Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy Land (1943) - Film Locations

Happy Land (1943) is a sentimental story about a father struggling with grief after learning that his only son was killed during World War II. The subject of the story is still relevant. Parents still struggle with the loss of their children due to fighting wars, but the way this particular story is told is a bit old-fashioned, what modern audiences may consider corny. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the sweetness of this film and its touching moments.

Don Ameche plays the father, Lew Marsh, a pharmacist in the small town of Hartfield, Iowa.  One day while having lunch with his wife Agnes (Frances Dee), he receives a telegram that their son was killed in action. Marsh, overwhelmed with grief, stops talking with Agnes and neglects the pharmacy. Reverend Wood tries to comfort Lew with the idea that Rusty died for his country, but this doesn't comfort Lew at all, who feels his son Rusty never had a chance to live a full life. After the reverend leaves, Lew is visited by the spirit of his late grandfather, Edward "Gramp" Marsh (Harry Carey). Gramp accompanies Lew on a walk and in the process Gramp takes Lew on a walk back in time, recounting tender moments in the family's past.

In addition to Ameche, Dee, and Carey, the cast also includes Ann Rutherford, Richard Crane, a young Harry Morgan of M.A.S.H. fame and a very young Natalie Wood in a blink and you'll miss her scene.

The story is set in the fictional town of Hartfield, Iowa. Location filming actually took place in the Northern California cities Healdsburg and Santa Rosa (where Hitchcock filmed the classic Shadow of Doubt during the same year).

Click images to see larger.

Healdsburg Locations

Looking down Healdsburg Ave towards Matheson St.

Looking down Healdsburg Ave towards Matheson St.

The Healdsburg Plaza in the city of Healdsburg, California was used as the location for the fictional Hartfield center of town. The Marsh's pharmacy where Ameche's character works was located on Healdsburg Avenue between Matheson Street and Plaza Street. The old structures on this block, including the building that was used as the pharmacy location, have all been replaced by one large modern structure. Above is a comparison of the view looking down Healdsburg Avenue towards Matheson Street as seen in the film compared to the contemporary view. Below is a close up comparison of the Marsh's pharmacy site.

Marsh's pharmacy on Healdsburg Ave.

The Marsh's pharmacy building has been replaced by this modern building.

The interior of Marsh's pharmacy looking out towards Healdsburg Ave.

The next location is also on Healdsburg Avenue located between the pharmacy and the Healdsburg Plaza, looking in the direction of Plaza Street. This scene is part of one of the flashback moments. Although all the buildings on the left of the screenshot have been demolished, the building marked by the yellow square is still standing, however, in the contemporary view the building is hidden behind trees.

Healdsburg Ave looking towards Plaza Street.

Healdsburg Ave looking towards Plaza Street.

In the next scene below Ameche is seen walking with Harry Carey down Matheson Street with the old Healdsburg City Hall in the background. I recognized the City Hall location when I was searching through old photographs on the Sonoma County Library online catalog. That's how I discovered that the town scenes were filmed in Healdsburg and from this location I was able to then identify the other Healdsburg locations. The old Healdsburg City Hall, which stood on the corner of Matheson Street and Center Street, was torn down in 1960. Presently an Oakville Grocery stands on the site. The Healdsburg Patch has an interesting article on the history of the old Healdsburg City Hall and contains a slide show of some old images of the building. 

Ameche and Carey walk pass the old Healdsburg City Hall.

Looking towards the corner of Matheson and Center Streets where the old Healdsburg City Hall once stood. 

The next scene is of a World War I parade and spectacle taking place inside the Healdsburg Plaza. This view is looking into the plaza from across the Marsh's pharmacy location on Healdsburg Ave.

Looking into the Healdsburg Plaza.

Looking into the Healdsburg Plaza.

Below is another view looking out from the Marsh's pharmacy towards the plaza. In the screenshot we can see part of a building peeking out from behind the trees. That building is still standing on Plaza Street and is currently the site of Gallery Lulo.

The site of Gallery Lulo in background.

Gallery Lulo on the corner of Plaza and Center Streets.

