt's courtroom drama Nuts (1987).
Subsequent to Airplane! and The Naked Gun, Nielsen portrayed similar styled roles in a number of other films. These mostly emulated the style of The Naked Gun with varying success and often targeted specific films: many were panned by critics and most performed poorly. Repossessed (1990) and 2001: A Space Travesty (2001), parodies of The Exorcist and 2001: A Space Odyssey, respectively. Both attempted absurd comedy but were poorly received. Even a leading role in a Mel Brooks comic horror, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, failed to generate much box office excitement, although it did gain a following later release to video. Both 1996's Spy Hard and 1998's Wrongfully Accused, a parody of James Bond films and The Fugitive, were popular on video but not well received by critics.
His attempt at children's comedies met additional criticism. Surf Ninjas (1993) and Mr. Magoo (1997) had scathing reviews. Several critics were disappointed that Nielsen's role in Surf Ninjas was only "an extended cameo" and Chris Hicks recommended that viewers "avoid any comedy that features Leslie Nielsen outside of the Naked Gun series." Jeff Miller of the Houston Chronicle panned Mr. Magoo, a live action remake of the 1950s cartoon, by saying, "I'm supposed to suggest how the film might be better but I can't think of anything to say other than to make the film again."
Nielsen's first major success since The Naked Gun came in a supporting role in Scary Movie 3 (2003). His appearance as President Harris led to a second appearance in its sequel, Scary Movie 4 (2006). This was the first time Nielsen had reprised a character since Frank Drebin. In one scene, Nielsen appeared almost nude, and one critic referred to the scene as putting "the 'scary' in Scary Movie 4."
Video, stage, and celebrity productions
Nielsen also produced instructional golf videos, which were not presented in a serious style, beginning with 1993's Bad Golf Made Easier. The videos combined comedy with golf techniques. The series spawned two additional sequels, Bad Golf My Way (1994) and Stupid Little Golf Video (1997). Nielsen also co-wrote a fictional autobiography titled The Naked Truth. The book portrayed Nielsen as a popular actor with a long history of prestigious films.
In his eighties, Nielsen performed serious roles on screen and stage (such as his one-man theatre show Darrow, in which he played Clarence Darrow), as well as providing voice-overs and appearances for commercials; cartoons like Zeroman where he had the leading role/voice; children's shows, such as Pumper Pups, which he narrated, in addition to comedic film roles. The sibling relationship with his elder brother, the Honourable Erik Nielsen, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, served as the premise of an HBO mockumentary entitled The Canadian Conspiracy in which Leslie Nielsen appeared, along with other prominent Canadian-born media personalities. He was a celebrity contestant on CBS's Gameshow Marathon, where he played The Price Is Right, Let's Make a Deal, Beat the Clock, and Press Your Luck for charity.
Final acting years
Beginning in February 2007, Nielsen began playing a small role as a doctor in the humorous yet educational television show Doctor*Ology. The show chronicles real-life medical techniques and technology, on the Discovery Channel. Nielsen said: "There are any number of things that you think about when you ponder if you hadn't been an actor, what would you be, and I've always said I'd like to be an astronaut or a doctor. I have such admiration for doctors. I just don't know how you go around to thank them enough for coming up with the world's most remarkable new discoveries."
In 2007, Nielsen starred in the drama Music Within. In 2008, he portrayed a version of Uncle Ben for Superhero Movie, a spoof of superhero films. He then appeared in the 2008 parody An American Carol, which David Zucker directed, produced and co-wrote. He appeared in the 2009 parody Stan Helsing. Nielsen portrayed the Doctor in the Spanish horror comedy Spanish Movie, a spoof comedy like Scary Movie, but making fun of popular Spanish films.
Nielsen married four times: nightclub singer Monica Boyar (1950–1956), Alisande Ullman (1958–1973), Brooks Oliver (1981–1983) and Barbaree Earl (2001–2010). Nielsen had two daughters from his second marriage, Maura and Thea Nielsen.
Nielsen often played golf. He joked, "I have no goals or ambition. I do, however, wish to work enough to maintain whatever celebrity status I have so that they will continue to invite me to golf tournaments." His interest in the sport led him to comedic instructional films.
Nielsen was a practical joker, and known for pranking people with a portable hand-controlled fart machine: "he always had that fart machine with him." His epitaph read: "Let 'er rip", a final reference to his favorite practical joke.
Nielsen was legally deaf and wore hearing aids for most of his life. Because of this impairment, he supported the Better Hearing Institute. Later in life, Nielsen had knee osteoarthritis. He participated in an educational video from The Arthritis Research Centre of Canada (ARC), demonstrating the physical examination of a patient with knee osteoarthritis.
