HAPPY LAND (1943)
Article #940 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2003
Posting Date: 3-9-2004
Directed by Irving Pichel
Featuring Don Ameche, Frances Dee, Harry Carey
A pharmacist is wracked with grief and bitterness when his son loses his life in the navy during World War II, and is then visited by the ghost of his grandfather.
There’s must be a special category of ghost stories in which the ghost is largely a plot device to lead us into a long flashback sequence; after all, that’s basically the use of the ghosts in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. In this case, the flashback takes most of the movie, and this sequence is fairly predictable; it’s your typical story of a boy growing to manhood, and it gets tiresome before it’s through. However, the opening and closing sections of the movie are quite strong and very moving indeed, and it is here that the movie’s sincerity and unhysterical approach work very well indeed. Don Ameche’s performance as the grief-stricken father is definitely one of the movie’s strengths. By the way, the son is played by Rocky Jones himself, Richard Crane, and his friend from the Navy is played by Harry Morgan.
Also, special note should be taken of the presence of Frances Dee in this movie, who is known to fans of fantastic cinema as the protagonist from I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (which came out the same year as this movie). Her death was just a few days ago, and I dedicate this MOTD to her memory.