Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away today at the age of 84. Although known today for comedic films like Airplane! and the Naked Gun series, he spent the first decades of his lengthy career playing mostly dramatic parts, the bulk of them on television. During the 1950s he appeared in dozens of programs, including Actor’s Studio, The Trap, Sure as Fate, CBS Television Workshop, Suspense, Short Short Dramas, Kraft Television Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents and Playhouse 90. In 1956, he co-starred in Forbidden Planet; in 1957 he appeared opposite Debbie Reynolds in Tammy and the Bachelor, the first of four Tammy films.
From 1959 to 1961 Nielsen appeared in eight episodes of Walt Disney Presents on ABC as Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. During the 1961-1962 season he starred in The New Breed on ABC. In October of 1964 he appeared in See How They Run on NBC, the very first made-for-TV movie. He had recurring roles on Peyton Place and Doctor Kildare in 1965. From 1969 to 1970 he starred in The Protectors on NBC, one of the rotating dramas making up The Bold Ones. It ran for a total of seven episodes. In 1970 he starred as John Bracken in the second season of Bracken’s World on NBC.
During the 1970s Nielsen made guest appearances on programs like MA*S*H, The F.B.I., Lucas Tanner, Swiss Family Robinson and Lucan. In 1980, Nielsen had a supporting role in Airplane! and suddenly he was known as a comic actor. In 1982, he starred in the short-lived Police Squad! on ABC as Detective Frank Drebin, a character he would reprise in three Naked Gun films between 1988 and 1994. Later films included Mr. Magoo, 2001: A Space Travesty and Scary Movie 4. Between 1994 and 1999 he appeared in four episodes of Due South. Obituaries can be found at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.