I was pleased to see a full page obituary for Leslie Nielsen in today's Times, and seriously amused by the obit writer's decision to describe some of the gags from Nielsen's films. Particularly rich was his explanation of two of Airplane!'s more revered scenes:
[Nielsen's] career took a dramatic change of direction in 1980 when he played Dr Rumack, the hopelessly logical, but rather dim doctor who takes control in an airborne crisis in Airplane! "This woman has to be gotten to a hospital," he says. "A hospital! What is it?" says the stewardess. "It's a big building with patients," Nielsen replies.
Although it looks likely that the plane is about to crash and everyone is going to die, his character's greatest concern seems to be the way in which everyone keeps calling him Shirley -- "Don't call me Shirley," when in fact he repeatedly mishears the word "surely."
This is great stuff. It's like having Gordon Brown parse a Groucho Marx joke, and reminds me of that time Mrs Thatcher tossed off a few lines from Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch during a speech she was making at the 1990 Conservative Party conference. Yikes. There's not better way of killing a joke than explaining it, and I guess the Times' obit guy figured he'd dispatch a couple of Nielsen's better-known zingers to the great beyond in order to keep the actor company. Awfully considerate of him, really.