Owen Johnson's novel The Lawrenceville School Stories (compiled from short stories originally published in The Saturday Evening Post) was the basis for The Happy Years. The film is set at an early 20th-century boy's prep school; Dean Stockwell plays an habitual troublemaker sent to this school as a means of straightening him out and making a man of him. At first bullied by the older kids, the pugnacious Stockwell stands his ground until he earns his fellow students' respect. The film adheres strictly to MGM's factory-tested Boys Town formula by having Stockwell cleaning up his act and becoming a worthwhile Lawrenceville student. Watch The Happy Years carefully and you'll spot an unbilled Robert Wagner, in his film debut.