Oscar Roles: Webb, Clifton–Laura

In four years, British Clifton Webb was nominated three times for an acting Oscar, twice in the supporting category and once in the lead.

Webb returned to the screen in 1944, after 20 years of absence, as the fastidious and elegant villain in Laura.

He was cast in the film by director Otto Preminger over the objections of his producer, Darryl Zanuck.

Born in 1889 as Webb Parmmallee Hollenbeck, Webb was trained as a dancer and actor from early childhood, becoming a seasoned perfroemr by the age of ten.

At 13, he quit grad school to study painting and music, and at 17, sang with the Boston Opera Company. Turning to dancing in earnest at 19, Webb soon became a ballroom dancer in New York, often partnering with Bonnie Glass. In the 1920s, he played in musicals comedies and dramatic parts in London and on Broadway, and in some silents.

After winning a supporting nomination for Laura, Webb was nominated again in that league for The Razor’s Edge, and was subsequently typecast as a waspish, acidulous, pedantic bachelor.

But he gained his biggest popularity as the pompous babysitter, Mr. Belvedere, in the hilarious comedy “Sitting Pretty” (1948), for which he received his third–and first–Best Actor–nomination.

He worked steadily (“Satan Never Sleeps” was his last picture, in 1962) before dying four years later, at the age of 76.