Happy Land (film)
1943 theatrical poster
|Directed by||Irving Pichel|
|Produced by||Kenneth Macgowan|
|Written by||Kathryn Scola|
|Edited by||Dorothy Spencer|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century-Fox|
|Box office||$1.5 million|
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.
- Don Ameche as Lew Marsh
- Frances Dee as Agnes Marsh
- Harry Carey as Gramp
- Ann Rutherford as Lenore Prentiss
- Cara Williams as Gretchen Barry
- Richard Crane as Russell 'Rusty' Marsh
- Harry Morgan as Anton 'Tony' Cavrek (Credited as Henry Morgan)
- Minor Watson as Judge Colvin
- Dickie Moore as Peter Orcutt
- William Weber as Bill Beecher
- Oscar O'Shea as Father Case
- James West as Rusty - Ages 12 to 16
- Larry Olsen as Rusty - Age 5
- Bernard Thomas as Sam Kendall
- Adeline De Walt Reynolds as Mrs. Schneider
- Terry Masengale as Arch
- Edwin Mills as Bud
- Roseanne Murray as Mrs. Velma Jacobson
- James J. Smith as Everett Moore
- Mary Wickes as Emmy
- Walter Baldwin as Jake Hibbs
- Tom Stevenson as Mr. MacMurray
- Aileen Pringle as Mrs. Prentiss
- Richard Abbott as Reverend Wood
- Lillian Bronson as Mattie Dyer
- Ferris Taylor as Mayor
- Matt Moore as Mr. Prentiss
- Larry Thompson as Andy Jacobson
- Darla Hood as Lenore Prentiss - Age 12
- Ned Dobson Jr. as Jackie
- Paul Weigel as Pop Schmidt
- Jackie Averill as Tod
- Joseph E. Bernard as Clerk (Credited as Joe Bernard)
- Houseley Stevenson as Sam Watson
- Elvin Field as Joe
- Juanita Quigley as Sally Pierce
- Milton Kibbee as Shep Wayne (Credited as Milt Kibbee)
- John Dilson as Charles Clayton
- Leigh Whipper as Old Ben
- Marjorie Cooley as Teacher
- Robert Dudley as Old Man Bowers
- Reed Hadley as Off-Screen Narrator
- Pass Le Noir as Dr.. Hammond (Credited as Pass La Noir)
- William J. O'Brien as Chris - Drugstore Counterman
- Natalie Wood as Little Girl Who Drops Ice Cream Cone (uncredited)
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".