Although Leslie Nielson was not directly connected with sports, he holds a special place in my heart. Nielson died at age 84 yesterday, but will always be remembered for his insane way to make people laugh. His sports connection came in one of the funniest sports sequences in any movie. While playing Lieutenant Frank Dreban, Nielson attempted to break up a plot to assassinate the Queen of England in Los Angeles during a California Angels game. The cast of characters don’t take themselves too seriously and have been causing me to laugh for years. (more after the jump)
We can look past the fact that the stadium in the movie is Dodger Stadium where the California Angels haven’t played for 4+ decades and see the hilarity that ensues when Dreban poses as Enrico Pallazzo to sing the National Anthem (above) and then steps in behind the plate to call the balls and strikes…errr, mostly strikes (below). If you have never seen this movie and like stupid comedies, you are missing out. The series of 3 Naked Gun movies, From the Files of Police Squad!, The Smell of Fear and The Final Insult, are ridiculous and entertaining and also star O.J. Simpson as another member of the police force. (Watching O.J. Simpson act is almost as bad as watching him sit in a courtroom, but that’s a conversation for another day.)
Nielson played numerous other comedic roles including Dr. Rumack in the 1980 movie Airplane!. Just this weekend, my wife, her sister and I celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday by watching Airplane and no matter how many times I see it, I still laugh uncontrollably during certain scenes. Nielson plays a passenger on a plane who happens to be a doctor and steps in to ‘help’ other passengers in a time of crisis. Nielson’s roles in Police Squad!, Airplane! and Naked Gun are legendary and if you are anything like me, you feel he just continued to kill with the same humor and will keep me laughing for eternity.
The comedic world lost a great man yesterday and although he was only loosely tied to sports, most everyone knows him for one of his great characters. Nielson’s resume is long and impressive, spanning 6 decades and dozens upon dozens of unique roles in different movies and TV shows. Leslie Nielson was a great man and an entertainer of all…he will be missed.