Clifton Webb became a bona fide box-office movie star with the release of his fourth sound film Sitting Pretty. No longer merely the acerbic wit in a featured role making snide observations and then beating a hasty retreat, in Walter Lang’s fun-filled comedy of mores and manners, Webb remained front and center in a role that was so popular that it led to two sequels and the establishment of a comedic demeanor that would serve the actor through all of his subsequent comedies.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray case
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 04/16/2013
At the end of her rope with three unruly young boys, Tacey King (Maureen O’Hara) advertises for a live-in sitter and accepts the services by mail for a nanny with seemingly excellent credentials. Imagine her surprise when the nanny turns out to be a middle aged, self-proclaimed genius Lynn Belvedere (Clifton Webb) who manages in a single day to get the children and the oversized dog under control. Mr. Belvedere is amazingly efficient but somewhat eccentric in the eyes of Tacey and her husband Harry (Robert Young), and living in the gossipy community of Hummingbird Hill, rumors of scandalous doings going on behind closed doors are rampant especially from head village snoop Clarence Appleton (Richard Haydn). But Harry and Tacey manage to keep the gossipmongers at bay until the real purpose behind Mr. Belvedere’s visit becomes known. Then the entire town erupts in outrage.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Using lengthy takes as if he were directing a play, veteran director Walter Lang milks the utmost effectiveness out of F. Hugh Herbert’s script. From practicing yoga to instructing the youngest child on the proper methods for bathing, Mr Belvedere in the hands of director Lang treads a fine line that never once suggests anything untoward (except in the beady eyes of Mr. Appleton and his monster mother, of course). The movie also offers for one of the few times in movies a chance to see Clifton Webb (who was renowned as a dancer on the stage in the manner of Fred Astaire) demonstrate some of his smoother moves as a ballroom dancer in a samba sequence with Maureen O’Hara. Lang also cleverly holds Webb off screen for the film’s first twenty minutes since once he enters the picture he completely takes over all of the funniest bits (and manages to divert us from some of the tiresome jealous tiffs between the Kings). With an 84-minute running time, the film is briskly paced and genuinely funny (you’ll never forget Belvedere’s handling of a child throwing food once you see it nor his numerous putdowns of the snoopy Appleton), and yet when he springs his surprise toward the film’s end, the lightly satirical edge comes to the fore in most appropriate fashion without damaging the film’s comic spirit. This is a near perfect comedy.
Clifton Webb earned an Oscar nomination for his inspired comic performance (a pity he had to go up against Laurence Olivier’s widely celebrated Hamlet that year), and not only in the two subsequent sequels but in many of his later performances allowed facets of his much-loved Belvedere persona to inject themselves into his work. His no-nonsense, down-to-earth character in films became a bulwark of poise and professionalism that managed to work in both dramas and lighter fare. Maureen O’Hara gives a light touch with a bit of Irish temper to her role as Tacey, and Robert Young plays the usually supportive but sometimes unreasonable husband with the proper mix of solidity and stupidity. Richard Haydn plays the prissy snoop as a fun if stereotypical caricature, and Ed Begley does the same thing in the opposite direction, all bluff and bluster as Harry’s hypocritical boss.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Sharpness is excellent in the transfer, and contrast has been dialed in almost perfectly resulting in solid picture quality. Of course, this being a made-on-demand disc, there was no clean up of the video master, so there are some dust specks and slight debris but they are not especially heavy and not really a major problem. Robert Young’s herringbone jacket flashes slightly in a couple of places but is remarkably under control for a DVD transfer with no anamorphic enhancement. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 9 chapters on the disc.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. As with many of the Fox MOD titles, the volume level the disc has been encoded with is excessive and requires user adjustment to prevent distortion. There is hiss ever-present in the transfer, and there is crackle and some occasional pops, too. Nevertheless, dialogue is always easily understandable, and Alfred Newman’s music score and the few sound effects never intrude on the dialogue-heavy sound design.
Audio Rating: 2.5/5
The Fox made-on demand discs do not contain any extras, not even a trailer.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
The first cinematic appearance of Mr. Belvedere in Sitting Pretty is the best one, and those looking for some domestic comedy fun with a slightly satiric wink will find this movie hard to beat. A classic such as this frankly deserves better treatment than the movie is afforded here, but at least it is now available on DVD for those fans who wish to add it to their collections.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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