Oscar Movies: Sitting Pretty (1948)–Clifton Webb as Nanny

Rather incredibly, Clifton Webb became a box office star at middle-age, when he played Lynn Belvedere, self-styled genius and eccentric educator in the comedy Sitting Pretty.

The Fox comedy hit is directed by Walter Lang from a screenplay by F. Hugh Herbert, based on the novel by Gwen davenport.

Belvedere accepts the job of babysitting the troublesome children of Harry and Tracey (Robert Young and Maureen O’Hara).  Advertising their need for a nanny, they are most impressed by the credentials they receive by mail from Lynn Belvedere, whom they assume to be a sweet old lady.

Neither sweet nor a lady, Mr. Belvedere turns out to be a snobbish man and opinionated whiz.  He wins the job in an unusual way by dumping a bowl of cold oatmeal on the head of the couple’s most contentious offspring!  He proves that he can bring order out of the chaos that prevails in the household.

At first the family chafes at Belvedere’s imperiousness and unlimited resourcefulness, but gradually everyone–especially the children–grow fond of the man.

The couple’s snoopy neighbor (Richard Haydn), noting that Belvedere spends quite a lot of time in the house when the husband is away, begins spreading rumors of a clandestine affair.

Belvedere contributes to the gossip by working on a “secret project” in his room. That project turns out to be a book about the community where he is staying, a revealing volume that exposes the pettiness and hypocrisy of several respectable citizens.

Robert Young nearly loses his job over the ensuing scandal, but when the community becomes world famous and the object of increased business activity, Belvedere becomes a hero.

Clifton Webb made so vivid an impression—he garnered a Best Actor Oscar nomination– as Mr. Belvedere that he repeated the role in two sequels, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).  Webb became known (and typecast) for his acerbic  manner and precise comic timing.

Webb also played variations of Belvedere (with emphasis on his “child psychology” tactics) in such films as Cheaper by the Dozen and Mr. Scoutmaster.

After failed attempts at launching a TV series based on the Gwen Davenport-created character, Mr. Belvedere settled into a long video run in 1985, with Christopher Hewett in the title role and sportscaster Bob Uecker as Belvedere’s nonplused employer.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Actor: Clifton Webb

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the 1948 Best Actor Oscar was Laurence Olivier for Hamlet, which also won Best Picture.

Running time: 84 minutes.

Directed by Walter Lang

DVD: March 16, 1999

Twentieth Century Fox