Happy Land (film)

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Happy Land
Happy Land 1943 Poster.jpg
1943 theatrical poster
Directed by Irving Pichel
Produced by Kenneth Macgowan
Written by Kathryn Scola
Starring Don Ameche
Frances Dee
Harry Carey
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Edited by Dorothy Spencer
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Release date
  • December 3, 1943 (1943-12-03)
Running time
75 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.5 million[1]

Happy Land (1943) is a film directed by Irving Pichel and starring Don Ameche. It was based on the 1943 novel of the same name by MacKinlay Kantor.

Plot Summary[edit]

While at a luncheon with his wife, Lew Marsh receives a message that his only beloved son Rusty has been killed in action. Lew, a third generation pharmacist in the small town of Hartfield, Iowa, is beside himself with grief, and beyond consolation from Reverend Wood and his wife, Agnes. Because of the grief he neglects his duties at the pharmacy and isolates himself.

One night, Lew gets a visit from his dead grandfather's spirit. "Gramp" was the one who took care of Lew after his parents died, and he tells him he has been watching over him from beyond the grave. The spirit of Gramp is troubled by Lew's mourning and the way it affects his life and those around him.

As Lew and Gramp's spirit walk the streets of the small town, Gramp offers Lew a flashback to his and Rusty's life.

It begins with Lew participating in a welcome home parade at the end of World War I. He finds out that his girlfriend before he left has married another man while Lew was away war. He met Agnes soon after, fell in love, married, and had Rusty.

Lew was comforted by his family when Gramp died, soon after Rusty arrived. There are a series of scenes with Rusty, a perky boy with a mind of his own, who cared a lot for his friends. Rusty became a member of the Boy Scouts. One scene shows Rusty help an old man without enough money for his sick wife's medication by paying for the prescription with his own money.

Rusty grows up to be a young handsome man, and falls in love for the first time at eighteen, with a girl named Gretchen Barry. She soon dumps him for an older boy, which was expected by both Lew and Agnes. Lew tries to comfort him by giving him a glass of loganberry wine and toast him as an adult.

Rusty gets back up on the horse and finds a new girlfriend in Lenore Prentiss, who used to be his childhood playmate, but who has developed into a beautiful woman. The Nazis take control of Germany and the Germans invade Poland. Some of Rusty's friends join the Canadian armed forces, but Rusty is helping out in the pharmacy and studying to get his certificate.

After some time Rusty joins the Navy and is sent over the Atlantic to fight in Europe, after a tearful farewell.

We return to Lew and Gramp's spirit, where the spirit claims that Rusty had a wonderful life up to his death. Lew isn't convinced, and the spirit tells him to go to pharmacy that very evening. He does so, and encounters a young sailor named Tony, who explains that he is the young boy who Rusty often mentioned in his letters.

Lew invites Tony into his home and introduces him to Agnes. Tony tells them about Rusty's last hours, and how he managed to save another wounded soldier before he got killed. It turns out Tony has no family of his own to return to, and the couple insist he stay for the night. Lew pours the young man a glass of loganberry wine and makes him a toast.[2]




Production notes[edit]

An abridged version of MacKinlay Kantor's novel appeared in the The Saturday Evening Post on November 28, 1942 and in the August 1943 issue of Reader's Digest.

Five-year-old Natalie Wood made her screen debut and appears in a bit part in the picture.

Production Dates: 13 Jun—late Jul 1943. According to The Hollywood Reporter, news items, and studio publicity, the picture was shot on location in Santa Rosa, California, with additional scenes being filmed in nearby Healdsburg. The Time magazine review said that some scenes were shot in Sebastopol. A Hollywood Reporter news item stated that the picture would have its premiere in sixty-one theaters in Iowa on December 2, 1943.

Don Ameche starred in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on April 10, 1944. A television adaptation of the film was presented on the 20th Century-Fox Hour (CBS Television) in February 1956, under the title "In Times Like These".


External links[edit]