Monday, November 29, 2010

Shakespeare and Leslie Nielsen

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Dir. David Zucker. Perf. Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson. 1988. DVD. Paramount, 2000

Leslie Nielsen died on November 28, 2010. He's known (in Shakespeare and Film circles) as Commander John J. Adams in the Tempest-related science fiction film Forbidden Planet (for which, q.v.).

He was exceptionally, fantastically, outrageously funny in deadpan roles. He would have been brilliant as Touchstone, Feste, Falstaff, or Lear's Fool. Or Caliban. ["Surely, you don't mean Caliban!" "Yes, I do. And don't call me Shirley."]

There's undoubtedly more Shakespeare than this associated with Leslie Nielson, but the clip below (from The Naked Gun) is at the absolute top of my list.

[Quick Note of Caution: Mild Obscenity Included.]

Mayor: Oh, Drebin . . . I don't want any more trouble like you had last year on the South Side. Understand? That's my policy.

Drebin: Yes, well, when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of a park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards. That's my policy.

Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron. You killed five actors. Good ones!
It's a bit cliché to say so, but Leslie Neilson's expressions are priceless there. He seems to be weighing what the Mayor is saying—as if this is the first time his mistake has been pointed out to him (which it may very well be). And he seems to be on the verge of defending his actions—perhaps positing that the actors weren't really that good, but he's interrupted.

R.I.P., Leslie Neilson. Neither L.A. nor Altair will be the same without you.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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professor geezeritus said...

Yeah, this is my favorite clip, too. I especially like the major's tag on line: "(pause) ... good ones." You get the idea that if they had been bad actors, she might cut him some slack. But I can't help wondering if "in plain view of a hundred people" is a dig at the supposed poor attendance of Shakespeare in the Park productions. The ones I've attended far exceed that.

kj said...

If it is, it must be specific to LA, rather than to New York, St. Paul, or St. Louis performances. Or it may indication poor math skills on the policeman's part. Or it may reduce the tragic implications--if it were in full view of 1,000 people, would the act of shooting be too outrageous?


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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