Already trained in dance and theater, he quit school at age 13 to study music and painting. By 19 he was a professional ballroom dancer in New York, and by his mid-twenties he was performing in musicals, dramas on Broadway and in London, and in silent movies. His first real success in film came in middle age as the classy villain Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944), followed by the part of Elliott Templeton in The Razor's Edge (1946) - both of which won him Oscar nominations. His priggish Mr. Belvedere in a series of films was supposedly not far removed from his fastidious, finicky, fussy, abrasive and condescending real-life persona. He was inseparable from his overbearing mother Maybelle, with whom he lived until her death at 91, six years before his own death. The recent success of Titanic (1997) created brief interest due his having appeared with Barbara Stanwyck in the 1953 version of the story. He is interred at Abbey of the Psalms, Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now known as Hollywood Forever).