Behave Yourself

To the moon, Alice!
Farley Granger (right) tells Lon Chaney, Jr. to back off.

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.



  1. I’m not at all familiar wit this film but thanks for the heads-up. It sounds like its well worth the investment of time. Besides, it will be worth it just to see Lon Chaney, Jr, “clean shaven” throughout an entire movie. I hope theres a night scene with him standing in front of a window, a full moon hanging overhead. 🙂


  2. I read Farley Granger’s autobiography a couple of years ago – otherwise, I’d never have known about this film. He was in a passionate romance with Shelley Winters for a while, so I’m guessing this is where/when it began (or ended…). Now that I’ve actually read a review of the movie – and it sounds like a hoot – I’m going to see if I can find it.


    • Well, well, well. I didn’t know about the affair with Winters… Yes, this movie is really worth a watch if you have the chance. Thanks for visiting. 🙂


  3. Ruth, BEHAVE YOURSELF sounds like an absolute hoot – my kind of flick! Just seeing Farley Granger in a porkpie hat trying to look tough against Lon Chaney Jr. in that picture is worth the price of admission. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it! P.S.: I’m told that Granger and Winters stayed close friend post-romance!


    • Dorian, I think you’d really like this quirky film. As for the Granger-Winters romance, whatever happened between them in real life sure helped their chemistry on screen! 🙂


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