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Clifton Webb as Lynn Belvedere


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First, I have to say that I grew up watching Christopher Hewitt as the television version of Mr. Belvedere on ABC. I did not even know there was a film series till I had seen a broadcast of SITTING PRETTY, the original Belvedere film, on AMC in the 1990s. I loved it. Clifton Webb is a scream!, I thought.

 

In all these years since, I still haven't seen the sequels. But tonight, they air on TCM. First, it's 1949's MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE (costarring Shirley Temple and Tom Drake). Elliott Nugent directs. Then, the second part of the evening's double feature provides us with MR. BELVEDERE RINGS THE BELL, from 1951. It costars Joanne Dru and is directed by Henry Koster.

 

Webb's career in films was restarted with his success a few years earlier in Otto Preminger's film noir classic LAURA. But he truly hit his stride with the delightful series of comedies he did for Fox in the late 40s and 50s. The original CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is one of those.

 

At any rate, this promises to be a special evening...not only for Clifton Webb fans, or Mr. Belvedere fans, but for fans of classic comedy.

 

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Clifton Webb made 5 silent films between 1917 and 1925 and one talkie short in 1930. During the teens and 20s, Webb was a well known dancer in Broadway shows. In 1944 he made his talkie debut in a feature film, *Laura.* Webb won three Oscar nominations: supporting bids for *Laura* and *The Razor's Edge,* and a lead nomination for *Sitting Pretty.* He won the Golden Globe for support in The Razor's Edge and was nominated as a lead in *Stars and Stripes Forever.*

 

Webb was also notable in films like *The Dark Corner, Three Coins in the Fountain, Titanic,* and *Cheaper by the Dozen.*

 

A truly great actor who came late to films, achieved stardom, and never looked back.

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Good post. He was uncredited in two of those five early silents. He almost did not have a motion picture career, if not for Zanuck (who initially resisted the idea of casting Webb in LAURA, considering him too effeminate).

 

It's too bad that FMC does not do a Star of the Month. I'd love to see all Clifton Webb's films in a single month....overkill, sure, but such fun it would be! I particularly like his performance in RAZOR'S EDGE (he and Anne Baxter act their butts off in that picture).

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Even in the lesser know films, he's terrific. Webb is simply superb in *Laura.* I can't imagine anyone else as Waldo. And in *The Dark Corner* he utters the immortal line: "How I detest the dawn. The grass always looks like it's been left out all night." LOL

 

And in *Titanic* opposite Barbara Stanwyck, he gives an amazing performance, especially in the final scenes.

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Yes, he is a terrific actor. He doesn't have a lot of screen time in THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN, but he makes the most of it and earns his top billing. He never turns in a mediocre performance. It's always pitch-perfect with him, that's what I like about him.

 

He made 21 films for Fox between 1944 and 1962. He was never loaned out.

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A few notes after watching last night's films:

 

I preferred the COLLEGE entry over the other one. I think the supporting cast was excellent: Jesse Royce Landis is great as always; Shirley Temple & Tom Drake are just so cute together; plus, there's a very young Alan Young prior to his Mr. Ed days. It is especially significant to note that this is the first and only time Shirley returned to her home lot of Fox after being let go at the end of her reign as the studio's top child star. This proves that they could, and should, have groomed her for juvenile leads. She's very appealing in this film.

 

Meanwhile, Clifton Webb's performance was very multi-dimensional in this offering. When the police think he's a peeping tom and he's crawling through windows and hiding in halls in Shirley's apartment building, it reminded me in more ways than one of his Waldo Lydecker from LAURA. There's a creepiness and danger that he brings to film in some of these scenes that I find fascinating.

 

As for MR. BELVEDERE RINGS THE BELL, I felt disconnected to it. The fact that Belvedere is posing as another character and they call him by that name throughout the entire picture makes him less Lynn Belvedere and more something (someone) else. I understand that he is working undercover, but I really think this is because they had used a stage play as the basis for this film, and in the play, the character is not Belvedere and does have that other name. What I do like about this last sequel in the series is that it once again proves that Clifton Webb is the best fish-out-of-water in movies. You can put him into any situation with any assortment of odd characters, and he stands out spectacularly. There were hundreds of other situations they could have thrown him into, and when you think about it, the Belvedere franchise could've gone on as long as Blondie if Fox had chosen to do so.

