Saturday, October 9, 2021

Clifton Webb's Bachelor Abode

In the 1950s there was a great film magazine called Film Show that released an annual book filled with articles written by the stars themselves or as they so aptly subtitled it "The Stars Tell Their Own Stories". Whether or not the actors really did write these articles does not matter because they are very entertaining to read regardless. One which we will share with you below is by Clifton Webb who decided to tell his fans a little bit about his "bachelor abode". This one does indeed seem to be written with the haughtiness/snobbery you would expect from Mr. Belvedere or Waldo Lydecker. 


When I first arrived in Hollywood to make Laura all I had was a solitary suitcase in my hand. With me were my mother and Earnest, my French poodle. 20th Century-Fox had persuaded me to sign a contract. They liked a test they had made of me for a part in Laura. Otto Preminger, who had seen me in "Blithe Spirit" when it played in Los Angeles, had suggested the test. While he was finishing the script of Laura I was still on the road tour of "Blithe Spirit". Word reached me that I was needed at 20th to begin work on Laura

Spring floods sweeping the Middle West disarranged all train schedules, and in the upset my six trunkfuls of wardrobe were lost en route. They caught up with me later, but in the meantime we settled in the house I had leased from Constance Bennett. It had twenty-two rooms, a tennis court, and a swimming pool. 

When I decided to settle in Hollywood, I bought my own place - a Spanish-style home [ Author's note: This house was located at 1005 Rexford Drive and was once owned by Grace Moore. Webb claimed it was haunted by her but we'll cover that story in another post ]. Eventually, instead of building a new house, I set about changing the architecture and some of the interior. What I have achieved is rather a mystery as far as style goes - perhaps it has some relation to Georgian, but it is just what I wanted as bachelor quarters. A new house could hardly have cost more. However, I think I have managed to make my home the setting for a civilized life. 

Clifton Webb's House - Image Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
During my travels I acquired paintings that have interested several museum directors who have seen them. One, a painting of me as a youngster of thirteen, always attracts attention - not because I was the subject matter; it happens to be signed by the late George Bellows whose work is now coveted by collectors. In my collection, I have the works of artists who were more or less obscure when I bought their paintings. For instance there are examples of Fabrizzio Caricci, Buffet, Stumpfig, Pagliacci. I value highly several paintings by Bakst. Don't think I'm posing as a man of rare judgment, but I do feel there is real satisfaction in recognizing merit in the work of an unknown. I will admit, too, it is cheaper - much; to acquire the work of a popular and established artist takes money - lots of it. 

Portrait of Clifton Webb by George Bellows
My bachelor adobe is presided over by Maybelle - with charm; she's my invaluable friend - my mother. Around us are pieces of furniture and treasures gathered from various trips to Europe. Many things too, have come from friends. Some have interesting histories or recall pleasurable associations. For instance, beneath the Bellows painting of me is a marble-topped bench which I brought from my New York apartment which the late Lady Mendly, when she was Elsie de Wolf, helped me furnish. In those days she was a well-known interior decorator. 

On the bench are three vases, treasured because they were once the property of my very good friend Syre Maugham, a woman of great taste who was at one time the wife of Somerset Maugham. 

Many friends ask about a rather odd little chair with short legs that stands in the hall outside the living room. It's a Sixteenth-Century prie-dieu. It came from Hier, France, and those who have a knowledge of antiques have often tried to get it away from me. 

My most treasured possessions are the dining room table and chairs which I first had in a home in London while playing in the theatre there. The dining room is Georgian with a chandelier of crystal - it is elaborate and I like it. 

In the living room are overstuffed chairs covered with chintz to give an informal air, and a green sofa. I'm not dedicated to antiques or period furniture -in this room, there is a touch of California; in front of the sofa stands a long teak coffee table I designed myself. 

At times I wonder why I should have such a large house for just the two of us - or I should say four, Razor and Baci share it with us  - they are two lovable French poodles ( Earnest has departed ). But, through my years in the theatre and films, I have gathered many things and I like to have them around. Many are housed in the playroom which opens onto the swimming pool. There is a fire chief's helmet given to me by Philadelphia's Poor Richard's Club. The Lamb's Club in New York sent me a baton used by the late John Philip Sousa. The walls are hung with autographed photos of many stage and screen stars. 

Those who know me only by the type of role I play might not recit me with having much sentiment. I'm willing to admit I'm not a hundred percent the sophisticate. I'm a fellow who loves a home and garden - I am especially fond of camellias. I enjoy digging, pruning, and the hundred and one things that have to be done. It might be disappointing to some who visualize me only as a dapper man-about-town as my pictures would have you believe. At home, I'm just someone who has fallen for the dolce far niente life of Hollywood. 

The above article was reprinted from the 1952 issue of The New Film Show Annual.

1 comment:

  1. Such a fun article. And now I want some chintz chairs and a green sofa. Also, 22 rooms sounds rather nice to this bungalow dweller.