Best known for his Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Awards nominated for Laura (1944) and The Razor’s Edge (1946)
National Red Cross Pageant
Polly With A Past
Let Not Man Put Asunder
The Heart of a Siren
The Still Alarm
The Dark Corner
Mr. Belvedere Goes to College
For Heaven’s Sake
Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell
Belles on Their Toes
Stars and Stripes Forever
The Man Who Never Was
Boy on a Dolphin
The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker
Holiday for Lovers
Satan Never Sleeps
Clifton Webb was born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the only child of Jacob Grant Hollenbeck (1867 – May 2, 1939), the ticket-clerk son of a grocer from an Indiana farming family, and his wife, the former Mabel A. Parmelee (Parmalee or Parmallee; March 24, 1869 – October 17, 1960).
In 1892, Webb’s mother, now called “Mabelle”, moved to New York City with her beloved “little Webb”, as she called him for the remainder of her life. She dismissed questions about her husband, Jacob, who like her father, worked for the Indianapolis-St. Louis Railroad, by saying, “We never speak of him. He didn’t care for the theatre.” The couple apparently divorced, since by 1900, Mabelle was married to Green B. Raum, Jr.
By the age of 19, using the name Clifton Webb, he had become a professional ballroom dancer, often partnering “exceedingly decorative” star dancer Bonnie Glass (she eventually replaced him with Rudolph Valentino), and performed in about two dozen operettas before debuting on Broadway as Bosco in The Purple Road, which opened at the Liberty Theatre on April 7, 1913.
Webb’s mainstay was the Broadway theatre. Between 1913 and 1947, the tall and slender performer who sang in a clear, gentle tenor, appeared in 23 Broadway shows, starting with major supporting roles and quickly progressing to leads.
Webb appeared with other Broadway stars in National Red Cross Pageant (1917), a 50-minute film of a stage production held to benefit the American Red Cross.
In 1925, Webb appeared on stage in a dance act with vaudeville star and silent film actress Mary Hay. Later that year, when her husband, Tol’able David star Richard Barthelmess and she decided to produce and star in New Toys, they chose Webb to be second lead. The film proved to be financially successful, but 19 more years passed before Webb appeared in another feature film.
Webb was in his mid-fifties when actor/director Otto Preminger chose him over the objections of 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck to play the elegant but evil radio co