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Based on a collection of stories with the focus on young John Humperkink "Dink" Stover, a student at the Lawrenceville Prepatory School, in 1896, whose family, in Eastcester, New York, have just about given up on his education because he is an incorrigible student. He gets into one situation after another and incurs the dislike of his classmates, who think he is cowardly but he changes their opinion when he challenges several of them to a fight. When he returns home for the summer, he meets Miss Dolly Travers and increases his 'hatred of women' because she does not accept his schoolboy pranks. Back at school, in the fall, he is more difficult than ever until his philosophy is changed by a teacher. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 1896 New Jersey, wealthy small city editor Leon Ames (as Samuel H. Stover) learns delinquent Dean Stockwell (as John Humperdink Stover) has just been "fired" (expelled) from school, for blowing up the chemistry lab. At home, young teenage Stockwell paints a snooty neighbor's prize horse green (don't adjust your color, it does look blue). Described as both a "heathen" and an "anarchist," Stockwell is sent to picturesque "Lawrenceville School" where he plans to "own" the school. After a stimulating buggy ride, the binding around Stockwell's suitcase magically disappears - causing his belongings to spill out in front of six house-mates, posed by director William A. Wellman to block his entrance to "Green House"...
All bigger than Stockwell, the laughing delinquents are led by bully Darryl Hickman (as George "Tough" McCarty), who is caressing a pussycat. In all likelihood, director Wellman is having some fun with this assignment. Also note Stockwell's roommate Danny Mummert (as "Butsey" White) is quite logically introduced from their bedroom window, rather than on the stoop. The four other lads are Alan Dinehart III (as "The Coffee Colored Angel"), David Bair (as "The White Mountain Canary"), Jerry Mickelsen (as "Cheyenne" Baxter), Eddie LeRoy (as "Polar" Beckstein) - they don't have a lot to do, but the nicknames are great. Determining Stockwell is not there to sell "removable underwear," Mr. Hickman dubs him "Dink"...
Stockwell has a rough year, but does receive some sympathy from roommate Mummert. Another friendship is formed when Stockwell meets school-skipping Scotty Beckett (as "The Tennessee Shad"). Playing his entire part with a toothpick in his mouth, Mr. Beckett looks like his just walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting. After a bizarre summer vacation - wherein Stockwell and his rich friends play a surreal joke on young Elinor Donahue (as Connie Brown) and some other girls while the black-eyed director's son Tim tolls church bells - Stockwell will join Beckett at "Kennedy House" and finally resolve his Hickman problem. And in 1897's class, we meet hungry Little "Big Man" Donn Gift (as Joshua Montgomery Sneed)...
Wise Leo G. Carroll teaches us all a lesson as house-master Hopkins ("The Old Roman"), and Wellman maneuvers the young actors exceptionally well. Working with his award-winning "Battleground" photographer Paul C. Vogel and the MGM team, Wellman handles "The Happy Years" like he's bringing a turn of the century painting to life. It exudes a Norman Rockwell quality, shot in beautiful Technicolor - without looking real, it appears authentic. Drawing from his youthful experiences and adult directorial skills, Wellman stages scenes with skillful simplicity. Never given the power and glory of 1890s peers like John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock, director Wellman could make classics out of arguably unlikely assignments, like this...
********* The Happy Years (7/7/50) William A. Wellman ~ Dean Stockwell, Darryl Hickman, Scotty Beckett, Leo G. Carroll
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