Clifton Webb was a dapper, urbane actor known primarily for his work in films and on the Broadway stage.
Webb was born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck in a rural section of Indiana that later became Beech Grove, a small city surrounded entirely by Indianapolis. His place of birth is often listed simply as Indianapolis.
Webb enjoyed a close relationship with his mother, Maybelle, with whom he lived until her death just a few years before his own. Maybelle and Webb's father, a railroad man, divorced when he was a young child, and he moved with her from Indiana to New York.
Maybelle had harbored theatrical ambitions of her own, and she soon transferred them to her son, whom she called "little Webb." Family members noted that Maybelle and Webb rarely referred to Webb's father, and Maybelle was reportedly heard to say that they "never speak of him. He didn't care for the theater."
With Indiana behind her, Maybelle soon enrolled "little Webb" in dance, acting and music classes. He was performing as an opera singer at age 17 and also taught dance before turning to vaudeville. He moved onto Broadway as a young adult, appearing primarily in musicals.
At 51, Webb's stage career was already well established when director Otto Preminger took notice and brought him to Hollywood to appear in the 1944 film noir "Laura." Webb earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for "Laura," in which he played the character Waldo Lydecker opposite Gene Tierney and Vincent Price.
His Academy Award nomination for "Laura" was followed by two other best supporting actor nominations, for his roles in the 1946 film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" and the 1948 film "Sitting Pretty."
He reprised his "Sitting Pretty" role, that of an unorthodox baby sitter named Lynn Belvedere, in two later films, "Mr. Belvedere Goes to College" and "Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell." (The character was later borrowed for the 1980s sitcom "Mr. Belvedere," which starred Christopher Hewett in the role originated by Webb.)
Webb also appeared in the 1950 film "Cheaper by the Dozen," opposite Myrna Loy; the 1953 film "Titanic," opposite Barbara Stanwyck; and the 1957 film "Boy on a Dolphin," with Alan Ladd and Sophia Loren, among other roles.
His storied Broadway career included several starring roles in Noel Coward plays, including "Blithe Spirit." Coward reportedly wrote the role of Charles Condomine in "Blithe Spirit" specifically for Webb. He also appeared in Broadway productions of "The Importance of Being Earnest," "As Thousands Cheer" and "Treasure Girl."
Toward the end of his life, Webb rarely left the Beverly Hills home he shared with his mother. He lived there alone after her death in 1960. Webb died there Oct. 13, 1966, and was entombed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Even after Webb's death, the home's new owners reportedly believed that he continued to occupy it. A seance was held with several of the actor's friends, including actress Ruth Gordon, in attendance. The house was later torn down.
|1944||Best Supporting Actor||Laura||Nomination|
|1946||Best Supporting Actor||The Razor's Edge||Nomination|
|1948||Best Actor||Sitting Pretty||Nomination|