LOS ANGELES — Leslie Nielsen, who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in “Airplane!” and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun” comedies, died Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

The Canadian-born actor died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John Kelly said.

Nielsen went to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York. With blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a big-screen leading man.

Nielsen first performed as the king of France in the Paramount operetta “The Vagabond King” with Kathryn Grayson.

The film — he called it “The Vagabond Turkey” — flopped, but MGM signed him to a seven-year contract.

His first film for that studio was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic “Forbidden Planet.” But he later found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, “The Poseidon Adventure.”

Behind the camera, however, he was a prankster, an aspect of his personality never exploited until “Airplane!” was released in 1980. As the doctor aboard a plane in which the pilots, and some of the passengers, become ill, Nielsen says they must get to a hospital right away.

“A hospital? What is it?” a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the illness.

“It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now,” Nielsen deadpans.

When he asks a passenger if he can fly the plane, the man replies, “Surely you can’t be serious.”

Nielsen responds: “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

Critics argued he was being cast against type, but Nielsen disagreed. “I’ve always been cast against type before,” he said, adding comedy was what he’d really always wanted to do.

Before becoming a box-office name, Nielsen held his own in more serious roles, playing Debbie Reynolds’ sweetheart in the popular “Tammy and the Bachelor,” and the Revolutionary War fighter Francis Marion in the Disney TV adventure series “The Swamp Fox.”

But “Airplane!” captivated audiences and changed everything. After the movie’s success, Nielsen became a hit as Detective Drebin in a TV series, “Police Squad,” which trashed the cliches of “Dragnet.” The concept was converted into the series into feature film, “The Naked Gun,” with George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley as Nielsen’s co-stars. Its huge success led to sequels “The Naked Gun 2½” and “The Naked Gun 33 1/3.”