Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lynn Belvedere

Some people may remember the 1980s TV sitcom Mr. Belvedere. The idea was thoroughly unoriginal, having been based on a 1940s novel. Not only that, but the novel had already been turned into a series of three movies not long after the original novel was published. The first of those three movies, Sitting Pretty, is airing at 9:00 AM ET tomorrow morning on the Fox Movie Channel.

For those who don't know the rough story of the Belvedere character, the movie starts off with suburban parents the Kings (Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara), trying to raise their three kids. Unfortunately for them, their kids are a holy hell, and nobody wants to babysit for them. They put an ad in the paper for a nanny to work for them, and are relieved when Lynn Belvedere responds. What they don't realize until it's too late is that Lynn here isn't a woman, but a man (Clifton Webb)! Still, he's insistent on taking on the job, and Mrs. King, desperate for help, is willing to accept it.

Mr. Belvedere, however, has a belief system about raising children that's unorthodox, to put it mildly. Not only that, but he's one arrogant bastard, certain that he knows better than the parents that his methods are going to work, and that they can't possibly understand why. Before you know it, he has the kids practicing yoga, the parents wondering what the hell he's doing, and the rest of the town talking -- and gossiping about what's going on in the King household. Gossip being what it is, they of course draw the wrong conclusions, and create a situation that threatens Mr. King's job, and the Kings' marriage. Lynn Belvedere, of course, knows just how to save the day....

This is Clifton Webb's movie all the way, and boy does he shine. It's slightly odd that he'd be Fox's go-to guy for all those family comedies they did in the 40s and 50s, since in real life, Webb was a confirmed bachelor, devoted to his elderly mother, and about as close to openly gay as one could be in Hollywood in those days. Still, Webb is excellent here, in part because the script calls for Mr. Belvedere to have that enormous ego. Webb had already played that type in dramas such as Laura, so in some ways it's not such a stretch. As for the rest of the cast, they're all good in support of Webb, and the storyline is more than entertaining enough. The only minor problem is that the movie takes a bit too long in its set-ups, both in introducing Mr. Belvedere, and in solving the conflicts, especially the strains put in the marriage.

Sitting Pretty spawned two more Belvedere movies, both also starring Webb (but not Young or O'Hara). However, Sitting Pretty does not yet seem to have gotten a DVD release.

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