Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck (November 19, 1889 – October 13, 1966), known professionally as Clifton Webb, was an American actor, dancer, and singer remembered for his roles in such films as Laura (1944), The Razor's Edge (1946), and Sitting Pretty (1948). Webb was Oscar-nominated for all three. He was known for his stage appearances in the plays of Noël Coward, including Blithe Spirit, as well as appearances on Broadway in a number of successful musical revues.
From the trailer for the film Laura (1944)
Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck
November 19, 1889
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||October 13, 1966 (aged 76)|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Occupation||Actor, dancer, singer|
Webb was born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the only child of Jacob Grant Hollenbeck (1867 – May 2, 1939), the ticket-clerk son of a grocer from an Indiana farming family, and his wife, the former Mabel A. Parmelee (Parmalee or Parmallee; March 24, 1869 – October 17, 1960), the daughter of David Parmelee, a railroad conductor. The couple married in Kankakee, Illinois, on January 18, 1888, and separated in 1891, shortly after their son's birth. According to Marion County, Indiana, marriage records, they married in Indianapolis on January 18, 1888.
In 1892, Webb's mother, now called "Mabelle", moved to New York City with her beloved "little Webb", as she called him for the remainder of her life. She dismissed questions about her husband, Jacob, who like her father, worked for the Indianapolis-St. Louis Railroad, by saying, "We never speak of him. He didn't care for the theatre." The couple apparently divorced, since by 1900, Mabelle was married to Green B. Raum, Jr. New York City's 1900 U.S. census indicates Mabelle and her son were using the surname Raum and living on West 77th Street with Green Berry Raum, Jr., a copper-foundry worker, who gave his position in the household as Mabel's husband. Raum was the son of General Green Berry Raum, former U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue and former U.S. Commissioner of Pensions. Webb's father, Jacob, married, as his second wife, Ethel Brown, and died in 1939.
In 1909, using his new stage name, 19-year-old Clifton Webb had become a professional ballroom dancer, often partnering with "exceedingly decorative" star dancer Bonnie Glass (she would eventually replace him with Rudolph Valentino); they would perform in about two dozen operettas. His debut on Broadway began when The Purple Road opened at the Liberty Theatre on April 7, 1913; he played the role of Bosco for the 136 performances before closing in August. His mother (billed as Mabel Parmalee) was listed in the program as a member of the opening-night cast. His next musical was an Al Jolson vehicle, Sigmund Romberg's Dancing Around, which opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 10, 1914, ran for 145 performances, and closed in the following February. Later in 1915, Webb was cast in the all-star revue Ned Wayburn's Town Topics, which boasted 117 famous performers, including Will Rogers, as listed in the Century Theatre opening-night program for September 23, 1915. It closed 68 performances later on November 20, 1915. In 1916, he had another short run with Cole Porter's comic opera See America First, which opened at the Maxine Elliott Theatre on March 28, 1916, and closed after 15 performances on April 8, 1916.
The year 1917 proved to be better, with a 233-performance run of Jerome Kern's Love O' Mike, opening on January 15 at the Shubert Theatre. After moving to Maxine Elliott's Theatre, and then the Casino Theatre, it closed on September 29, 1917. Webb also appeared that year with other Broadway stars in the National Red Cross Pageant a 50-minute film of a stage production held to benefit the American Red Cross. Webb's final show of the 1910s, the musical Listen Lester, had the longest run, 272 performances. It opened at the Knickerbocker Theatre on December 23, 1918, and closed in August 1919.
In the 1920s, Webb played in eight Broadway shows and made numerous other stage appearances, including vaudeville, and a handful of silent films. The revue As You Were, with additional songs by Cole Porter, opened at the Central Theatre on January 29, 1920, running 143 performances until May 29, 1920. Webb was busy with films, tours, and an appearance at the London Pavilion in 1921 as Mr. St. Louis in Fun of the Fayre and in 1922 in Phi-Phi – he did not return to Broadway until 1923. He then played in the musical Jack and Jill at the Globe Theatre for 92 performances between March 22 and June 9 of 1923, followed by Lynn Starling's comic play Meet the Wife, which opened on November 26, 1923, and ran through the summer of 1924. One of the play's leads was 24-year-old Humphrey Bogart.
