Film: Behave Yourself!
Director: George Beck
Performers: Farley Granger, Shelley Winters, Archie the Dog
Breed featured: Welsh Terrier
Production Information: RKO Radio Pictures, 1951 (USA)
Availability: on DVD and available in the public domain at the Internet Archives
This screwball comedy from the early 1950s features Archie, an adorable and scruffy little Welsh Terrier who just happens to work for the mob. He is trained to walk down Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles and point out the secret meeting spot for a very hot exchange. However, Archie wanders off and follows Bill Denny (Farley Granger) back to the home he shares with his wife Katy (Shelley Winters) and an overcritical mother-in-law. Katy assumes the dog is a wedding anniversary present, and Bill is too embarrassed to admit that he failed to pick up a gift in advance, so he lets her dote on the pup… until his sexual frustration gets in the way.
Bill scans the newspaper until he locates an ad for the missing dog. In fact, he ends up finding several… each at different addresses, and each visit resulting in dead bodies as he finds himself accidentally embroiled in rivaling gangsters’ attempts to claim the prize and the pooch. Things get really crazy, especially under the disapproving watch of mother-in-law and a band of bumbling cops, but eventually, after a few more dead bodies, there is a happy ending.
It’s about what you’d expect — lots of overacting, a few genuine belly laughs, witty zingers, amusing sight gags, and a conservative happy ending that preserves the sanctity of the heterosexual, nuclear household. So enough about the plot. I just wanted to see the dog, who is clearly identified as a Welsh Terrier in the film’s diegesis. He appeared a noticeable departure from today’s physical standards, particularly around the ears and the tail.
He certainly behaves all terrier though, from the way he pulls on leash, barks and runs around the house, and hunts human food. One of the most amusing exchanges to me occurs right after Archie steals a slice of bacon from the kitchen counter:
Mother-in-law: Fine thing! Feeding him raw bacon!
Bill: I did not feed it to him! He stole it.
Mother-in-law: You deliberately put it where he could get it. Do you want to make him vicious?
Mother means to be antagonistic, and it’s amusing to me because some people still think that way about feeding raw meat. However, I don’t think most pet owners still feed their dogs a standard fare of sliced bread soaked in milk, as originally offered before Archie decided he had other options.
Instead of Shelley Winters’ voluptuous figure, I found myself distracted by other details… like the fact that lamb chops were quite a pricey commodity back in the day at $1.59 a pound…
… and that the average household aspired to eat SO MUCH MEAT.
A different world than what I am used to, indeed.