Clifton Webb had become a major movie star after his "Mr. Belvedere" character scored in two films. He'd spent many years on the stage and done several smaller roles that always delighted, but the prissy genius established himself in the public's mind as a charming, albeit stiff, person.
He was the perfect candidate to play the title role of an 1890s bigamist who blithely goes through life siring 17 children in two separate households. Coburn is the patriarch of a sausage-making family with facilities in two Pennsylvania cities, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. His son, Webb, must
spend alternate months in each city and has been doing that for two decades. His Harrisburg spouse, McGuire, is a feminist and a freethinker, and Webb shares those views. Since Philadelphia can be a lonely town for a man alone, Webb took the tack of starting a second life there, with all the
attendant accoutrements such as a wife and children. His Philadelphia wife died eight years before, but he remains an excellent father to his brood. When his double life is discovered, chaos erupts. With 17 children, there are almost as many complications once Webb's true existence is uncovered,
but, since the Philadelphia wife is dead, it all works out in the end. Webb takes the discovery with a shrug. He and McGuire had always spoken of such things and he merely assumed that she would understand what he did. Given the strict morality of the 1890s US, there were many chances for humor,
most of which were missed by Reisch's adaptation of O'Brien's stage hit. The sets and costumes are authentic and attractive and Webb's suavity is always appreciated but there are so many people rushing about the screen that it gets overpopulated and confusing at times, although never unbelievable.
There were some objections from Catholics at the time, although the treatment of the theme was most inoffensive.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Clifton Webb had become a major movie star after his "Mr. Belvedere" character scored in two films. He'd spent many years on the stage and done several smaller roles that always delighted, but the prissy genius established himself in the public's mind as a… (more)