Cast & Crew
While attending a New York musical with her Connecticut family, Leone Merrick, who has just turned nineteen, runs into her aunt, Winifred "Winkie" Lamont, and Winkie's lover, painter Max Lawrence, outside the theater. Struck by the worldy Max, Leone, who has just been told by her boyfriend, young Geoffry Cole, that she is too innocent and inexperienced for him, gushes in his presence and flatters his aging ego. Later, Winkie, in an attempt to revive her flagging affair, insists that Max and she spend the weekend at the Merricks' home and sends a telegram to Leone's mother Laura in Max's name. When the lonely but excitable Laura receives the telegram, she swoons at the thought of Max, a man she remembers as her first great love, coming to her home. Laura's aging, cranky husband Augustus, however, scorns her excitment and, when two-time divorcée Winkie arrives, overtly expresses his disapproval of her. Oblivious to her sister's involvement with Max, Laura confesses to Winkie that Max had once romanced her and had promised to "return for her" one day. When Max finally arrives, Laura flirts openly with him and is blind to his pointed lack of interest in her. Although Winkie pretends not to know Max, she is unmasked when Leone shows up and reveals to her parents that she had met the couple the previous night. Disgusted by Winkie's infidelity, Augustus orders Max to leave, but Leone begs him to ignore her father and stay. Flattered by Leone's childish but intense interest, Max agrees to stay and, after all but dismissing Winkie, meets the young woman in her life-sized doll house. Then, while surrounded by stuffed animals and dolls, Max confesses his love to Leone and begs her to marry him. After Leone eagerly accepts the proposal, Laura confides in a dejected Winkie her belief that Max and she are going to elope. Laura then corners Max, who admits that he is in love but assumes that Laura understands that Leone is the object of his affection. So in need of romance, however, Laura, who married the older Augustus as a young woman, misconstrues all of Max's words and prepares to tell her husband goodbye. When Augustus deduces the situation, he talks privately with Leone and begs her not to marry Max, but she dismisses his concerns. The next morning, Geoffry arrives at the house, determined to win Leone back, but is rebuffed repeatedly by her. During a family game of Twenty Questions, Leone reveals her engagement to Max, devastating not only Geoffry but Laura as well. That night, after Winkie chides Max for his weak ego and curses his engagement, Augustus counsels Geoffry to be more aggressive. Augustus then orders Laura to tell Leone about her own marital unhappiness and convince her of the folly of marrying an older man. In spite of Laura's frank words, Leone refuses to back down and prepares to leave with Max. As they are going out the door, however, Leone sees Geoffry stretched out on the ground, apparently unconscious, and screams with anguish. Leone's reaction to Geoffry's faked condition convinces Max that she truly loves the younger man, and when Laura finally confronts Max with their supposed romantic past, he decides to leave quietly with Winkie. Later, Laura confesses to Augustus that Max had been her first love, but Augustus correctly recalls that the man that she had loved as a young woman was actually a pianist named Lawrence Mack.
Nacio Herb Brown
Edwin B. Willis
Should Ladies Behave?
Setting the stage for her seduction by an older man, the Merricks' beloved, sheltered daughter Leone has grown tired of her judgmental, immature college boyfriend Geoffrey Cole (William Janney) who says Leone needs to become more "experienced" and shed her innocent demeanor in order to become a good mate. When the suave, worldly Max comes along, Leone is utterly smitten, despite the fact that her father Augustus knows a rat when he sees one.
Unbeknownst to all of the Merricks is the fact that Max is a professional roué, with a habit of romancing married women. His latest conquest is Laura's own sister "Aunt Winne," who hasn't yet let on that she is involved with Max. When, after a very brief romance, Max and Leone decide to run off together to be married, the entire family, including Geoffrey -- who has shown up at the country estate to see Leone -- conspire to keep the couple from uniting.
In the less showy role amidst a cast of women, consummate actor Lionel Barrymore performs the marvelous feat of drawing the audience's attention for the simple fact of his rich, detailed characterization of a grumpy father and husband who adores his daughter but has grown tired of his meddlesome wife. Surrounded by the pretenses and machinations of his family, Augustus bristles at every word from his wife and sister-in-law's lips. He sees Leone as a woman as yet unsullied by such pretense, a still-innocent girl. Some of his churlishness seems the result of having long ago married a beautiful young girl like his own daughter -- Laura -- whose frustration with her boring life in remote Connecticut has turned her into a silly, frivolous woman. Augustus clearly hopes to prevent his daughter from making the same mistake. And yet, despite his general unpleasantness, Barrymore manages to make Augustus exceedingly likable.
Most famous for another unrepentant killjoy - Mr. Potter in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - Barrymore excelled at playing snarling curmudgeons including Scrooge from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol each year on the radio. Barrymore started his film career in 1911 with D.W. Griffith and would go on to star in many notable films of the classic Hollywood era including Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Treasure Island (1934) and David Copperfield (1935). The great uncle of actress Drew Barrymore, Lionel was Hollywood royalty, a highly talented actor, music composer, writer, painter and director who excelled onscreen but also on the stage. He won an Academy Award for his performance in the Pre-Code film A Free Soul (1931) as an alcoholic lawyer who defends a gangster (Clark Gable) accused of murder. In the previous year he had been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award for Madame X (1929).
Part of the famous Barrymore acting clan, which included his sister Ethel and brother John, the Barrymore siblings only appeared in one film together, Rasputin and the Empress (1932).
Despite a 61 year movie career Barrymore didn't initially seem destined for the limelight. When Barrymore was six his parents were touring and put him into a last minute role to replace a sick child. Instead of delivering his lines, Barrymore cried. His parents decided to keep him out of showbiz until Lionel reached his teens.
Barrymore was so admired as an actor, that even after arthritis and a hip injury confined him to a wheelchair in 1938, he continued to act, with writers and directors happy to write a disability into his roles.
Beloved by his peers, Barrymore proved his popularity with audiences too. The New York Times reported that 2,000 fans attended Barrymore's 1954 burial at Los Angeles' Calvary Cemetery.
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Harry Beaumont
Screenplay: Bella Spewack, Sam Spewack (writers); Paul Osborn (play)
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Art Direction: Fredric Hope, Harry McAfee
Music: William Axt (uncredited)
Film Editing: Hugh Wynn
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Augustus Merrick), Alice Brady (Laura Merrick), Conway Tearle (Max Lawrence), Katharine Alexander (Mrs. Winifred Lamont), Mary Carlisle (Leone Merrick), William Janney (Geoffrey Cole), Halliwell Hobbes (Louis).
by Felicia Feaster
Should Ladies Behave?
The original play opened in New York on 19 November 1930.
The working title of this film was The Vinegar Tree. Most of the trade journals reviewed the film under that title. According to a January 1934 Daily Variety, after the film had been generally released, M-G-M ordered retakes to be shot to "get around British censor restrictions." Release of the picture in England was held up until the new footage was added.