In his twenties he was a professional ballroom dancer and appeared on the stage and in silent movies (which came in useful later in his 1953 comedy DREAMBOAT). His theatre career is fascinating too. LAURA in 1944 was his first big success as the effete Waldo Lydecker in Preminger’s hit thriller, a movie that endures and remains fascinating anytime. Then there was his vain snob Elliott Templeton in THE RAZOR’S EDGE in ’46 – both of which won his Oscar nominations. Then there was Mr Belvedere, his fastidious, finicky, fussy, abrasive and condescending baby sitter in SITTING PRETTY, ’48. I saw that at a Sunday matinee as a kid in the ‘50s, its one we need to see again, there were several more MR BELVEDERE films.
Other popular hits saw him as fathers with large families in the likes of CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and BELLES ON THEIR TOES. DREAMBOAT saw his as the ex-silent star, now a sedate college professor, whose old silent movies are revived on tv, with Anne Francis and Jeffrey Hunter as his daughter and her beau. Negulesco cast him opposte Stanwyck on that 1953 version of TITANTIC, where he does the noble thing. Young Robert Wagner, whom he seems to have mentored, was the juvenile lead. He was also Sousa in MARCHING ALONG.
The 1950s saw those successes THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN, ’54 though I do not care for his role in this – he is perfect though as Ernest Gifford, the motor magnate in WOMAN’S WORLD, also for Negulesco, in ’54 (see separate post below). THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS was a success in 1956, where he masterminds this plot to fool the Nazis, and was followed by another successful Negulesco film, my childhood favourite BOY ON A DOLPHIN, as Victor Parmalee the avid art collecter who wants the statue that Greek diver Sophia Loren finds. He and Loren play nicely together, and the film, a programmer really, still plays nicely today – this is the one that introduced Loren to international audiences, emerging from the Aegean in that wet dress …
THE REMARKABLE MR PENNYPACKER and HOLIDAY FOR LOVERS (on vacation with wife Jane Wyman and daughters Jill St John and Carol Lynley) followed in ’59, pleasant holiday fare really. His last film was SATAN NEVER SLEEPS in 1962, which I have not seen, where he and William Holden are priests in China, for Leo McCarey. Clifton lived with his mother until her death aged 91, six years before his own death in ’66. He remained a star to the end and is always eminently watchable now.