Today is the birthday of Canadian (his dad was a Mountie!) philanthropist, actor, wisher of good luck, and guy who is counting on you, Leslie Nielsen.
His film acting debut came in the 1956 thriller Ransom! (which was remade with Mel Gibson in 1996, except minus the exclamation point), and his first starring role came the same year in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.
After that, he appeared in dozens of mostly not-so-great movies, including:
While he did appear in a few comedies, he had mostly made his bones in dramatic roles, such as the righteous and ill-fated ship captain in The Poseidon Adventure. He already had 150 movie and television appearances under his belt by 1980.
However his career took really took off only when he started spoofing himself, beginning with his revelatory comedy role in 1980’s Airplane!
That deadpan comedy genius led to his casting in the TV series Police Squad! The series lasted just six episodes, but he earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
He continued in dramatic roles until 1988’s The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! He stuck to comedic roles forever after (His last dramatic role was in the 1987 courtroom drama Nuts, where he played a violent John who’s killed by a prostitute).
(If you’re wondering, he appeared in a total of six movies and one TV series that had exclamation points in the title. Others are Cave-In! and Rosie!)
He appeared in dozens of comedies after The Naked Gun, may of which unfortunately aren’t worth talking about.
He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002 in recognition of his onscreen talents, as well as his humanitarian work with UNICEF. He also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
He died in 2010 at age 84. His epitaph is a reference to his favourite practical joke, a fart machine:
“Let ‘er rip.”
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