Leslie Nielsen Has Me to Thank for His Comedy Career: Debbie Reynolds

Leslie in '57, looking a bit less Lee Strasberg—and more Jerry Lewis.

Leslie in 1957, looking a bit less Lee Strasberg—and more Jerry Lewis.

EDITOR’S NOTE (Nov. 29, 2010): Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday at age 84 after being admitted to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for pneumonia. Below is story from Sept. 18, 2009 about a BlogTalkRadio interview with funnyman’s one-time co-star, Debbie Reynolds.

Though most under-40 moviegoers know Leslie Nielsen as that funnyman from the Naked Gun flicks, he began his career hoping to follow in the footsteps of such heavies as Marlon Brando, Monty Clift and Paul Newman.

But all that changed when co-star Debbie Reynolds encouraged him to tackle an unfamiliar genre.

Interviewed on Movie Addict Headquarters, Debbie recalls how Leslie initially balked at signing on for the 1957 musical rom-com Tammy and the Bachelor.

“Leslie was fresh from New York. He came from The Actors Studio and he thought doing Tammy—a simple little story with a goat and Walter Brennan and Debbie Reynolds—was really corny,” she tells host Betty Jo Tucker.

“He didn’t want to do it. So he was kind of depressed.

Ain't we got fun? Yes—thanks to the unsinkable diva Debbie.

Ain't we got fun? Yes—thanks to the unsinkable diva Debbie.

“So I said to him, ‘You should like comedy, because it will do well by you,” continues Debbie, who also discusses her Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, which is currently under construction at Belle Island Village in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

“He said, ‘No, I’m a serious actor.’

“And I have to laugh now because after Naked Gun or Naked Edge or whatever, he’s a scream—and making a lotta money on comedy!”

To hear Debbie’s full interview, click here.

To learn more about the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, click here.

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