“I dislike children intensely — and yours, if I may say so, have peculiarly repulsive habits and manners.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Given that Mr. Belvedere is decidedly asexual (or, depending on how you look at it, secretly “coded” as homosexual), the fact that the film’s storyline eventually hinges on Robert Young’s jealous suspicions that his wife is engaging in a romantic dalliance with her nanny is simply ludicrous. Yet such narrative quibbles are somehow easily forgiven, given the overall outlandish flavor of the screenplay — which eventually takes an unexpected twist that places the entire story in a new context. And Webb is given so many delicious lines to spout that it’s pure fun simply waiting to hear how he’ll handle the next one. Watch for an enjoyable supporting turn by British comedic actor Richard Haydn (who played a dramatically different character in Preminger’s Forever Amber the previous year).
Note: This film (or rather, Webb’s impersonation as Mr. Belvedere) was so popular that two sequels — Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951) — quickly followed; while they get half-hearted ratings, I’ll admit I’m smitten enough by Webb-as-Belvedere to want to check them out.
UPDATE, 12/9/11: I recently watched Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) on YouTube (some kind soul uploaded it there), and thought I would write a quick capsule review here (especially given that no reviews at all are linked to this obscure little title on IMDb). As expected, it’s not nearly as “complete” a comedy as Sitting Pretty, and certainly isn’t must-see viewing for film fanatics — but fans of Webb won’t regret checking it out. His “Lynn Belvedere” remains in peak form in the sequel, responding to the rhetorical question, “You’re not serious…?!” with a resolute, “I’m grim.” (Only HE could make that retort sound convincing!) The film’s title explains itself: given that his formal education apparently consisted of no more than “two revolting weeks of Kindergarten”, Belvedere decides — for reasons I can’t name without spoiling the first picture a bit — to finally get a college degree. This allows the filmmakers ample opportunity to expose the hazards of freshman hazing — to which, interestingly enough, Mr. Belvedere allows himself to be subjected (to a certain extent, anyway).
Unfortunately, far too little time is actually spent on Belvedere’s travails in the classroom; NONE, actually (we simply see him reading books wherever he goes). Instead, a rather insipid subplot is allowed to dominate the proceedings, involving a would-be romance between a grown-up Shirley Temple (whose annoying character possesses a significant secret identity) and Tom Drake (of boy-next-door Meet Me in St. Louis fame); as might be expected, whenever this narrative takes center stage, things grind to a deadening halt. Enter Mr. Belvedere again, however, and one’s energies are immediately restored: he’s just THAT delightful. As Bosley Crowther laudingly describes him in his review for the New York Times, he’s “brilliantly, classically clever and often delightfully droll, but he is also profoundly earnest”; in sum, he’s “a fellow who knows himself thoroughly and who has the good sense to realize that modesty would be false”. Indeed.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: