Millennials who did not properly get exposed to the works of Leslie Neilsen might only know him to be a comedian as he mostly focused on the genre in the latter stages of his career. The Canadian actor, who was also a film producer and voice-over artist, was, however, a well-polished drama actor in his early days, appearing in a number of western and romance films between the 50s and 70s.
Read on to find out more about the career, achievements, and relationship history of the Canada and Hollywood Walk of Fame inductee.
Nielsen was born Leslie William Nielsen to Mabel Elizabeth (née Davies) and Ingvard Eversen Nielsen on the 11th of February 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His mother was a homemaker who migrated to Canada from Wales while his father was a constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who was born in Denmark.
From a very young age, Nielsen had hoped to pursue an acting career thanks to the success achieved by his half-uncle, Jean Hersholt. Before doing so, he attended Victoria School of the Arts in Edmonton after which he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The young man trained as an aerial gunner during World War II but because of his teenage age and the fact that he was legally deaf and had to use a hearing aid, he did not receive full training and was not sent overseas. Following his stint in the armed forces, Nielsen worked as a disc jockey at a radio station in Alberta, before moving to Toronto to enroll at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts.
While studying in Toronto, Nielsen received a scholarship to study theatre and music at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. He quickly moved across the border to the United States and began training in the profession. By 1950, Nielsen was able to make his first television appearance on an episode of Studio One, signaling his entry into acting. He went on to take up several dramatic roles, however, he was unable to make a mark in the industry, prompting him to switch to comedy where he left an unending mark.
Some of Leslie Nielsen’s most popular and successful films include Ransom! (1956), Forbidden Planet (1956) and Hot Summer Night (1957), Night Train to Paris (1964), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Airplane! (1980), Day By Day (1988), The Naked Gun film series, and Mr. Magoo (1997), among many others.
Is Leslie Nielsen Dead or Alive?
Leslie Nielsen is dead. He died in November 2010 at the Holy Cross Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, Florida following a battle with pneumonia. His death was announced to the world by his nephew, Doug Nielsen, who said that his uncle had passed away in his sleep surrounded by family and friends. Nielsen’s remains were subsequently interred at the Fort Lauderdale’s Evergreen Cemetery.
At the time of his death, Leslie Nielsen had a net worth of about $20 million. He amassed most of his wealth in the later stages of his career from mostly his work as an actor, comedian, film producer, and voice-over artist which spanned across six decades.
Many might suggest that the figure is relatively low considering the length of Nielsen’s career and the fact that he appeared in more than 100 films and 150 television programs. However, during the time when Nielsen broke unto the scene, actors were not getting paid as well as they are today, which puts his earning into context.
Who is His Spouse?
Leslie Nielsen was married four times. His first marriage was in 1950 to Monica Boyar, a Dominican Republic-born American nightclub singer. Their marriage lasted for five years before they separated in August 1955. A year later, Nielsen obtained a default divorce which gave room for him to marry his second wife, Alisande Ullman, in 1958. Nielsen’s marriage to Ullman proved to be his longest as it lasted until 1973. It also produced his only two children; daughters Maura and Thea Nielsen.
In 1981, Nielsen married Brooks Oliver but divorced her just two years later in 1983. The Police Squad! (1982) actor went on to remain single for close to two decades, before again exchanging marital vows with actress Barbaree Earl Nielsen in 2001. The two remained together until she was widowed in 2010.
Leslie Nielsen has two older brothers. One of them was Erik Nielsen, a Canadian politician, who served as a Member of Parliament without interruption for 30 years and also once held the positions of President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (1984-1985) and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada (1984-1986), among others.