In November 2010, Nielsen was admitted to a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hospital with pneumonia. On 28 November, Doug Nielsen, Nielsen's nephew, told the CJOB radio station that Nielsen had died in his sleep from pneumonia around 5:30 pm EST surrounded by family and friends. He was interred in Fort Lauderdale's Evergreen Cemetery. As a final bit of humor, Nielsen chose "Let 'er rip" as his epitaph.
Among his awards, in 1995 Nielsen received UCLA's Jack Benny Award. In 1988, he became the 1,884th personality to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Blvd. In 2001 he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. The following year he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, although he was also a naturalized U.S. citizen. With his American status, he maintained his Canadian heritage: "There's no way you can be a Canadian and think you can lose it ... Canadians are a goodly group. They are very aware of caring and helping." On 19 May 2005, during the centennial gala of his birth province, Saskatchewan, Leslie Nielsen was introduced to HM Queen Elizabeth II.
On 20 February 2002, Nielsen was named an honorary citizen of West Virginia and an Ambassador of Mountain State Goodwill. Nielsen visited the state many times to speak and visit friends. In 2003, in honor of Nielsen, Grant MacEwan College named its school of communications after him. Also in 2003, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists awarded him the ACTRA Award of Excellence.
|1955||The Battle of Gettysburg||Narrator|
|1956||Ransom!||Charlie Telfer||Film debut, as an actor|
|Forbidden Planet||Commander John J. Adams||First starring role|
|The Vagabond King||Thibault|
|The Opposite Sex||Steve Hilliard|
|1957||Hot Summer Night||William Joel Partain|
|Tammy and the Bachelor||Peter Brent|
|1958||The Sheepman||Col. Stephen Bedford / Johnny Bledsoe|
|1964||See How They Run||Elliot Green||First television movie|
|Night Train to Paris||Alan Holiday|
|1965||Dark Intruder||Brett Kingsford|
|1966||The Plainsman||Col. George Armstrong Custer|
|Beau Geste||Lieutenant De Ruse|
|1967||Code Name: Heraclitus||Fryer|
|The Reluctant Astronaut||Major Fred Gifford|
|Gunfight in Abilene||Grant Evers|
|1968||How to Steal the World||General Maximilian Harmon||The Man from U.N.C.L.E. film|
|Dayton's Devils||Frank Dayton|
|Companions in Nightmare||Dr. Neesden|
|1969||Trial Run||Jason Harkness|
|Deadlock||Lieutenant Sam Danforth|
|How to Commit Marriage||Phil Fletcher|
|Change of Mind||Sheriff Webb|
|1970||Night Slaves||Sheriff Henshaw|
|Hauser's Memory||Joseph Slaughter|
|1971||Incident In San Francisco||Lieutenant Brubaker|
|Four Rode Out||Mr. Brown|
|They Call It Murder||Frank Antrim|
|The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler||Harry Walsh|
|1972||The Poseidon Adventure||The Captain|
|1973||And Millions Will Die||Jack Gallagher|
|Amanda Fallon||Mr. Cummings|
|The Return of Charlie Chan||Alexander Hadrachi|
|1975||Can Ellen Be Saved||Arnold Lindsey|
|Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience||Narrator|
|1976||Grand Jury||John Williams|
|Project Kill||Jonathan Trevor|
|Brinks: The Great Robbery||Agent Norman Houston|
|1977||Sixth and Main||John Doe|
|Day of the Animals||Paul Jenson|
|Viva Knievel!||Stanley Millard|
|The Kentucky Fried Movie||Man in Feel-O-Rama Movie||Uncredited cameo; Feel-O-Rama segment.|
|The Amsterdam Kill||Riley Knight|
|1978||Little Mo||Nelson Fisher|
|1979||Institute for Revenge||Counselor Hollis Barnes|
|The Albertans||Don MacIntosh|
|City on Fire||Mayor William Dudley|
|Airplane!||Dr. Rumack||First comedy role.|
|Prom Night||Mr. Raymond Hammond|
|1981||A Choice of Two||Unknown|
|1982||Twilight Theater||Various Characters|
|Foxfire Light||Reece Morgan|
|Wrong Is Right||Mallory|
|Creepshow||Richard Vickers||"Something To Tide You Over" segment|
|The Night the Bridge Fell Down||Paul Warren|
|Cave-In!||Joseph 'Joe' Johnson|
|The Creature Wasn't Nice (Spaceship)||Capt. Jamieson|
|1985||Murder Among Friends||Unknown|
|Reckless Disregard||Bob Franklin|
|Blade in Hong Kong||Harry Ingersoll|
|Striker's Mountain||Jim McKay|
|1986||The Patriot||Admiral Frazer|
|Soul Man||Mr. Dunbar|
|Nuts||Allen Green||Final non-comedy role|
|Home Is Where the Hart Is||Sheriff Nashville Schwartz|
|1988||Dangerous Curves||Greg Krevske|
|The Railway Dragon||Narrator||First animated film.|
