Sitting Pretty

I can’t believe that I have never seen this movie before! Sitting Pretty (1948), directed by Walter Lang and based on the 1947 novel Belvedere by Gwen Davenport, was the first of the three Mr. Belvedere movies, and starred Clifton Webb in the title role. It’s available free on Hulu.

Robert Young and Maureen O’Hara play the modern, sophisticated suburban couple Harry and Tacey King. He’s a successful lawyer and she’s a sculptor and stay-at-home mother with three rambunctious sons and a big dog who jumps all over people. The maid quits and the couple have babysitter problems, so Tacey advertises for a live-in mother’s helper to babysit and do light housework. Lynn Belvedere applies and is hired sight-unseen, and the Kings are surprised to discover they have hired a middle-aged man with a highly superior attitude — he immediately informs them that he’s a genius. They reluctantly allow him to stay on trial, and while they are somewhat bemused by his eccentricities — he’s a vegetarian who practices Yoga and seems to have experience in every field of endeavor. But although he professes to loath children, he works miracles with the boys and even the dog, so he stays on with the family.

But of course complications arise in typical screwball comedy fashion — a nosy neighbor spreads rumors, misunderstandings come between the Kings, and Tacey leaves home to go stay with her mother. And although it’s clear to everyone that Harry and Tacey adore each other, they both sit by the telephone, too stubborn to make the first move toward reconciliation. But suddenly chaos erupts when Mr. Belvedere’s novel comes out — a book no one knew he was quietly writing while living with the Kings. It’s a shocking expose about life in the suburbs, with all characters based on real and easily-identifiable members of the community, including the head of Harry’s law firm. Harry loses his job, and when Tacey hears the news she rushes home to his arms, and all misunderstandings are quickly resolved.

The script was written by F. Hugh Herbert, and, as the New York Times review observes, “The screen plays from Mr. Herbert are not conspicuous for their tax upon the brain,” but it’s quite entertaining.

But the thing that really appealed to me were the cars, clothes, and especially the Kings’ house and all of its furnishings! Fabulous, and just my style — it makes me wish I had been born just a few decades earlier!

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