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Happy Land

Happy Land title card

Year - 1943
Studio - 20th Century Fox
Stars - Don Ameche, Frances Dee, Harry Carey, Ann Rutherford, Cara Williams, Richard Crane, Larry Olsen, James West, Harry Morgan
Director - Irving Pichel
Writing Credits - Kathryn Scola, Julien Josephson (screenplay), MacKinley Kantor (novel)
Music - Cyril J. Mockridge

Synopsis

Drugstore owner Lew Marsh (Don Ameche), lives with his wife Agnes (Frances Dee) in a small Iowa town. Their son, Rusty (Richard Crane) has enlisted in the Navy as World War II breaks out. When Lew returns from work one afternoon, a telegram is delivered from the War Department with the news that Rusty was killed in action. Lew is devastated and unable to resume his normal life, and he only sits silently in his back yard. Then the ghost of "Gramp" (Harry Carey) appears to Lew, unseen by others. He asks Lew to join him for a walk.

Happy Land poster

The pair walks around town, reminiscing about Rusty, with flashback scenes of his birth, childhood, teen years, work in the family pharmacy, girlfriend, Lenore (Ann Rutherford), and enlistment in the military. Lew's grief is transformed to a celebration of his son's life. They return home, and Gramp leaves.

Gramp's visit gives Lew the will to return to his work at the drugstore. There, one day just before closing, a sailor, Tony Cavrek (Harry Morgan) enters and explains that he was Rusty's best friend in the service. Lew invites Tony to dinner that night, and Tony explains how their ship was torpedoed, and that Rusty was killed attempting to carry out a wounded comrade. They drink a toast to Rusty.

Show Spoilers

The fantasy aspect of Happy Land is largely incidental to the telling of this nostalgic, sentimental, and patriotic story, made to provide comfort to wartime audiences.

Happy Land was suggested for this site by Karine Philippot.