The Happy Years (1950)

“A Story of Wild and Wonderful Days.” A true forgotten classic, this wonderful little coming-of-age story was directed by William A. “Wild Bill” Wellman (The Public Enemy) and based on Owen Johnson’s Lawrenceville Stories (first published in The Saturday Evening Post). The nostalgic story unfolds in 1896 in New Jersey. Dean Stockwell turns in an exceptional performance as the unruly “John Humperdink ‘Dink’ Stover,” who is sent to the exclusive Lawrenceville Prep School by his father in an attempt to reform his slovenly ways. The episodic plot features Dink challenging any and all of his classmates to fights, classic schoolboy pranks (“I like Maude Adams”), Dink’s ongoing feud with “Tough McCarty” (Darryl Hickman), Dink falling down the stairs at the beach house and, of course, the infamous final football game. The stellar cast also includes Scotty Beckett as “The Tennessee Shad,” Leon Ames as “Samuel Stover,” Leo G. Carroll as “The Old Roman,” Jerry Mickelsen as “Cheyenne Baxter” and Donn Gift as “Hungry Smead” (who breaks the pancake-eating record!). Filmed in a “sunburst of color,” The Happy Years was reportedly shot on location at The Lawrenceville School, which was founded in 1810. The Happy Years served as the uncredited film debut of Robert Wagner (if you blink you will miss him!).

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