MacKinlay Kantor’s novel which appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest, has been turned into a strong tear-jerker mainly through the keen production given by Kenneth Macgowan and directorial skill of Irving Pichel. Combined efforts of this pair, plus a trim writing job, sets off a string of performances topped by Don Ameche, Frances Dee, Harry Carey and Richard Crane.
Happy Land is the story of a typical Iowa country town and a typical family (the Marshes), their joys, disappointments and sorrows. Plot has drugstore operator Ameche bereaved over the loss of his son, killed in naval action. Return of Gramp, his father, dead for some 25 years in the form of an apparition, is the device used to unfold the principal story up until Richard Crane is killed in service. Explanation of the visionary appearance is that Gramp has returned to set Ameche right, since the grief-stricken father claims that Crane never really lived – never had a home of his own, had not married, etc. Flashback method then traces the life of the youngster from birth.