A warm but not stickily sentimental piece of nostalgia, The Happy Years creates a bygone era that never really was and makes it a pretty spiffy place to spend 90 minutes or so. Some modern viewers will definitely find it a bit too manufactured, and it's hard to dispute that claim; but many others will forgive it this flaw for the rosy glow it evokes in them. It's also hard to argue with the criticism that the screenplay rambles and that events don't always add up to the intended impact. Again, however, many viewers will be more than happy to overlook these shortcomings. Fortunately, Happyhas a number of definite, tangible assets, including a winning lead performance by young Dean Stockwell, a child actor whose instincts were among the best of his time and who brings a great deal of charisma to the part of the tough kid that has to be reformed. Darryl Hickman and Scotty Beckett are also definite pluses among the child actors, and Leo G. Carroll is appropriately crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. William Wellman's muscular direction also helps to keep the sentimentality in check, as well as to keep the pace moving along briskly.