In 1925, Webb appeared on stage in a dance act with vaudeville star and silent film actress Mary Hay. Later that year, when her husband, Tol'able David star Richard Barthelmess and she decided to produce and star the film New Toys, they chose Webb to be second lead. The film proved to be financially successful, but 19 more years would pass before Webb appeared in another feature film.
Webb's mainstay was clearly Broadway theatre. Between 1913 and 1947, the tall, slender performer with the clear, gentle tenor appeared in 23 Broadway shows, starting with major supporting roles and quickly progressing to leads. He introduced Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade" and George and Ira Gershwin's "I've Got a Crush on You" in Treasure Girl in 1928; Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz's "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" in The Little Show in 1929; "Louisiana Hayride" in Flying Colors in 1932; and Irving Berlin's "Not for All the Rice in China" in the very successful revue As Thousands Cheer in 1933. One of his stage sketches, performed with co-star Fred Allen, was filmed by Vitaphone as a short subject entitled The Still Alarm in 1930. Allen's experiences while working with Webb in the film appear in Allen's memoirs.
Webb was in his mid-fifties when actor/director Otto Preminger chose him over the objections of 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck to play the elegant but evil radio columnist Waldo Lydecker, who is obsessed with Gene Tierney's character in the 1944 film noir Laura. Zanuck reportedly found Webb too effeminate as a person and an actor; he wanted Laird Cregar to play the role; but Cregar by then was well established as an on-screen villain and Preminger wanted someone who would surprise the audience.
Webb's performance won him wide acclaim, and he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Despite Zanuck's original objection, Webb was signed to a long-term contract with Fox. He worked for them solely for the rest of his career. His first film under the contract was The Dark Corner (1946), a film noir directed by Henry Hathaway where he gave a version of his Laura performance. He was then reunited with Tierney in another highly praised role as the elitist Elliott Templeton in The Razor's Edge (1946). He received another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Fox promptly put Webb in a sequel, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) where Belvedere has to complete his college degree and acts as matchmaker. It was another box office success.
In the film Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), Webb and Myrna Loy played Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, real-life efficiency experts of the 1910s and 1920s, and the parents of 12 children. It resulted in Webb's third hit in a row and led to exhibitors voting him the seventh biggest star in the US.
Less successful at the box-office was For Heaven's Sake (1950) in which Webb played an angel trying to help a couple on earth. He made Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951), with Belvedere causing trouble in an old person's home, but the film was not as successful at the box-office as the first two, resulting in the end of the series.
Webb played a father trying to stop daughter Anne Francis' marriage in Elopement (1952), a minor hit. He made a brief appearance in Belles on Their Toes (1952), a sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen, which covered the family's life after the death of the father.
Webb then starred as college professor Thornton Sayre, who in his younger days was known as silent-film idol Bruce "Dreamboat" Blair. Now a distinguished academic who wants no part of his past fame, he sets out to stop the showing of his old films on television in Dreamboat (1952), which concludes with Webb's alter ego Sayre watching himself star in Sitting Pretty.
Around the same time, he starred in the Technicolor film biography of bandmaster John Philip Sousa, Stars and Stripes Forever (also 1952). He was a Belvedere-like scoutmaster in Mister Scoutmaster (1953). Webb had his most dramatic role as the doomed but brave husband of unfaithful Barbara Stanwyck in Titanic (also 1953). Writer Walter Reisch says this movie was created in part as a vehicle for Webb by Fox, who wanted to push Webb into more serious roles.
Soon afterwards, he played the (fictional) novelist John Frederick Shadwell in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), romancing Dorothy McGuire. It was a huge hit. He was top billed as a company owner in Woman's World (1954), a corporate drama.
The British film The Man Who Never Was (1956) featured Webb playing the part of Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu in the true story of Operation Mincemeat, the elaborate plan to deceive the Axis powers about the Allied invasion of Sicily during World War II. In Boy on a Dolphin (1957), second-billed to Alan Ladd, with third-billed Sophia Loren, he portrayed a wealthy sophisticate who enjoyed collecting illegally obtained Greek antiquities. In a nod to his own identity, the character's name was Victor Parmalee.
