By Dan Snierson
Updated December 03, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Few actors delighted us with deadpan quite like Leslie Nielsen, who died Nov. 28 of complications from pneumonia. Best known for his work in Airplane! and the Naked Gun trilogy, Nielsen, 84, had a talent for issuing ridiculous gems in the straightest way possible, cloaking absurdity in obliviousness. Surprisingly enough, he broke into Hollywood as a dramatic performer: The Canadian-born, Actors Studio-trained Nielsen played Commander J.J. Adams in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet and soon established himself as a dependable, rich-voiced character actor in TV and movies. He reinvented his career by scoring laughs as stone-faced Dr. Rumack in the 1980 big-screen parody Airplane! and as bumbling detective Frank Drebin in 1982’s cop-show spoof Police Squad!, for which he earned an Emmy nomination. In 1988, he reprised his role as Drebin in the film adaptation The Naked Gun, which begat two sequels and set the table for more parody (Spy Hard, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Scary Movie 3 and 4). Nielsen leaves behind a gift of goof that future generations will have much fun reopening.

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