6.7/10
206
14 user 3 critic

Happy Land (1943)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 10 November 1943 (USA)
In a typical American Midwestern city, Hartfield, Iowa, Lew Marsh (Don Ameche) is the owner of a drugstore. Everyone knows Lew and knew his grandfather, old "Gramp" Marsh (Harry Carey), who... See full summary »

Director:

Irving Pichel

Writers:

Kathryn Scola (screenplay), Julien Josephson (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview:
Don Ameche ... Lew Marsh
Frances Dee ... Agnes Marsh
Harry Carey ... Gramp
Ann Rutherford ... Lenore Prentiss
Cara Williams ... Gretchen Barry
Richard Crane ... Russell 'Rusty' Marsh
Harry Morgan ... Anton 'Tony' Cavrek (as Henry Morgan)
Minor Watson ... Judge Colvin
Dickie Moore ... Peter Orcutt
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Storyline

In a typical American Midwestern city, Hartfield, Iowa, Lew Marsh (Don Ameche) is the owner of a drugstore. Everyone knows Lew and knew his grandfather, old "Gramp" Marsh (Harry Carey), who had passed on. One evening, Lew and his wife, Agnes (Frances Dee), reminisce lovingly about their son, "Rusty" (Richard Crane), when a telegram arrives from the Navy Department informing them that "Rusty" had been killed in action. Lew becomes bitter, avoids people, refuses to go near the family drugstore. "Gramp" appears before Lew and takes him in hand and together, they revisit the past: Lew's childhood; "Gramp" as a Civil War veteran; Lew's courtship of Agnes; the birth of "Rusty"; Lew as a WWI soldier; Rusty's boyhood days and into his attempt to decide between Lenore Prentiss and Gretchen Barry, and how Lenore becomes his girl just before he joins the Navy. This excursion into the past takes away Lew's bitterness and he now sees what America means. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 November 1943 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Filho Querido See more »

Filming Locations:

Healdsburg, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cara Williams and Harry Morgan both had supporting roles as friends of Rusty but never shared screen time. Both would go on 17 years later as the leads in Pete and Gladys (1960) for 2 seasons. See more »

Goofs

Right before Rusty's shipmate, Tony, arrives at Mr. Marsh's Pharmacy, it is near closing time, and dark outside. When Mr. Marsh takes Tony home to meet Mrs. Marsh, she says she was just getting ready to fix lunch, although it is night time. See more »

Quotes

Gramp: You know, Lew, that's one thing God intended in America forever - kids have got to play Indian. Bows and arrows, war clubs, Daniel Boone, Sittin' Bull... nobody must be allowed to make them stop.
See more »


Soundtracks

Smiles
(uncredited)
Music by Lee S. Roberts
Played when Lew goes back to the shop to work
See more »

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User Reviews

Happy Lies
3 July 2002 | by RJC-4See all my reviews

Finding this oddity on cable recently, I was quickly seduced by its opening sequence, a Welles-like plunge down main street into a small everytown's heart, Marsh's pharmacy. Here, as some clever camera work reveals, solid citizen Lew Marsh (Don Ameche) tends to the blisses of early 40's Hollywood America; everyone's prescription is filled, sundaes topped off with a cherry, local oddballs humored, etc.

What most recommends the film is its frame narrative. Quickly the idyll is broken when Marsh learns his son has been killed in the war. He sinks into a lengthy depression. Enter the ghost of Gramp to conduct psychotherapy: he spirits Marsh back into the past where we relive the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood of the now-dead Rusty. While the mid-section unfolds linearly, Marsh and Gramp function offscreen as a Greek chorus (their melancholy dialogue often a grim counterpoint to the generally cheerful scenes). Then it's back to the present where an exorcized Marsh learns to stop questioning the wisdom of sacrificing young men in war. "Rusty died a good death," Gramp's ghost counsels, and we know it's only a matter of time before Marsh will agree.

Three years before "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946), "Happy Land" was already hijacking the "Christmas Carol" device of reliving the past on a therapeutic sightseeing tour. Unlike the Stewart film, though, the tone is more darkly somber, lingeringly mournful. The theme of sorrow outweighs the theme of recovery. Ameche looks and sounds wracked, bitter.

In fact, the film's heart is scarcely in its chief enterprise, which is to steel its audience for more wartime sacrifice. It seems at times almost to be working against its own message that war deaths are "good deaths." I imagine it may have helped salve some broken hearts, but the crime of this type of film is that, if it succeeds, it only helps to break more.


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