He starred in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959), a Cheaper By the Dozen comedy as a man with two families, and Holiday for Lovers (1959), a family comedy set in South America. Neither was particularly successful. Fox were developing Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) as a vehicle for Webb but then he fell ill and was unable to do shoot it; James Mason took the part.
Webb's final film role was an initially sarcastic, but ultimately self-sacrificing Catholic priest in Leo McCarey's Satan Never Sleeps (1962). The film showed the victory of Mao Tse-tung's armies in the Chinese Civil War, which ended with his ascension to power in 1949, but was actually filmed in Britain during the summer of 1961, using sets left from the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), which was also set in China.
Webb never married and had no children. He lived with his mother until her death at age 91 in 1960, leading Noël Coward to remark, apropos Webb's grieving, "It must be terrible to be orphaned at 71."
Actor Robert Wagner, who co-starred with Webb in the films Stars and Stripes Forever and Titanic and considered the actor one of his mentors, stated in his memoirs, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, that "Clifton Webb was gay, of course, but he never made a pass at me, not that he would have".
Due to health problems, Webb spent the last five years of his life as a recluse at his home in Beverly Hills, California. On October 13, 1966, Webb suffered a fatal heart attack at his home at the age of 76. He is interred in crypt 2350, corridor G-6, Abbey of the Psalms in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside his mother.
|1917||National Red Cross Pageant||Dancer, The Pavane – French episode|
|1920||Polly With a Past||Harry Richardson||Uncredited|
|1924||Let Not Man Put Asunder||Major Bertie||Uncredited|
|1925||New Toys||Tom Lawrence|
|The Heart of a Siren||Maxim||Alternative title: The Heart of a Temptress|
|1930||The Still Alarm||short Vitaphone film|
|1946||The Dark Corner||Hardy Cathcart|
|The Razor's Edge||Elliott Templeton|
|1948||Sitting Pretty||Lynn Belvedere|
|1949||Mr. Belvedere Goes to College||Lynn Aloysius Belvedere|
|1950||Cheaper by the Dozen||Frank Bunker Gilbreth|
|For Heaven's Sake||Charles / Slim Charles|
|1951||Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell||Lynn Belvedere||Alternative title: Mr. Belvedere Blows His Whistle|
|1952||Belles on Their Toes||Frank Bunker Gilbreth|
|Dreamboat||Thornton Sayre / Dreamboat / Bruce Blair|
|Stars and Stripes Forever||John Philip Sousa||Alternative title: Marching Along|
|1953||Titanic||Richard Ward Sturges|
|Mr. Scoutmaster||Robert Jordan|
|1954||Three Coins in the Fountain||John Frederick Shadwell|
|Woman's World||Ernest Gifford||Alternative title: A Woman's World|
|1956||The Man Who Never Was||Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu|
|1957||Boy on a Dolphin||Victor Parmalee|
|1959||The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker||Mr. Horace Pennypacker|
|Holiday for Lovers||Robert Dean|
|1962||Satan Never Sleeps||Father Bovard||Alternative titles: The Devil Never Sleeps|
Flight from Terror, (final film role)
For a number of years film exhibitors voted Webb among the most popular stars in the country:
|1945||Academy Award||Nominated||Best Supporting Actor||Laura|
|1947||The Razor's Edge|
|1949||Best Actor in a Leading Role||Sitting Pretty|
|1947||Golden Globe Award||Won||Best Supporting Actor||The Razor's Edge|
|1953||Nominated||Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy||Stars and Stripes Forever|
As Thousands Cheer is a revue with a book by Moss Hart and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, first performed in 1933. The revue contained satirical sketches and witty or poignant musical numbers, several of which became standards, including "Heat Wave", "Easter Parade" and "Harlem on my Mind". The sketches were loosely based on the news and the lives and affairs of the rich and famous, and other people of the day, such as Joan Crawford, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Noël Coward, Josephine Baker, and Aimee Semple McPherson.At Long Last Love (song)
"At Long Last Love" is a popular song written by Cole Porter, for his 1938 musical You Never Know, where it was introduced by Clifton Webb.Boy on a Dolphin
Boy on a Dolphin is a 1957 20th Century Fox romantic film set in Greece and shot in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope. It was directed by Jean Negulesco and produced by Samuel G. Engel from a screenplay by Ivan Moffat and Dwight Taylor, based on the novel of the same name by David Divine.
