Sitting Pretty (1948)
Reviewed on 2011 August 19
The first thing I have to say about Sitting Pretty is that time wasn’t as kind to it as it could have been. The minute the Clarence Appleton character opened his mouth with that goofy accent my thumb itched for the mute button. Still, I wanted to see what happened and I’m glad I watched it; when “the sitter” shows up, it gets exponentially better.
The King family is trying to navigate post-war life in the suburban idyll of Hummingbird Hill. Harry (Robert Young) is a lawyer with an imperious boss who likes to use the image of propriety to browbeat his employees into obedience. He also has a wife, Tacey (Maureen O’Hara), who loves him very much, and three kids who would probably be tanked on Ritalin in this day and age. The reputation of the sons is well-known; when the boss summons the Kings to an evening at his house, baby sitters hide.
In despair, Tacey puts in an ad for a sitter, one who will not be intimidated by the kids, who aren’t mean but simply energy incarnate, or their dog, who is bigger than a lot of the green cars on the road. She’s astonished at who responds: Mr. Lynn Belvedere (Clifton Webb), who appears to be a jack-of-all-trades who mastered them, too. Even the dog listens to him. Tacey is delighted to have things calmed down in her hectic house. The only problem is the block pest, Clarence Appleton (Richard Haydn). Mr. Appleton has nothing to do but speculate on what Mr. Belvedere is really doing in the King house, and it seems much of the town has nothing better to do either.
Old as this thing is, and no matter how much has changed, it still makes a point about life in a small town: the gossip, nosy neighbors and the observation, as the Japanese say, that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down. This has a charm all its own, and Webb steals the show as soon as Mr. Belvedere shows up on the King’s doorstep. His performance paved the way for two sequels, and you can see a softer version of Webb’s iconic I-know-everything-and-done-most-of-it persona in Cheaper By The Dozen and Mister Scoutmaster.
Three chocolate morsels.