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I had a nice time watching these cute comedies. I agree "College" was the better entry. But the other has its moments. Never have I been disappointed in a performance by this fine, unusual actor. Especially TITANIC. He played that role subtly, as he played everything, and with warmth. I prefer CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN to the similar LIFE WITH FATHER largely due to the talents of Mr. Webb and his on screen wife Myrna Loy.

 

Last night's program provided quiet, pleasant amusement on a dreary night. You can't beat it!

 

Edited by: redriver on Dec 13, 2010 5:47 PM

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I'm with you MFF on last night's flix. COLLEGE was so much funnier to me, and I found I couldn't really get into RINGS THE BELL, to be honest. Like you, I couldn't connect with it or something, but wow, COLLEGE had me rolling quite a bit! I know one of those is that I'm a fan of "fish out of water" comedy so that hit stride for me there big time, plus I just think the supporting cast and story was spot on.

 

I've not seen SITTING PRETTY but am very interested in seeing it now!

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I rewatched the last twenty minutes of MR. BELVEDERE RINGS THE BELL, thinking maybe I was a bit too hard on it. But I still don't think it holds up as well as the earlier two installments. It's cute, but it's somewhat dull in spots.

 

I wish they would've made a fourth one, where he goes back to Hummingbird Hill and interacts with the original family again, with the kids now older with newer problems.

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How can anyone in their right mind believe that Mr Belvedere is 46 years old in Mr Belvedere Rings the Bell? At the time Clifton Webb was about 62 years of age. I guess in Hollywood anything is believable. Great movie though, I really enjoyed it. I am 60 years old and I am rapidly approaching elderly status. The older actors really made the movie work. I especially enjoyed the elderly identical twin brothers. I think this movie would appeal more to someone in my age group who will be where these folks are in 10 or 15 years. Not that I will be in an old age home, but I will have the lifetime of memories to look back on.

 

Edited by: FloydDBarber on Dec 14, 2010 12:34 PM

 

Edited by: FloydDBarber on Dec 14, 2010 12:38 PM

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Please don't shoot me (the messenger) but I do not think this film (RINGS THE BELL) would be made today in Hollywood. Anything with an older lead is verboten, and something with an entire cast of older characters, is strictly out of the question.

 

The COCOON movies of the 80s were an unusual deviation from the massive marketing that Hollywood does towards youth (though they had a much-younger Steve Guttenberg in the lead)...I don't even think these kinds of films would be made today...unless by an independent producer and on a very miniscule budget.

 

Sad, isn't it?

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*He almost did not have a motion picture career, if not for Zanuck (who initially resisted the idea of casting Webb in LAURA, considering him too effeminate).*

 

Actually, I think that the original director, Rouben Mammoulian, was the one who didn't want Webb, and intially prevailed on Zanuck. Preminger, then only the film's producer, didn't want their choice for Waldo Lydecker, Laird Cregar, on the grounds that Cregar's image was that of a heavy, and thus would tip off the audience as to the killer's identity. Obviously, Preminger prevailed in both the casting and in ending up as director. The success of this movie started Clifton Webb's movie star career in his middle age. He also established a close friendship with Zanuck.

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*First, I have to say that I grew up watching Christopher Hewitt as the television version of Mr. Belvedere on ABC. I did not even know there was a film series till I had seen a broadcast of SITTING PRETTY, the original Belvedere film, on AMC in the 1990s. I loved it. Clifton Webb is a scream!, I thought.*

 

Having seen all of the Belvedere movies as a kid, and loving them, I REALLY DID NOT like the TV program, something my friends didn't seem to understand.

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*Even in the lesser know films, he's terrific. Webb is simply superb in Laura. I can't imagine anyone else as Waldo. And in The Dark Corner he utters the immortal line: "How I detest the dawn. The grass always looks like it's been left out all night." LOL*

 

Webb was great in just about everything he did. Another favorite of mine is DREAMBOAT, where he played a college professor who had been a Great Lover in silent films, and to his embarrassment, are now being shown on TV. Great fun.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 14, 2010 4:53 PM

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*Clifton Webb made 5 silent films between 1917 and 1925 and one talkie short in 1930. During the teens and 20s, Webb was a well known dancer in Broadway shows.*

 

In 1934, MGM signed Clifton Webb to star with Joan Crawford in a musical, ELEGANCE, that was to be that studio's answer to Astaire-Rogers (they had recently featured Astaire with Crawford in DANCING LADY, but let him go . . . to RKO, Ginger and history). In the event, this film was never made, nor did Webb go before the cameras at MGM, other than for a screen test (that's a story in its own in the saga that is the making of LAURA).

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