Our Mr. Webb — 11 Comments

  1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Dorian, and you won't regret snagging your own copy of the book. I said it before and I'll say it again, Dave Smith has done posterity a real favor by bringing Clifton Webb's autobiographical jottings to light.

    Webb has long been a favorite of mine too, but my introduction to him differed sharply from audiences in 1944 (and latter-day noir fans since Webb's death). I first knew him in his later persona, as the haughty soul with the heart of gold guarded by a Fort Knox of snobbery; the movie was Mr. Scoutmaster, which was essentially Mr. Belvedere Rubs Sticks Together. Later came Cheaper by the Dozen, Titanic, Sitting Pretty, Stars and Stripes Forever, even The Man Who Wasn't There, before, finally, Laura, where dear old Clifton was (gasp!!) the villain. It was, as for others, quite a shocking revelation, but coming from a different perspective.

  2. Jim, Clifton Webb has been one of my favorites since I first saw LAURA on TV as a kid growing up in the Bronx. Your blog post about Webb was a delight, as affectionate as it was fascinating. I look forward to getting the book SITTING PRETTY. And you're right, the resemblance between Webb and his mother is so striking, Mama almost looks like a clean-shaven Webb in drag (not meant as an insult; just an observation). Thanks for sharing the story of this one-of-a-kind performer with the rest of us!

  3. Amen, Kevin, to your appraisal of Webb's performance in Titanic (1953); one of his best, to be sure. I wanted to mention it in my post but was unable to fit it in, so I'm glad you brought it up. Webb and Stanwyck do indeed make a memorable pair; like everybody else who ever crossed her path, Webb adored working with Stanwyck and the result shows on the screen.

  4. What a coincidence. I just watched "Titanic" over the weekend. I thought that contained one of Webb's best performances.

    I love the way he and Stanwyck go at each other on the ship, but once the ship is in danger, he becomes the calming, selfless influence on people as he's getting them into the lifeboats. His parting scene with Stanwyck is beautifully underplayed by the both of them. So much regret in those words for what might have been.

    I never would have thought of Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb as a couple, but they really do play out their scenes most convincingly. I was very impressed.

    I also liked his final scene with his son and how proud he is of him, even though he had recently found out he is not the biological father. Beautifully underplayed. Webb still can't quite look his son in the eye, but the emotions on his face and the way he tightens his arm around the boy are worth a million words.

    Big Clifton Webb fan so will have to buy the book once my financial situation improves. Best of luck with the book, Dave.

  5. Welcome, Dave! And thanks again for Sitting Pretty (the book). You've done a real service to movie buffs everywhere.

    And by the way, I also urge my readers to take a look at your 2006 book Hoosiers in Hollywood. It's a real feast, and a monument to my native state's contributions to movie history from Elmo Lincoln to James Dean.

  6. Jim: I must say I had no idea you were going to feature Clifton Webb and my book on your blog. However I am delighted with your comments. While reading it I was nodding "yes!" to myself! You captured the essence of the book and the essence of Clifton. He was truly a remarkable talent. As Richard Zanuck said, "There has never been a truly proper replacement in movieland after Clifton left us. He could do everything and did it in a singular style that could never be repeated." Thanks so much for your kind comments.

    David L. Smith