The film was Sophia Loren's English-language debut. She starred opposite Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb, with Alexis Minotis and Laurence Naismith in support. Hugo Friedhofer's score was nominated for a Best Music Academy Award in 1958. Cinematography was by Milton Krasner. It was the first Hollywood movie shot in Greece.Clifton Webb (politician)
Sir Thomas Clifton Webb (8 March 1889 – 6 February 1962), known as Clifton Webb, was a New Zealand politician and diplomat.Dreamboat (film)
Dreamboat is a 1952 American comedy film starring Clifton Webb as a college professor with a past he would rather remain hidden.Easter Parade (song)
"Easter Parade" is a popular song, written by Irving Berlin and published in 1933. Berlin originally wrote the melody in 1917, under the title "Smile and Show Your Dimple", as a "cheer up" song for a girl whose man has gone off to fight in World War I. A recording of "Smile and Show Your Dimple" by Sam Ash enjoyed modest success in 1918. Berlin resurrected it with modifications and new lyrics for the 1933 revue As Thousands Cheer.The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in the Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer (1933), in which musical numbers were strung together on the thematic thread of newspaper headlines. Like many of Berlin's songs, it later appeared in films. It was performed by Don Ameche in Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938) which was loosely based on Irving Berlin's life. Bing Crosby sang it in the film Holiday Inn (1942) which featured an Irving Berlin song about each major holiday. In 1948, it was performed by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in the musical film Easter Parade, which was constructed around the song. The song was also featured in the Rankin/Bass special The First Easter Rabbit in 1976.
Artists who had a hit record with the song include Leo Reisman & Clifton Webb (1933), Bing Crosby (recorded June 1, 1942), Harry James (1942), Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1947), and Liberace (1954).The song is often considered to be one of the most popular Easter songs of all time, along with "Peter Cottontail".Elopement (film)
Elopement is a 1951 American comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Clifton Webb, Anne Francis, Charles Bickford, and William Lundigan.Flying Colors (musical)
Flying Colors is a musical revue with a book, lyrics, and music by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz and sketch contributions by George S. Kaufman, Corey Ford, and Charles Sherman.
The Broadway production opened on September 15, 1932 at the Imperial Theatre, closing on January 25, 1933, after 188 performances.
Directed by Dietz and choreographed by Albertina Rasch,
the cast included Clifton Webb, Patsy Kelly, Imogene Coca, Larry Adler, Charles Butterworth, Tamara Geva, and Buddy and Vilma Ebsen.For Heaven's Sake (1950 film)
For Heaven's Sake is a 1950 fantasy film starring Clifton Webb as an angel trying to save the marriage of a couple played by Joan Bennett and Robert Cummings. It was adapted from the play May We Come In? by Harry Segall.Holiday for Lovers
Holiday for Lovers is a 1959 DeLuxe in CinemaScope comedy film directed by Henry Levin. Based on a 1957 play by Ronald Alexander, the film stars Clifton Webb, Jane Wyman, Jill St. John and Carol Lynley.Imperial Theatre
The Imperial Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 249 West 45th Street (George Abbott Way) in midtown-Manhattan. The theatre seats up to 1417 people.
The Shubert Organization's fiftieth venue in New York City, it was constructed to replace their outdated Lyric Theatre. Designed by Herbert J. Krapp specifically to accommodate musical theatre productions, it opened on December 25, 1923 with the Oscar Hammerstein II-Vincent Youmans production Mary Jane McKane. Since then, it has hosted numerous important musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun (1946), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Dreamgirls (1981), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985) and Les Misérables (1990), which played at the theatre until 2003. Billy Elliot the Musical played at the theatre from November 2008 until January 2012.
