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Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck (November 19, 1889 – October 13, 1966), known professionally as Clifton Webb, was an American actor, dancer, and singer known for his roles in such films as Laura (1944), The Razor's Edge (1946), and Sitting Pretty (1948), all three being Oscar-nominated. He was known for his stage appearances in the plays of Noël Coward, notably Blithe Spirit, as well as appearances on Broadway in a number of very successful musical revues.
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), the daughter of David Parmelee, a railroad conductor. The couple married in Kankakee, Illinois, on January 18, 1888, and separated in 1891, shortly after their son's birth. According to Marion County, Indiana, marriage records, they married in Indianapolis on January 18, 1888.
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. New York City's 1900 U.S. census indicates Mabelle and her son were using the surname Raum and living on West 77th Street with Green Berry Raum, Jr., a copper-foundry worker, who gave his position in the household as Mabel's husband. Raum was the son of General Green Berry Raum, former U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue and former U.S. Commissioner of Pensions. Webb's father, Jacob, married, as his second wife, Ethel Brown, and died in 1939.
As Webb's fame grew, so did the gossip about him. He lived with his mother on an estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, and at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City, along with a black French poodle named Ernest and a parrot, Goo-Goo, which was notorious for insulting guests, much to Webb's delight.
In 1938 Webb appeared on Broadway in You Never Know, written by his good friend Cole Porter. After The Man Who Came to Dinner opened in the fall of 1939, with Monty Woolley, Webb was cast as the acidic Sheridan Whiteside to the touring version, in which he remained for a year and a half.
Webb never married and had no children. He lived with his mother until her death at age 91 in 1960, leading Noël Coward to remark, apropos Webb's grieving, "It must be terrible to be orphaned at 71."
Actor Robert Wagner, who co-starred with Webb in the films Stars and Stripes Forever and Titanic and considered the actor one of his mentors, stated in his memoirs, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, that "Clifton Webb was gay, of course, but he never made a pass at me, not that he would have".
Due to health problems, Webb spent the last five years of his life as a recluse at his home in Beverly Hills, California. On October 13, 1966, Webb suffered a fatal heart attack myocardial infarction at his home at the age of 76. He is interred in crypt 2350, corridor G-6, Abbey of the Psalms in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside his mother.
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