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The Habit of Happiness (1916)

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Sunny Wiggins is convinced that laughter can cure any ailment. He tries his thesis out on a dyspeptic millionaire, to great success. He turns his attention to easing the plight of the ... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Sunny Wiggins
George Fawcett ...
Jonathan Pepper
Macey Harlam ...
Foster (as Macey Harlan)
Dorothy West ...
Elsie Pepper
George Backus ...
Mr. Wiggins
Grace Rankin ...
Clarice Wiggins
William Jefferson ...


Sunny Wiggins is convinced that laughter can cure any ailment. He tries his thesis out on a dyspeptic millionaire, to great success. He turns his attention to easing the plight of the down-and-out on skid row. In due course, he and the millionaire's daughter become entangled with a gang of ruffians, and Sunny must use more than laughter to save the day. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

12 March 1916 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Laugh and the World Laughs  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$37,800 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the skid row section, director Allan Dwan used real indigents who did not respond correctly to actor Douglas Fairbanks' attempts to make them laugh. Fairbanks thus told extremely off-color stories, which finally got the desired response. When the film was initially released, complaints from lip-readers caused new shots of Fairbanks to be made to replace the profane close-ups. See more »

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User Reviews

Happy-go-lucky cross-section of a forgotten era.
19 April 2005 | by (California) – See all my reviews

This early Douglas Fairbanks comedy (one of the first), in which he plays a perpetually exuberant crusader for laughing, makes for entertaining viewing. An audience unaccustomed to the period may not get most of the jokes, which include references to popular dances and sayings that passed out of favor with Theda Bara, but it is still funny, endearing and heart-warming.

The best thing the movie has going for it is Doug, as is often the case. Here he is the son of wealth who is generous with poor people. He leaves his comfortable home to live in a homeless shelter where he raises the spirits of it's down-trodden inhabitants. He is then commissioned to get a wealthy grouch named Johnathan Pepper (George Fawcett) to eat his meals and laugh. (No prises for anyone who foresees a title mentioning Pepper's lack of Pep!)

'Habit of Happiness' is a fascinating record of it's time, and in more ways than one. For starters, the interiors, gowns, cars, props will be of interest to scholars of history. (Some of the rich characters look as though they just stepped off the Jenkin's ballroom set of Griffith's Intolerance) In the scenes involving beggars, some are played by character actors (I recognized some, though I don't know their names), but most were played by actual homeless persons. The generous close-ups of their faces (apparently photographed by Victor Fleming!) are priceless documents in themselves. Fairbanks also seems to be obsessed with happiness. Not just in this film, but in every single one he made. I have it on good authority, though, that he wrote a book during World War I on ways to be happy. His characters were incessantly upbeat, and his other early films were focused almost maniacally on merriment. (The best of which was undoubtedly 'When the Clowds Roll By')

I saw a print which was quite ragged and apparently incomplete. Some shots were out of order. Many shots were clearly absent. Some scenes play through splendidly, which seems to indicate that the original release had very good cutting. Many titles are also apparently missing, which hinders the viewing, as character motivations are lacking in order to make the climax both satisfying and fully comprehensible. The original prints were clearly of excellent quality as well, but the spoiled, fading dupe that survives leaves a lot to be desired.

Still, one is at least impressed by the quality of the production. Fairbanks is very memorable, much chubbier though than when he appeared as D'Artanion or Robin Hood. Any film is valuable as a record of it's time, but as entertainment, Habit of Happiness still delivers.

A note on the credits: The version I saw contained opening credits that were clearly not the originals. They are probably incorrect, but they assigned the role of director to John Emmerson. Fairbanks apparently wrote the story (he probably did have something to do with it) and Anita Loos is also supposed to have written the titles (they do resemble her style). D.W. Griffith was apparently the production supervisor, and Intolerance alumnus Margery Wilson (Brown Eyes) supposedly was among the cast. She may have been a party guest in the opening scenes, but I did not recognize her.

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