Dear Reader, we know that sometimes you’re in the mood for an odd, quirky film.
Here’s what we have for you: Behave Yourself, a 1951 comedy that doesn’t play by the rules. You’ll like this – when listing the players at the end of the movie, the credits read: “Cast, in the order of their disappearance.”
The plot is too complex to fully detail here but, in brief, Farley Granger is a newlywed who accidentally gives a dog to his wife (Shelley Winters) as an anniversary gift. The dog is adorable and Winters falls in love with it; however, Granger finds it too meddlesome and tries to give it back to the previous owner. In doing so, Granger ends up implicated in one murder, stumbles upon a second, and leads police to a third.
And we haven’t even touched upon the counterfeit money, or the disapproving mother-in-law (Margalo Gillmore), who thinks Granger is guilty of all the murders.
This comedy is a cheeky homage to film noir. In one scene, a thug murders a man just before the dead man’s phone rings. The thug picks up the receiver and mumbles, “Sorry, wrong number.”
There are a million great lines in this movie, and Gillmore has most of them. When Granger first arrives home with the dog, she sniffs, “Hmph! Such a little dog.” Later, in another scene, she is with a distraught Winters when Granger doesn’t return home. She pats Winters’ shoulder and says soothingly, “Aw, he’s probably on a bender.”
We love Granger in a comedy. You may be more familiar with his tense-jawed work in Alfred Hitchock’s Rope or Strangers on a Train, but he is really funny here in Behave Yourself. In one scene, he tried to coax the dog to go outside. He circles a lamb chop in front of the dog’s nose and sings, “A dol-lar for-ty nine a pound!”
Winters has an impressive wardrobe in this film, and she looks thin and glamorous. However, her character is kind of a baby and sometimes it’s hard to muster sympathy for her.
We also think this movie has the best collection of gangsters’ names of any Hollywood film. Check these out: Gillie the Blade, Fat Fred and Max the Umbrella. (What on earth is an umbrella in the organized crime world?)
Behave Yourself is one of those refreshingly off-beat movies that you shouldn’t analyze. You just have to take it at face value and enjoy it for what it is. The next time you’re in the mood for a film that does whatever the heck it wants, have a look at Behave Yourself.
Behave Yourself: starring Farley Granger, Shelley Winters, William Demarest. Written & Directed by George Beck. RKO Radio Pictures, 1951, B&W, 81 mins.