MY MR. BELVEDERE AND YOUR'S ARE NOT THE SAME
by Billy Ingram
Mr. Belvedere Season Three arrived on DVD and somehow ended up on my doorstep, a faint reminder of an old celluloid friend I haven't visited with for three decades. No, it's not the character played by Christopher Hewitt in the TV sitcom.
Unfortunately I can't review this DVD because of my profound love for the first two of the three Mr. Belvedere movies from the late-1940s which have only ever been released on VHS. I caught the first two on weekend and late night TV airings in the 1970s and they quickly became two of my favorite classic comedies.
These feature films starred the impeccably prissy Clifton Webb as Mr. Belvedere, it's the most well-rounded character of Webb's career which consisted mostly of small supporting roles usually as a hotel clerk or bank teller or some other hapless authority figure in way over his head.
The first, Sitting Pretty, was a rare starring role for Clifton Webb who, as directed by Walter Lang, is a riot as an impossibly erudite genius, who has seemingly been everywhere and done everything. Mr. Belvedere goes to work as a live-in nanny for a typical American family so he can secretly write a tell-all book. Pretty modern concept, huh? Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara co-starred.
The first Mr. Belvedere film Sitting Pretty:
In these scenes from Sitting Pretty, Clifton Webb displays his unique ability to deliver a cutting put-down:
Mr. Belvedere Goes To College (1949) was the hilarious sequel to Sitting Pretty - it turns out the guy who knows it all never got his college degree so he enters a University as a freshman and proclaims that he will finish the four year curriculum in just a few weeks.
The college allows him to join the students with the proviso that he attract no publicity, his book about suburban life touched off a firestorm, after all. A mostly grownup Shirley Temple co-stars in this totally charming and funny 1949 prequel to Animal House.
The third entry was the abominable Mr. Belvedere Rings The Bell wherein Belvedere goes underground to live in an old folks home in order to pen an expose, like the first film in reverse. There are a couple of laughs but way too many maudlin moments - it's the film that killed the franchise after all. Zero Mostel co-starred. It might not have been so bad if the much-too-young actors playing the elderly folks weren't so phony.
Any other Mr. Belvedere just won't do. I understand the TV version was a solid family comedy from the 1980s ala Silver Spoons and I'm sure kids that enjoyed the show will get a nostalgic boost from seeing it again.
Myself, I want to see the Clifton Webb Mr. Belvedere movies again.
BELVIE OLD BOY Ken Reid writes about the review above of Mr. Belvedere:
Reading your blog today I'm tempted to check out the original films. I'm the exact opposite of you in that I'm a big fan of the show, but have never seen a single second of the films because I probably wouldn't appreciate them, being such a fan of the TV show.
That being said the sitcom is pretty bizarre, I actually did a whole one man stand up comedy show about how television messed me up as a kid and a large chunk of this was about a particular Belvedere episode in which one of Wesley (the 10 year old ish one)'s friends gets AIDS
Some other episodes include:
- TWO different child molester episodes
- one where Belvedere gets kidnapped by a Misery-esque fan
- an episode in which the teenage son attempts to date rape the school "tramp"
- an episode in which the teenage daughter is the victim of an attempted date rape
- an episode where the teenage daughter and her best friend kidnap an old man, take him to Atlantic city and he dies on the board walk
- an episode where the teenage son starts dating an Amish girl and decides to become Amish
Some weird stuff, I'm still shocked they got away with it re watching the series.
The commentaries on Season 3 are interesting in that it seems that the actors have some perspective on things and feel the show was pretty odd as well.
- Thanks Ken! Eighties sitcoms are not my thing, I only remember watching two shows the whole decade - Mama's Family (the first season with Carol Burnett & Betty White) and Filthy Rich which I'm dying to see again.