Among the famed 20th-century composers and lyricists whose works were housed here are Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, Harold Rome, Frank Loesser, Lionel Bart, Bob Merrill, Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne, E.Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen, and George and Ira Gershwin. Performers who have graced the stage include Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence, John Gielgud, Clifton Webb, Montgomery Clift, Mary Boland, Ray Bolger, Desi Arnaz, Lucie Arnaz, Mike Tyson, Mary Martin, Zero Mostel, Danny Kaye, Davy Jones, Jerry Orbach, Shelley Winters, Bernadette Peters, Ben Vereen, George Rose, Hugh Jackman, John Lithgow, Nikki M. James, Matthew Broderick, and Josh Groban. It is also the venue of the first Ms. Globe Pageant in 1951.Laura (1944 film)
Laura is a 1944 American film noir produced and directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb along with Vincent Price and Judith Anderson. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel Laura by Vera Caspary.
In 1999, Laura was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The American Film Institute named it one of the 10 best mystery films of all time, and it also appears on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" series.Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell
Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell is a 1951 comedy film, the third and final one starring Clifton Webb as Lynn Belvedere. It follows on from Sitting Pretty (1948) and Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949).Sitting Pretty (1948 film)
Sitting Pretty is a 1948 American comedy film which tells the story of a family who hires Lynn Belvedere, a man with a mysterious past, to babysit their children. It stars Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara, and Clifton Webb. The film was adapted by F. Hugh Herbert from the comic novel Belvedere (1947) by Gwen Davenport. It was directed by Walter Lang.The character of Belvedere proved so popular, Webb reprised his role in two more movies: Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949), and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).Stars and Stripes Forever (film)
Stars and Stripes Forever is a 1952 American Technicolor film biography of the late-19th-/early-20th-century composer and band leader John Philip Sousa. This 20th Century Fox feature was produced by Lamar Trotti, directed by Henry Koster, and stars Clifton Webb, Debra Paget, Robert Wagner, and Ruth Hussey. The film's title is taken from Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever", which has become the best known of his military marches.While the film's storyline is loosely based on Sousa's autobiography Marching Along, the film takes considerable liberties and dramatic license, often expanding and examining themes and passages from Sousa's book. Two examples: In the film, Private Willie Little (Robert Wagner), is credited with inventing the Sousaphone and naming it after his mentor, but in reality Sousa himself designed the instrument. The inspiration for the film's title march is depicted in a scene with a voice over by Webb quoting Sousa's actual description of its creation while he was aboard ship recovering from typhoid fever. In reality, having learned of the sudden death of his band's manager, Sousa and his wife canceled their European vacation and were returning to the U.S. by steamship when the march came to him.The Dark Corner
The Dark Corner is a 1946 black-and-white film noir directed by Henry Hathaway starring Lucille Ball, Mark Stevens and Clifton Webb.The Man Who Never Was
The Man Who Never Was is a 1956 UK Second World War film, produced by André Hakim, directed by Ronald Neame, that stars Clifton Webb, Gloria Grahame and Robert Flemyng. It is based on the book of the same name by Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu and dramatises actual events. The film's storyline concerns Operation Mincemeat, a 1943 British Intelligence plan to deceive the Axis powers into thinking Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, would take place elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
The Man Who Never Was was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. Nigel Balchin's screenplay won the BAFTA for that year.The Razor's Edge (1946 film)
The Razor's Edge is the first film version of W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel of the same name. It was released in 1946, and stars Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, and Herbert Marshall, with a supporting cast including Lucile Watson, Frank Latimore, and Elsa Lanchester. Marshall plays Somerset Maugham. The film was directed by Edmund Goulding.
The Razor's Edge tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The story begins through the eyes of Larry's friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune.
The Razor's Edge was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture, with Anne Baxter winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role.Treasure Girl
Treasure Girl is a musical with a book by Fred Thompson and Vincent Lawrence, music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The musical's best-known song is "(I've Got a) Crush on You", which has been recorded by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra.After a tryout in Philadelphia beginning on October 15, 1928, the musical opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 8, 1928. It ran for 68 performances before closing on January 5, 1929. It starred Gertrude Lawrence and featured Clifton Webb and Walter Catlett. Bertram Harrison directed, and Bobby Connelly choreographed. The critics praised the lyrics and some of the music but found the book "remorselessly dull".