Few people watching the career of the tall, husky and fair-haired Leslie Nielsen, who has died aged 84, could have predicted that the stolid actor who specialised in authority figures would become known as a comedy star after two and a half decades in show business. His reputation was transformed by playing Dr Rumack on board the threatened airliner in Airplane! (1980) and Frank Drebin, the hilariously inept plain-clothes cop, in three Naked Gun films.
What the writer-directors Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker saw in Nielsen, silvery grey and in his mid-50s, was his previously po-faced persona. "They spotted me for being what I really was, a closet comedian," he said. "And how lucky can you get? It's like they said to me, 'Leslie, come out and play.' Thank God for them.