Below is a postcard view looking down at the Healdsburg Plaza from above the old City Hall and Court House building and a contemporary Bing Bird's Eye view looking at the plaza. In the postcard you can see how the plaza used to look, including the buildings on the left which were used for the pharmacy location. In the Bird's Eye View I've marked the location of the pharmacy, the Gallery Lulo building, and the old Court House/City Hall building.

View of Healdsburg Plaza looking from old Court House.

Bing Bird's Eye View of Healdsburg Plaza.

Santa Rosa Locations

In the city of Santa Rosa, where Hitchcock filmed Shadow of Doubt the same year, two homes, a train depot, and a church were used as filming locations.

The main home where Ameche and Dee live is located on Santa Rosa's McDonald Avenue, specifically 1127 McDonald Avenue. I knew that Happy Land had filmed in Santa Rosa, but I didn't know where the house may have been filmed. Where does one begin to look in a city? I figured if Hitchcock had filmed on McDonald Avenue then maybe so did Happy Land. After a few minutes of searching homes on this street I fortunately was able to identify the house! Many homes in fact have filmed on McDonald Avenue. See my McDonald Avenue post for more on this street.

Ameche and Carey approach the family home at 1127 McDonald Ave.

1127 McDonald Ave, Santa Rosa, Ca

Ameche and Carey leaving the home at 1127 McDonald Ave.

Another view of the home at 1127 McDonald Ave, Santa Rosa, CA.

The screenshot below is a view looking across the street from the yard of 1127 McDonald Avenue.

Looking across the street from 1127 McDonald Ave.

Looking across the street from 1127 McDonald Ave.

In the scene below we see Ameche and Carey pass a home on McDonald Ave across the street from the family home located at 1127 McDonald Ave.

Ameche and Carey walk down McDonald Ave.

The same small house across the street is still recognizable.

There is another home featured in Happy Land that is located on McDonald Avenue that I didn't cover in my earlier post about McDonald Avenue, and that is the house below which is used in one of the flashback scenes when Ameche is supposed to be a teenager. This house is located at 805 McDonald Ave, just a few blocks down the street from the other home.

805 McDonald Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

805 McDonald Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

In another flashback scene we see Ameche and Dee leaving a church after being married. I was able to identify the church as the First Presbyterian Church from an historical photograph in the Sonoma County Library collection. The street address on file was listed as Johnson at Humboldt. I couldn't locate a Johnson Street, but from further digging I learned from the Santa Rosa Seventh Day Adventist website that the Adventist church acquired the building from the Presbyterian Church and that Johnson Street is now "Seventh" Street. The church stood at the corner of Seventh and Humboldt until 1957, when the city decided the building was an earthquake danger to the public and asked that the church be torn down. The site is now a parking lot for the Press Democrat.

First Presbyterian Church
Corner of Humboldt St. and 7th St. in Santa Rosa

Corner of Humboldt St. and 7th St. Santa Rosa

Ameche and Dee leave the First Presbyterian Church.

This final location is the Santa Rosa Train Depot. In the film, Ameche and Richard Crane see Dee off at what is supposed to be the Hartfield, Iowa railroad station. This historic train depot has been used a few times for films, most famously in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.

Crane, Dee and Ameche arrive at the Santa Rosa train depot.

Looking at the train depot in July 2013.

Another view of the train depot from Happy Land.

The same view of the train depot in July 2013.

Ameche and Crane leaving the Hartfield train stop.

The Santa Rosa, CA train depot.

Happy Land is available on DVD and also available for rent exclusively through ClassicFlix. If you like simple, old-fashioned melodramas, I recommend this film.


Paul D. Marks said...

If not for the cars, those town look almost -- almost! -- the same today as they did when the movie was filmed. Another great piece, Robbie! -- Paul D. Marks

mmduchess said...

Great post. One other location for Happy Land and McDonald Ave. The front yard of 1026 McDonald was also used. When we purchased 1026 the owner, who had lived here at the time of shooting, told us about it. We borrowed the movie and found the very short segment.


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