Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1954: Clifton Webb in Three Coins in a Fountain

Clifton Webb did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Frederick Shadwell in Three Coins in a Fountain.

Three Coins in a Fountain is a very breezy film about three women trying to find love in Rome. I can't say it is particularly compelling especially since two of three relationships in the film are quite dull.

Clifton Webb here once again portrays a upper crust character who certainly has a high opinion of himself. I would say that the writer John Frederick Shadwell is considerably less into himself than Waldo Lydecker, his character in Laura, or that of Mr. Belvedere in Sitting Pretty. In fact this is very much a character in the vein of the type Webb tended to play, but actually Webb shows his ability to soften his characterization quite well. Shadwell still is very assured of his own intelligence, but Webb does well in softening the edge of his usual manner here.

John Frederick Shadwell does not appear all that often in the film, and certainly has the least amount of screen time out of the three men. This is unfortunate as he is the most interesting of the three, he as well does not really get his part in the film until late into the last third of the film. Webb actually does well in doing his usual thing, because like John Gielguld he was simply very good at being the upper crust sort so why not cast him in such a role. The role simply suits Webb's style perfectly, but he does well in not giving the exact same performance as his other earlier performances.

Webb actually is quite good in being a warmer sort of intelligentsia. He still critiques and constantly presents his opinion in an incisive manner, but here Webb dials back the cynicism taking an honestly more charming approach. Webb shows that Shadwell does not mind flaunting his knowledge by he tries to be nice and considerate about it as much as he is able to do so. It actually is quite difficult to make what is a very snobbish character likable, but Webb does here in a similar manner to the way John Gielgud did in Arthur. He is not quite on the level of that performance here, but he does the nicer snob well.

Webb does not really become a part of the romance aspect of the film until very late in it when his secretary Miss Francis (Dorothy Maguire) finally indicates her love for him, but at the same he finds he is in all very likely hood he is terminally ill. I must say despite being given the least amount of time I actually cared about this romance far more than the other two. Webb and Maguire are actually quite nice together because they do not try to push on the romantic elements of their relationship, and because of that their relationship feels a little more natural actually.

Webb and Maguire are given the short end of the stick as they are forced to do something with the extremely limited amount of time they have. They do make the most of it in that I found their's far more moving than the other two in the film, which felt rather forced. The limitations of the role do bare down on Webb's performance which never becomes as substantial as it might of been if the film had not put him in the back seat in favor of lesser performances. This still is a good performance by Clifton Webb, and it does well in showing that there is more than just one way to play a snob.

1 comment:

Derek Bowman said...

This film was dreadfully dull, though I agree the Webb/McGuire romance was the most memorable aspect.