Mill Creek Musings: Behave Yourself! (1951)

Bill Denny’s (Farley Granger) life isn’t as wonderful as it could be. He’s been happily married for two years, but he’s living with his grumpy, critical mother-in-law (Margalo Gillmore) while trying to jump-start his career as an accountant. Bill and his wife, Kate (Shelley Winters), love each other… but they’ve encountered their share of troubles since they wed.

In celebration of his second wedding anniversary, Bill heads out to the store to buy a nice gift for his wife, but a stray dog wreaks havoc in the store and interrupts his plans.

The original poster art for Behave Yourself! was illustrated by Vargas, a noted pin-up artist. (Image via benitomovieposter.com)
The original poster art for Behave Yourself! was illustrated by Vargas, a noted pin-up artist. How great is Archie’s dialogue bubble? (Image via benitomovieposter.com)

Bill heads home prepared to disappoint Kate, who already thought he’d completely forgotten their anniversary. But to Bill’s surprise, Kate is not disappointed at all, for the stray terror who wrecked his gift-buying has followed him home… and Kate thinks the pup is the gift! She falls in love with the dog immediately, naming him Archie and readily accepting him into their home.

There’s a twist to this unintentional surprise, though. Archie is not your average dog. He’s been trained by a gang of smugglers to carry messages. Archie is content to stay in his new home, but the criminals who he was working for want him back.

Written and directed by George Beck, this 1951 crime-comedy is known as Behave Yourself! The film has fallen into the public domain and appears in Mill Creek’s “Nifty Fifties” boxed set.

Granger & Winters give fine performances. The script is a little cheesy at times, but most of the laughs are carried off successfully, and our two leads bring on a charming, cutesy and fun mood to go along with that cheese. Throw a SERIOUSLY ADORABLE puppy on top of all of that and you’ve got a winning light comedy, perfectly fitted for a night in or a rainy afternoon. Despite the subplot of crime the atmosphere remains cheery throughout…

…and did I mention how adorable Archie is? This was, according to IMDb, the only film he appeared in, which breaks my heart a little bit. Animal actors aren’t typically given acclaim for their skill, but Archie is exceptionally cute and all of his actions seem very natural (kudos to the trainer on that one — movie dogs are often adorable but seem like they’re taking instruction or doing a trick). From his first scene I wanted to jump into the screen and adopt this precious pup.

Canine talent and leads aside, Behave Yourself! is also a fun watch due to its stellar supporting cast, which includes William Demarest, Hans Conreid, Allen Jenkins and even Lon Chaney, Jr.! These familiar faces are generally enveloped in the criminal side of the plot, starring either as cops or criminals. Chaney is particularly great as the large, bumbling “muscle” of the smuggling ring.

Behave Yourself! is no stellar achievement in the history of comedic film, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film, and based on my enjoyment of it (plus the obligatory ADORABLE PUPPY BONUS) I’m willing to give it a score of 4.5/5.

2 thoughts on “Mill Creek Musings: Behave Yourself! (1951)

  1. Of course, I always give the posters in your posts the once over, and for this one I didn’t quite read a particular line correctly, and thought this was a talking dog movie: Lon Chaney AS Archie the Dog, instead of AND! And that dog dialogue bubble (as innuendo-laced as it is, and along with that sexy Vargas poster) just added to my confusion.

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    1. Ha! Lon Chaney as Archie the Dog would send this film into ‘Rosie’ territory… which I would probably love, considering how amused and baffled I was by Phil Leeds in that pilot.

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