The Happy Time
Based on a novel by Robert Fontaine and the play by Samuel A. Taylor, a French-Canadian family with a grandfather, three brothers, and a son who love women and learn more about this love.
Violinist Jacques Bonnard (Charles Boyer) is married to Susan (Marsha Hunt), and they live with his father Grandpere (Marcel Dalio) and their adolescent son Bibi (Bobby Driscoll). Across the street Jacques’ wine-loving brother Louis Bonnard does not work because his wife Felice (Jeanette Nolan) and daughter make dresses.
Jacques takes Bibi on his birthday to see a magic show where he conducts the music and plays violin. During the show Mignonette (Chappuis) breaks out of the wooden box after the magician said he sawed her in half, and she slaps him for being fresh. Jacques brings her home to be their maid, and his wife Susan kindly accepts her.
The other brother Desmonde Bonnard (Louis Jourdan), who is a traveling salesman, returns home and gives Bibi another garter from a burlesque show and a Paris magazine with women’s pictures.
The next-door neighbor Peggy O’Hare (Marlene Cameron) has braces on her teeth and is in love with Bibi. Desmonde tries to romance Mignonette, but she puts him off. On her day off Mignonette goes to a Valentino movie with Bibi and holds his hand during kissing scenes. That night Bibi sneaks into her room and kisses her while she is asleep and then goes out. She wakes up, is angry, and goes into Desmonde’s room and throws water from a pitcher on him.
Grandpere is found collapsed on a sidewalk and is brought home to his bed, and a doctor is called. Grandpere tries to refuse and says he will live as long as he loves and does not care if this kills him.
At school a bully takes Bibi’s Paris magazine for which Bibi got in trouble with the Principal. The Bully draws glasses on a woman’s picture and labels it with the name of their teacher. When the magazine is found, Bibi is blamed, and jealous Peggy says she saw Bibi drawing that. Bibi is taken to the Principal’s office and is beat on his hands by a leather strap. The Principal orders him to confess and be beaten every day until he does so.
The daughter of Louis becomes engaged to a man who works in a bank, and the banker drinks from a water cooler that contains Louis’ wine and gets drunk. They argue about his low salary and how many kids he expects to have, and Louis rejects him as a son-in-law as the drunk banker leaves.
Desmonde shows Mignonette a photo of a home and says that his father has given it to him and that he wants to settle down there. Later Mignonette learns from the family that there is no such house. The next day Susan says that Mignonette left for good. Desmonde learns that Bibi kissed her, and he realizes he is in love with her. He goes off to find her, and Louis goes to find the banker. Later Desmonde comes back with Mignonette after finding her in a Valentino movie, and Louis returns with the banker who is drunk again but is in agreement with Louis that his sons will go to college and that his daughters will work.
Bibi tells his father and uncles Desmonde and Louis about the Principal’s threat to beat him every day until he confesses and declares he did not draw on the picture. The three men go together to talk truth with the principal and confront him in his office. Louis brought wine, and eventually they go out and come to an agreement. The three relatives return home and tell Bibi everything is okay now.
Jacques has given his son Bibi long pants and has a fatherly chat with him to explain about love and the natural desire that a man feels. Peggy no longer has braces on her teeth, and Bibi agrees to be her boyfriend. Finally Bibi tells his father that things are different with Peggy now, and they both hear Bibi’s voice crack.
This comedy depicts the amorous French culture in a Canadian family in which all the men either love women or wine or both. The son is coming of age and is gently guided by his father to learn gradually about desire and the importance of love.