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RIP Leslie Nielsen

November 30, 2010

This is where “usually photographic” comes into play with the blog…  I wanted to note the passing of Leslie Nielsen this past weekend.

Much has been said about both of his careers–both as “serious” actor in classic movies like the Poseidon Adventure and Forbidden Planet and his jump into comedy films such as Airplane! and the Naked Gun trilogy.  I won’t tread on that ground here.

Where I will tread is specifically on the first Naked Gun film and an Icelandic experience.  Sometime in 2003 I had to fly up to Ísafjörður (pronounced EE-suh-fyor-door for my non-Icelandic familiar readers with the fyor sound like the number four with a yuh sound sandwiched between the f and our sounds) in early December.  The airport at Ísafjörður is situated in the best place they could put it given the topology, but certain weather and wind conditions create a situation where landings are not possible.  In some circumstances, to include this trip, they land at a field to the south in the village of Þingeyri and then bus passengers up to Ísafjörður.

After what was a very ugly flight, we all got on the bus and we started to drive the 60km or so to Ísafjörður.  As the bus started moving, the small tv screens lit up and a movie started.  It was the Naked Gun–without sub-titles.  At this point I’m just sitting back and watching not the movie, but the reactions of the other passengers.  Nearly all of the passengers are native Icelandic speakers but have a reasonably good understanding of English. And my curiosity was, “How much of this humor will cross the cultural divide.”

To my delight, my fellow passengers completely got it.  They were laughing out loud  to each of the  jokes and sight gags (except for Frank’s invitation to Jane for a bite to eat because he knew a place that served great Viking food).

Much of this was due to the great scriptwriting.  But a great deal of it was Mr. Nielsen’s performance–the way he played the character of Frank Drebin straight and allowed the audience to catch the humor.  That was his gift and his passing has left a void in the comedy continuum.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Nielsen.  We will stop calling you Shirley now.

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