The Life and Times of Clifton Webb
The autobiography of one of the top moneymakers in the history of Twentieth Century-Fox
More than any other male movie star, the refined Clifton Webb (1889-1966) caused the movie-going public to change its image of a leading man. In a day when leading men were supposed to be strong, virile, and brave, Clifton Webb projected an image of flip, acerbic arrogance. He was able to play everything from a decadent columnist (Laura) to a fertile father (Cheaper by the Dozen and The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker), delivering lines in an urbanely clipped, acidly dry manner with impeccable timing. Sitting Pretty is his remarkable story.
Long before his film career began, Webb was a child actor and later a suavely effete song-and-dance man in numerous Broadway musicals and revues. The turning point in his career came in 1941 when his good friend Noël Coward cast him in Blithe Spirit. Director Otto Preminger saw Webb's performance and cast him in Laura in 1944.
Webb began to write his autobiography, but he said that he eventually had gotten "bogged down" in the process. However, he did complete six chapters and left a hefty collection of notes that he intended to use in the proposed book. His writing is as witty and sophisticated as his onscreen persona. Those six chapters, information and voluminous notes, and personal research by the coauthor provide an intimate view of an amazingly talented man's life and times.
"I was genuinely delighted to know that a book was being written about Clifton Webb. What a pleasure it is to read this astounding account of a man my parents and I considered to be 'family. '
"There has never been a truly proper replacement in movieland after Clifton left us. He could do everything and did it in a singular style that could never be repeated.
"Reading this book, I realized once again what an important part Clifton and Mabelle played in my life as a young man. He was a meticulous and devoted friend who called me a few days before he died to tell me he was going to leave me his favorite painting, a George Bellows oil portrait of Clifton as an aristocratic young man. It has always hung in my home. "
--Richard D. Zanuck- UPM
"Clifton Webb was the unlikeliest of movie stars, but a movie star he was, and reading the completed chapters of his autobiography is a tremendous pleasure. The voice is unmistakably that of Waldo Lydecker, of Elliott Templeton, of Clifton Webb. David Smith has performed a heroic feat of archaeology in rescuing and completing this delightful book about a delightful man. "
--Scott Eyman, author of Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille and Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer- UPM
"David L. Smith's deft melding of memoir and biography does overdue justice to Twentieth Century-Fox's most unlikely star. "
--David Stenn, author of Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild- UPM