|The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!||Lt. Frank Drebin|
|1990||Repossessed||Father Jedediah Mayii|
|1991||All I Want for Christmas||Santa Claus||Family holiday film|
|The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear||Lt. Frank Drebin|
|Chance of a Lifetime||Lloyd Dixon|
|Surf Ninjas||Colonel Chi|
|1994||S.P.Q.R.: 2,000 and a Half Years Ago||Lucio Cinico|
|Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Lt. Frank Drebin|
|1995||Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree||Willowby's butler|
|Dracula: Dead and Loving It||Count Dracula|
|1996||Spy Hard||Dick Steele, Agent WD-40|
|1997||Mr. Magoo||Mr. Magoo|
|1998||Safety Patrol||Mr. Penn|
|Family Plan||Harry Haber|
|Wrongfully Accused||Ryan Harrison|
|1999||Pirates 4-D||Captain Lucky||4D Cinema Show presented at various Busch Gardens amusement parks|
|2000||Santa Who?||Santa Claus|
|2001: A Space Travesty||Marshal Richard 'Dick' Dix|
|Kevin of the North (Chilly Dogs)||Clive Thornton|
|2002||Men with Brooms||Gordon Cutter|
|2003||Scary Movie 3||President Harris|
|Noël Noël||English Narrator|
|2006||Scary Movie 4||President Harris|
|2007||Music Within||Bill Austin|
|2008||Superhero Movie||Uncle Albert|
|An American Carol||Grampa / Osama Bin Laden|
|Slap Shot 3: The Junior League||Mayor of Charlestown|
|Unknown||The Waterman Movie||Ready Espanosa||Voice acting|
|1958–1961||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Lloyd Ashley & DA Rudolph Cox||Two episodes|
|1959||The Swamp Fox||Colonel Francis Marion|
|1960||Thriller||Alan Patterson (lead role)||Episode "The Twisted Image"|
|1960, 1964||Wagon Train||Jeremy Dow, Brian Conlin||Two episodes|
|1960||The Untouchables||Tom Sebring||Episode "Three Thousand Suspects"|
|1960||Route 66 (TV series)|
|1961||The Islanders||Howard Cavanaugh||Episode "Willy's Millionaire"|
|1961||The New Breed||Lt. Price Adams||Regular|
|1963||Channing||Professor Paul Stafford||Single episode|
|1963-1965||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Dr. David Cord & Paul Maytric||Two episodes: "One Step Down" & "The Green Felt Jungle"|
|1963–1964||The Fugitive (TV series)||Martin C. Rowland & Harold Cheyney||Two episodes|
|1964||Your First Impression||As himself||Single episode|
|1964||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Steven Grainger||Single episode|
|1964–1969||The Virginian||Ben Stratton||Five episodes|
|1965||Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea||Capt. Wayne Adams||One episode "The Creature"|
|1965||Peyton Place||Vincent and Kenneth Marham (twins)||19 episodes|
|1965||The Wild Wild West||General Ball||Single episode|
|1967||Bonanza||Sheriff Paul Rowan||One episode|
|1968||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||General Maximillian Harmon||Single episode "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Pt 1 & 2"|
|1969||The Bold Ones: The Protectors||Deputy Police Chief Sam Danforth||Seven episodes|
|1969||The Big Valley||Sgt. Maj. Earl Conway||One episode "Town of no Exit"|
|1969–1974||Hawaii Five-O||Brent & Colonel Faraday||Two episodes|
|1970||Bracken's World||John Bracken||Fifteen Bracken's World episodes total|
|1971||Columbo: Lady in Waiting||Peter Hamilton||Two Columbo episodes total|
|1971||Bearcats!||Col. Ted Donovan||Single episode|
|1971||Night Gallery||The Phantom, Col. Dennis Malloy||Two episodes: "Phantom of What Opera?" and "A Question of Fear"|
|1973||M*A*S*H||Col. Buzz Brighton||Episode "The Ringbanger"|
|1973–1974||The Streets of San Francisco||Ofc. Joe Landers, Insp. John T. Connor, & Big Jake Wilson||Three episodes|
|1974||Cannon||Eric Strauss||Single episode|
|1974||Kojak||Michael Hagar||Single episode "Loser Takes All"|
|1975||Kung Fu||Vincent Corbino||Four episodes|
|1975||Columbo: Identity Crisis||Geronomo||Two Columbo episodes total|
|1975–1976||S.W.A.T.||Larry Neal/Vince Richie||Three episodes|
|1978||The Love Boat||Dan||Episode "Parents Know Best; A Selfless Love; The Nubile Nurse"|
|1979||Backstairs at the White House||Ike Hoover||Three episodes|
|1980||The Littlest Hobo||Mayor Chester Montgomery||Episode "Romiet and Julio"|
|1982||Police Squad!||Det. Frank Drebin||Nominated for an Emmy Award|
|1984||Shaping Up||Buddy Fox|
|1985–1986||Murder, She Wrote||Captain Daniels & David Everett||Two episodes|
|1987||Highway to Heaven||Richard R. Benson|
|1988||Who's the Boss?||Max|
|1988||Day By Day||Jack Harper||One episode, nominated for an Emmy Award|
