Nielson Provided Us with a Baseball Gem of Comedic Brilliance

 



He has appeared in over 1,500 television programs and 100 films, but the one scene that still means Leslie Nielson to me is the scene at old Angels Stadium in the comedy “The Naked Gun :From the Files of Police Squad“. You know the scene I am talking about. Nielson is playing Lt. Frank Drebin in the classic comedy scene and he is at the Angels versus Mariners game looking for the man that is going to try and assassinate British monarch Queen Elizabeth.


Drebin(Neilson) wanders into the Umpire’s Room at the stadium and don’s the uniform and pads of the Home Plate Umpire for that afternoon’s contest. What transpires, from the moonwalk to the constant body frisking during the course of the game is comedic gold. From the point of watching Neilson’s straight man George Kennedy eating multiple types of food just beyond the field level to the final climatic moment where Baseball Hall of Fame member Reggie Jackson becomes a transfixed killing zombie.

The film itself is one of those classic tongue-in-cheek comedies that you see something different every time you watch it . But the baseball scene is one of the best comedic filmed moments since Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First“. No other clip, not even during “Major League ” did I find myself laughing so much and wishing I could personally see even a fraction of the great stuff shown on that big screen. It was one of those movies I did go and watch inventively more than once when it was originally released in 1991.

It saddens me today to hear the news that Leslie Neilson has died in his sleep recently in the Florida community of Fort Lauderdale because of complications from a bout with pneumonia. The duo comedic masks must all have frowns today as we lost a true giant of a man who could do the pratfall and slapstick style of comedy with a expression and a demeanor that showed his versatility as an actor.

Even though this was the only film Nielson did with baseball ties, his portrayal in this first installment of “The Naked Gun” trilogy was one of the moments that got me hooked on the former Canadian disk jockey. Some might say his acting on such classics as the “Poseidon Adventure” or even “Airplane” should be more remembered than his slight foray into the comedy realm. “The Naked Gun” trilogy based on the short-lived television series “Police Squad” became an instant classic.

Well known Chicago Film critic Roger Ebert even went as far as to proclaim Neilson “ the (Sir Lawrence) Olivier of spoofs“. No bigger homage can be paid to an actor either comedic or serious in nature. Excuse me while I leave no to again marvel and bask in the comedy styling’s of Neilson again today and remember a man who gave us a great baseball moment without even picking up a bat, or throwing a single pitch.
 
 

8 Comments

I was really sad yesterday when I read that Nielson died. I know he had a career before his “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” days, but his deadpan delivery was just hilarious. RIP, Leslie. (And don’t call me Shirley!)

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Cliff,
I woke up this morning to the sad news. Thank you for reminding us of those scenes from The Naked Gun. I am going to watch it again to pay tribute to him.
Rest in peace Mr. Nielson.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Thank you for posting this and giving us a laugh after the sad news. This was such a great scene in what is easily my favorite of his movies. The older I get the more I am convinced that laughter is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive. Rest in peace, Mr. Nielson and thank you for all the laughs!

http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Jane,
I knew someone would use that classic “Airplane” line .
It was just a great montage to the antics and craziness that sometimes is the Home Plate Umpire.
There are so many other scenes missing from that small clip like the team spitting simultaneously or the bizzare set of “bloopers” complete with a beheading and a tiger mauling a guy trying to steal 2B.
Roger Ebert was so right about Nielson.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
I also am going to do a small “Naked Gun” revival film festival this week to go back and remember some of his great performances during his short comedic life.
Amazing sometimes how someone can do so much work on television and filom and is remembered for only a small slattering of moments.
But I guess it is better to have a few moments in the sun shine bright then to sit in resolute darkness oyur entire life.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Blithe,
Just glad there was a humerous clip on Youtube for all of us to enjoy.
I agree totally that the laughter, especially from a small child can light up any darkness. It is one of the reasons I try and keep humor around me at all times in one fashion or another.
Laughter is one of the 3 “L’s”, the others are love and luck. I grew up respecting these three essentials and always try to have pieces of them near me.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I’m glad you posted this. Leslie was one of my favorite actors and i’m sad to see him go. I’m young (21) but I grew up on Leslie’s parodies and as I got older his serious roles as well. He was one of the greatest and few people have ever made me laugh harder.
Thanks for posting this clip, it’s one of my favorite movie scenes of all time lol. I love him calling strike 3 before the ball even crosses the plate haha.

Kyle,
Some movie scenes just stay with us because of their visual impact than for the mire words spoken during the screen.
Neilson just had that face made for tongue-in-cheek comedy and could play the role without a hint of expression.
Wonder if they have any gag reels of the off camera hijinks or laughing while trying to stay deadpanned for the camera all that time.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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