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SITTING PRETTY (director: Walter Lang; screenwriters: F. Hugh Herbert/from the novel Belvedere by Gwen Davenport; cinematographer: Norbert Brodine; editor: Harron Jones; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Clifton Webb (Lynn Belvedere), Maureen O’Hara (Tacey King), Robert Young (Harry King), Richard Haydn (Clarence Appleton), Louise Allbritton (Edna Philby), John Russell (Bill Philby), Ed Begley (Horatio Hammond), Ken Christy(Mr. McPherson), Betty Ann Lynn (Ginger), Anthony Sydes (Tony King), Roddy McCaskill (Roddy King), Larry Olsen (Larry King); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel G. Engel; 20th Century Fox; 1948)

This is the effete curmudgeon character film role that endeared the 60 -year-old Clifton Webb to the public and made him a star.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Enjoyable domestic comedy of manners on uptight suburbanites and their imperious know-it-all male babysitter. This is the effete curmudgeon character film role that endeared the 60 -year-old Clifton Webb to the public and made him a star. Because the film was so popular, it led to several sequels. Walter Lang (“The Mighty Barnum”/”Mother Wore Tights”/”State Fair”)does a nice job keeping the snappy story moving crisply along. It’s based onthe 1947 novel Belvedere by Gwen Davenport and is written by F. Hugh Herbert.

In the serene middle-American suburb of Hummingbird Hill resides the struggling attorney Harry and the housewife Tacey King(Robert Young andMaureen O’Hara). They are a young middle-class couple with three bratty boys– Tony (Anthony Sydes), Larry (Larry Olsen) and the toddler Roddy (Roddy McCaskill).The couple can’t keep maids because of the troublesome kids and the over friendly giant pet great Dane excitedly jumping over them. Tacey puts an ad in the local paper for a live-in baby-sitter and it’s answered, to their surprise, by a pompous, stuffy elderly man named Lynn Belvedere (Clifton Webb), who states he’s a genius, doesn’t care much for kids and does everything well.The unlikely baby-sitter is hired after the unruly kids take to the eccentric self-absorbed snob, who shows he will not put up with their nonsense when he dumps a bowl of oatmeal over Roddy’s head after the toddler threw oatmeal in his face and laughed.

Local gossip, an elderly horticulture fanatic who still lives with his overbearing mother,Clarence Appleton (Richard Haydn), spreads false rumors that Belvedere and Tacey are carrying on an affair while Harry is out-of-town on business.Clarence maliciously informs Harry’s hypocritical boss (Ed Begley), who threatens to fire him unless he gets rid of Belvedere. After a series of misunderstandings, with Tacey moving back with mom, we learn that Belvedereis secretly writing a book about life inHummingbird Hilland how unsophisticated and cruel people can be in the ‘burbs.

Though it settles for being a breezy sitcom comedy, it still pumps into its storyline some subversive moments such as a possible intellectual homosexual male being better at caring for children than the idealized American heterosexual couple and that being unconventional will cause a witch hunt in such conventional suburban places where conformity is more important than finding one’s own identity. The social commentary offers a slice of life view on how things operate in the ‘burbs, but backs off onto safe ground after railing against how the leading citizens are trapped into leading boring lives because of their fears of social pressure and ostracism.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”