The Happy Time

This article is about a film. For the Broadway musical, see The Happy Time (musical).
The Happy Time

theatrical poster
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Produced by Earl Felton
Stanley Kramer
Written by Earl Felton
Robert Fontaine
Samuel A. Taylor
Based on The Happy Time
1945 novel
by Robert Fontaine
Starring Charles Boyer
Louis Jourdan
Marsha Hunt
Bobby Driscoll
Linda Christian
Kurt Kasznar
Marcel Dalio
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Edited by William A. Lyon
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • October 30, 1952 (1952-10-30) (New York City)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Happy Time is a 1952 American film directed by the award-winning director Richard Fleischer, based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Robert Fontaine, which Samuel A. Taylor turned into a hit play. A boy, played by Bobby Driscoll, comes of age in a close-knit French-Canadian family. The film stars Charles Boyer and Louis Jourdan as his father and uncle respectively. The play was also adapted into a musical in 1968 by composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb, and librettist N. Richard Nash, and starred Robert Goulet.


Young Robert "Bibi" Bonnard (Bobby Driscoll) grows up in Ottawa, Ontario with his parents, Jacques (Charles Boyer) and Susan (Marsha Hunt), and his roving rogue of a grandfather, Grandpere (Marcel Dalio). Across the street is his uncle, amiable drunkard Louis (Kurt Kasznar), who ignores the complaints of his hard-working dressmaker wife Felice (Jeanette Nolan) and her worries about the future of their daughter Yvonne. Louis agitates about meeting his prospective son-in-law, Alfred Grattin, a teetotaler bank clerk who wishes to marry Yvonne. Next-door neighbour and schoolmate Peggy O'Hare (Marlene Cameron) has a crush on Bibi, but he is as yet too young to understand.

On his birthday, Bibi is taken to see the vaudeville acts at the theatre where his violinist/ conductor father works. During the magic act, the Great Gaspari tries to steal a kiss from Mignonette Chappuis (Linda Christian), the assistant he is in the process of sawing in half. She storms offstage and quits. Jacques offers her a job as a maid, which she gladly accepts. Bibi is intrigued, but a little confused about his feelings for the new addition to the household. Equally fascinated, but not at all perplexed as to why is another unexpected arrival, Uncle Desmonde (Louis Jourdan), a traveling salesman and notorious ladies' man. He has been summoned back to take the place of the recently deceased sales manager, though he informs his employer it is only until a replacement can be found.

Uncle Desmonde starts courting Mignonette, but though she is attracted to him, she tells him she is fed up with living on the road and wants to settle down. He shows her the picture of a lovely house he expects to inherit, weakening her resistance.

Meanwhile, Peggy becomes jealous of Bibi's attentions to Mignonette. Bibi has already gotten into trouble for bringing La Vie Parisienne to school. When a dirty picture is found by the principal, Mr. Frye, Peggy falsely claims she saw Bibi draw it. Bibi denies it, angering Frye. He straps Bibi on the hand three times, and tells him it will be repeated every day until he confesses. When the adult Bonnards find out, they see Frye and straighten him out, though with great difficulty.

When they return in triumph, Desmonde discovers that Mignonette has quit after finding out that he lied about the house, and because she is under the impression that he has been sneaking into her bedroom and stealing kisses when she is asleep. Bibi confesses that he is the guilty party. Desmonde then realizes that Mignonette is not like all of his other women. He finds her and they become engaged.

The adults explain Peggy's behavior to Bibi. To Peggy's delight, Bibi forgives her and makes her his girl. Then his voice breaks.


  • Richard Erdman as Alfred Grattin,
  • Marlene Cameron as Peggy O'Hare
  • Gene Collins as Jimmy Bishop
  • Ann Faber as Yvonne Bonnard
  • Kathryn Sheldon as Miss Tate
  • Edward Clark as Dr. Marchaud
  • Maurice Marsac as The Great Gaspari
  • Will Wright as Family Doctor
  • Eugene Borden as Monsieur Lafayette

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