Happy Road (United States, 1957)

Figure 1.--A scene from Happy Road made Life magazine. When the children decided that the girl's hair had to be cut, it was a very traumatic experience for her.

Happy Road was relaeased in 1957, but it has a somewhat earlier look. Two children escape from a French boarding school so that they can reunite with their parents. The boy thinks that making it to Paris will demonstrate that he can look out for himself. For film buffs, Happy Road is good fun and entertainment--a "Gee, they don't make 'em like they used to" film.


Two children escape from a French boarding school so that they can reunite with their parents. The boy, an American, thinks that making it to Paris will demonstrate that he can look out for himself. The girl, a French girl, tags along. At first he objects, but then they become friends.


The Happy Road was filmed in France between Switzerland and Paris. The vinyards of Burgandy and the little towns are quite charming. The carnival was filmed in Semur en Auxois.


Lots of clothing styles are depicted in the film.

School uniform

A traditional British school uniform is worn at the Swiss school. I'm not sure how common it was for Swiss schools to have British school uniforms. Only one boy, however is shown in the uniform. It looks like a grey blazer and school badge with matching grey short pants. All the children including the girls wore the blazer. Presumably all the boys also wore short pants and kneesocks. The uniform also included a traditional English peaked school cap. While HBC has little information on uniforms at private Swiss schools, some information is available on state schools. If Danny didn't like the uniform at his private schools--I think he would be even more upset about school clothes at the state schools.


While most of the French boys wear short pants, there are a few boys wearing smocks as well. The first French boys are seen at a family picnic. Two of the boys there wear smocks, a dark and light colored smock. I think that they were suide buttoning smocks. Both are quite short smocks rather like the Swiss school smocks. (The film was shot in the area between Switzeland and France.) Later there is a staged fight scene to distract the police. The boys in the fight wears shorts, but there is one boy in a smock. Then there is a boy in church who wears a very long, dark colored, front buttoning smock with two flap pockets.


There are not to many berets pictured in the film, but there were a few. By 1957 the beret was no longer popular with French boys. But the younger boy at the picnic wears one with his smock. The smock and beret at the picnic--makes one wonder if smocks were sometimes worn for such outings! By 1957 the answer is, "probably not". In addition, the boy who switches clothes with the American boy wears a large floppy beret.

Short pants

Most of the French boys depicted wear short pants--for the most part short shorts. Only at the boardiong school do boys wear kneesocks. The reaction of the American boy to his new French clothes is interesting; emerging from the tent at the festival, he first looks to be shrugging and thinking, perhaps, "Whatever!" Then on the boat, he he tells Jenine, "Short pants and a beret! If this ever gets out back home I'll be ruined!" And at the end of the film, he's positively accepted his new clothes! He tells his father, "Hey Mike (he calls his dad Mike), Look at my pants, just like a French boy. Now I can stay with you and go to a French school here in Paris."

One inconsistency in the film is that the American boy comments several times about wearing short pants. Yet he must have worn the short pants school uniform with kneesocks at school. Also boarding schools, especially boarding schools in the 1950s, often did not let the boys wear regular schools, even during free time. Thus he would not have had free access to his regular clothes. Note that when the girl comes along that she is wearing the school uniform. Apparently for dramatic affect it was felt that jeans were needed to highlight the change from American to French clothes.

Another interesting question is the costuming of the French boys. Quite a number of children were involved. Presumably not all were child actors. Presumably in the town scenes, they simply picked some local children. The question is how were they costumed. The clothes looked to me like clothes children actually wore rather than studio creations. HBC believes, however, that actual French children's clothes in 1957 were more diverse than suggested by the film. Shorts were still commonly worn, especially durung the summer. HBC believes, however, that it is unlikely that virtually every boy would wear shorts. Pribably what happened was that the children were chosen. They were probably told to wear their ordinary clothes, but insisted on short pants. Probably almost most of the boys had shorts and long pants and thus simply wore their shorts for the filming. Some boys may have just had longs. To participate in the film they either had to purchase or borrow a pair.


The American boy is shown leaving the school in jeans. None of the French boys are costumed in jeans.


The English boy in the school uniform is the only boy who wears kneesocks. He wears traditional grey school kneesocks. None of the French boys wear them.

Figure 2.--The American boy spontaneously decided to make a moustache with the cut hair. Gene Kelly decided to keep it in the film.


There is a picture spread in a Life magazine, a few pages, mostly about Brigitte Fossey's scene on the boat where her hair is cut. Just a word--she had starred in a 1952 French film. Well, on the set of Happy Road, she really did burst into tears as the moment of truth approached with the scissors. Gene Kelly and her mom had to reassure her before the filming could proceed. One completely spontaneous, unrehearsed bit of fun occurred when Bobby Clark, who played the boy, responded yes to Brigitte's question, whether her new cut made her look older, and picked up some of the strands of hair and made a play beard for himself. Gene Kelly liked it so much he included it in the film!

Other Countries

To see how boys' fashions were depicted in other contemporary TV shows and movies, have a look at the following.

Leave It to Beaver (U.S., 1957)

Beaver almost always was depicted in the same casual jacket and jeans that the American boy in this picture was first depicted in.

Toy Tiger (U.S., 1956)

The school uniform at an American private sdchool about the same same time is depicted in Toy Tiger.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: August 5, 2000
Last updated: December 21, 2000