Cast & Crew
Eleven-year-old American Danny Andrews is running away from his exclusive Swiss boarding school to reunite with his father, when ten-year-old Janine Duval, a French student at the school who harbors a crush on Danny, begs him to take her along. After crossing the nearby French border that night, the children talk about their parents. Danny's father Mike is a widowed American businessman who works in Paris, while Janine's mother Suzanne is a divorcée who rarely visits her daughter. Back in Paris, an exasperated Mike is supervising the "inefficient" French workers who are renovating his new business operation when the boarding school calls to tell him his son has run away. Arriving at the school later that day, Mike insists that he has given his son all the possible "advantages" and cannot understand why the normally well-behaved child felt the need to leave. Suzanne, who is also there, assumes Danny forced her daughter to leave and blames Mike for their disappearance. Danny's roommate, David, Earl of Bardingham, explains to the parents that Danny ran away to prove his self-sufficiency to his father in hope of being able to stay with him in Paris, while Janine's motivations were purely romantic. Although the French police are looking for the children, Mike and Suzanne decide to rent a car and follow the only route to Paris. When they discover the last car in the village has been rented, they accept a ride from a concerned father, whose small car becomes crammed after he picks up several other passengers, forcing Suzanne to sit on Mike's lap during the bumpy ride. Meanwhile, Danny and Janine are miles ahead of their parents when Janine realizes she has left their food in the truck from which they hitched a ride. She laments that she is only a hindrance to him, but Danny insists that he cares more for her company than for food. Soon after, they meet a group of peasant children picnicking with their parents. Upon hearing the runaways' story, the children devise a plan to help them. Distracting their parents, the children steal food for the pair, then hide them in the back of their parents' truck while they travel to the next town. Some miles behind, Suzanne and Mike finally reach the next town only to find the police station is closed for lunch and there is not car rental available, after which Mike launches into a tirade about French customs. Frustrated by the American's brash and patronizing behavior, Suzanne advises Mike to remember his manners. Accepting a French motorcycle officer's offer to drive them to the next town, the three begin a reckless journey, narrowly escaping several crashes on the small motorbike. On the peasant's truck, the children create a diversion enabling one boy to call his cousins and prepare them for the arrival of the runaway pair. When the truck arrives in the next town, the cousins start a brawl, confusing the police, who are checking vehicles for the missing children. After Danny and Janine are guided by the village children through a fair, another boy and girl with a similar description to the missing pair exchange clothes with Danny and Janine and engage the police in a chase while Danny and Janine board a river barge, where Danny cuts Janine's long blonde hair to keep them from being recognized. Later that night at a hotel, the parents realize that despite their good intentions, the school was actually providing them with an escape from parenting and was not the best choice for the children. When Mike apologizes for his hot temper, Suzanne admits she has been selfishly anxious to return to her fiancé in Monte Carlo, whom she is to marry in two days. The next morning, Mike offers to continue the chase alone; however, when Suzanne receives a call from Monte Carlo, she decides to proceed on the journey with Mike instead. Now on a scooter, Mike and Suzanne find the road is blocked for NATO training maneuvers and appeal to the commanding officer, General Medworth. The befuddled officer assigns hundreds of men to scour the area; however, Danny and Janine are already at the camp enjoying tea and cakes with an enlisted man, who is oblivious to Medworth's orders. While dozens of tanks haphazardly crisscross the countryside, the children easily escape the area on the back of a military jeep, once more outwitting the adults. Later that afternoon, Danny and Janine are lost in a forest when they encounter a deaf, mute hermit who happily gives them dinner and lodgings for the night. Meanwhile, Suzanne and Mike decide to look for the children on their own, but the inept soldiers lock them up, assuming they are the lost "American boy" and "French girl." When Mike asks an American soldier to place a call to his business for him, the soldier suggests that Americans are overworked and should take a hint from the French leisurely approach to life. The next morning, the hermit shows the children the way to the next town, where an international bicycle race to Paris is about to begin. When the youngsters spot the American newsreel car, they claim to be one of the cyclists' children, ensuring them a ride to Paris. The next day, after Suzanne and Mike are released, they see a picture of the children alongside a bicycle rider in the newspaper and track down the newsreel reporter, but the children are already gone. After visiting dozens of police stations in Paris, Suzanne and Mike return to his apartment, where they find the children fast asleep. When Mike receives a call to return to work that day, he announces that he is taking a long weekend off. Both parents agree that their children will remain with them from now on.
Pierre Balmain Paris
George Van Parys
Georges Van Parys
The Happy Road
In the film, Kelly plays an American businessman who has placed his son (Bobby Clark) in a Swiss boarding school. The son runs away from school in order to prove to his father that he can take care of himself. He's joined by a fellow student (Brigitte Fossey), whose mother (Barbara Laage) then teams up with Kelly to find the kids. The kids' adventures as they make way for Paris and their parents' attempts to track them down comprise the bulk of the story. Michael Redgrave appears as a Colonel Blimp-like NATO commander who is asked to help find the kids using his resources. Kelly's businessman is an interesting against-type inverse of his An American in Paris (1951) painter. Here he doesn't like the French and is impatient with their inefficiencies, tiny vehicles, and shortage of rental cars.
The Happy Road is a modest production (undoubtedly one of the reasons Kelly chose it to direct and produce) and though uneven, it's often warm and charming with some fine comic episodes. At its best, it reveals Kelly relying on his own unique strengths as a film artist. As historian Jeanine Basinger has written, "A lovely scene at a carnival is practically a ballet of comedy and movement, using choreography as a device for telling the story, obviously reflecting Kelly's dance background." Maurice Chevalier sings the title tune (with lyrics by Kelly and Chevalier) but does not appear in the film.
Since MGM played The Happy Road as a second feature on double bills, the movie didn't make much of a dent in moviegoers' consciousness. But it showcased Kelly's skills as a director, and proved he was particularly gifted at directing children. The Happy Road also won a Golden Globe award for "Best Film Promoting International Understanding."
During production of The Happy Road, Kelly and Betsy Blair ended their marriage. Within a few months, Kelly was acting in the fine musical Les Girls (1957), his last MGM film. His contract now ended, Gene Kelly was a freelance artist.
Producer: Noel Howard, Gene Kelly
Director: Gene Kelly
Screenplay: Arthur Julian, Harry Kurnitz, Joe Morhaim
Cinematography: Robert Juillard
Film Editing: Borys Lewin
Art Direction: Alexandre Trauner
Music: Georges Van Parys
Cast: Gene Kelly (Mike Andrews), Barbara Laage (Suzanne Duval), Michael Redgrave (Gen. Medworth), Bobby Clark (Danny Andrews), Brigitte Fossey (Janine Duval), Roger Treville (Dr. Solaise).
BW-100m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
The Happy Road
As noted in press materials contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, The Happy Road was Gene Kelly's first venture as an independent producer. Kelly formed Kerry Productions, Inc., named after his daughter, to produce The Happy Road, which was the only film the company made. The Happy Road also marked the first time Kelly was the sole director of a non-musical film. As noted in a October 4, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was shot in the summer of 1956, entirely on location in France. Onscreen credits note that portions of the film were shot at the Paris-Studios-Cinema Billancourt while the press materials list additional locations in France in Novalaise, Semur-en-Auxois, Savoy, Beaune and at the Burgundy Canal.
Released in United States Spring March 1956
Released in United States Spring March 1956