|1989||Saturday Night Live||Himself||Single episode|
|1992||The Golden Girls||Lucas Hollingsworth||Series finale|
|1993||Herman's Head||God||Single episode|
|1994–1999||Due South||Sgt. Buck Frobisher||Four episodes|
|1994–1996, 2001–2002||Katie and Orbie||Narrator|
|1995||Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree||Mr. Willowby's Butler, Baxter||Television Christmas special|
|2000||Santa Who?||Santa Claus||Television film|
|2001||Liocracy||Terrence Brynne McKennie|
|2003||Chilly Beach||Santa Claus||Single episode|
|2004||Zeroman||Les Mutton / Zeroman|
|Lipshitz Saves the World||Lipshitz's mentor||Pilot|
|Robson Arms||Cado Vasco|
- 1993: Bad Golf Made Easier
- 1994: Bad Golf My Way
- 1997: Stupid Little Golf Video
- 1997: National Geographic Video: The Savage Garden
- Nielsen also appeared in a promotional video for Layman Allen's mathematics game called "Equations" and in the Seaworld San Antonio Summer Nights 4-D show "Pirates 4-D".
- 1993: The Naked Truth
- 1995: Leslie Nielsen's Stupid Little Golf Book
- "Comedian returning home to host fundraiser". The Record. 16 June 2005. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
- "I played a lot of leaders, autocratic sorts; perhaps it was my Canadian accent", he said." – http://topnews360.tmcnet.com/topics/associated-press/articles/2010/12/02/122613-naked-gun-airplane-actor-leslie-nielsen-dies.htm
- Collins, Glenn (21 December 1988). "Mr. Nondescript Becomes a Star in 'Naked Gun'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Maslin, Janet (2 December 1988). "Review/Film; A Fall Guy as Antihero". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Ebert, Roger (24 October 2003). "Scary Movie 3". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Ross, Bob (24 May 1996). "Worth the Rent" (Fee required). The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Simpson, Kieran (1980). Canadian Who's Who, Volume 15. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-4579-0.
- Lumley, Elizabeth (2003). Canadian Who's Who 2003, Volume 38. University of Toronto Press. p. 1,103. ISBN 0-8020-8865-1.
- "Leslie Nielsen, the comic with the Danish roots: "Comedy is what endures"". Scandinavian Press 4 (1). 31 March 1997. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
- "Erik Nielsen dies at B.C. at 84". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 5 September 2008. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Carr, Jay (13 March 1994). "If Leslie Nielsen has learned anything, it's how to play slapstick with a ... straight face" (Fee required). The Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
- Nielsen, Leslie; David Fisher (1994). Leslie Nielsen the naked truth. Pocket Books. p. 289. ISBN 0-671-79578-3.
- "Playing Defense Funny Man Turns Serious with One-man Darrow Show" (Fee required). Chicago Tribune. 30 January 2000. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
- Biodata about Nielsen's abusive father
- "Leslie Nielsen, RIP. "And don't call me Shirley"". Chicago Sun-Times. Associated Press. 29 November 2010. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- "No Joke! Nielsen in Drama". Rocky Mountain News. Reuters. 14 June 1996. Retrieved 1 December 2010. (registration required (. ))
- Churchill, Bonnie (20 December 1997). "Leslie Nielsen Doesn't Take Himself Seriously, Nor Does Anyone Else" (Fee required). St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
- Hopper, Hedda (6 January 1957). "These New Faces Will Go Places in 1957!". Chicago Tribune. p. H16.
- Wise, James E. Jr.; Baron, Scott (2002). International Stars at War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 221. ISBN 1-55750-965-4.
- Arnold, William (6 December 1988). "Shy actor loves his life as a comic". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Terry, Clifford (7 July 1991). "Gunning for a Laugh". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- "Leslie Nielsen". CBS. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
- Erickson, Hal. "Biography". Allmovie. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010.
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- See, e.g., Leslie Nielsen using his fart machine on a British morning show.
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- Media related to Leslie Nielsen at Wikimedia Commons
- Leslie Nielsen at the Internet Movie Database
- CBC Digital Archives – Leslie and Erik Nielsen laugh it up