It's always a pleasure to watch a Clifton Webb performance, although The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker is one of his two weakest films. He is believable as the arrogant, pompous proponent of various "freethinking" theories, including polygamy and the advisability of prime genetic stock to father many children. Unfortunately, the film only has that one plot point to revolve upon and once that's revealed the film sort of meanders aimlessly to its end.
The beloved Charles Coburn is given little to do (surely a Hollywood sin?), and his usually enjoyable bluster act comes off as forced and unfunny. The rest of the supporting cast is forgettable.
My favorite moment in the film comes early on when Webb's character is in his office and his secretary reports that a foreman has issued a reprimand to an employee because she wore cosmetics during working hours. Mr. Pennypacker, the freethinker, refuses to sign off on the reprimand and orders the foreman reprimanded instead.
I was surprised to read in the other reviews of this film and also in reviews of other Clifton Webb films that some viewers don't see him as a believable family man. In other words, because Webb in real life was a homosexual, therefore they don't find him believable when he portrays a heterosexual husband and father. I don't agree. I don't see what his sexual preference in real life has to do with his performances as an actor. After all, an actor portrays a character, not himself, so what does it matter what his real sexual preference is? Clifton Webb is passionate and believable as Barbara Stanwyck's husband in Titanic and as the jealous husband with a much younger wife in Dark Corner. One can manifestly feel the undercurrent of his lust and possessiveness for Gene Tierney's character in Laura. He's sweet and tender to his wife in Mr. Scoutmaster. He's a hoot as the loving yet irritating father in Cheaper By the Dozen. Even in the dreadful and tacky Boy on a Dolphin, weighed down by the inept and wooden performances of his costars Alan Ladd and Sophia Loren, he projects a wonderful "I've tasted all the fleshpots"-type of sated playboy. I think Clifton Webb was a superb actor with unlimited potential. I'm only sorry the role in Laura only came along when he was past forty--I wish he'd made more films.
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