Peter Frye, typical American boy, is orphaned when his parents are caught in the London Blitz. He is not told of their fate, but shuttled from one selfish relative to the next, ending with "Gramp," a kindly ex-vaudevillean. Peter and Gramp, both fond of "Irish bulls," get along fine; but the morning after Peter finally learns he's an orphan, his hair spontaneously turns green! The absurd over-reactions of stupid people overturn his life as the story becomes a parable. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Unfortunately for the film's director, Joseph Losey, the eccentric, politically conservative Howard Hughes took over RKO while this film was being shot and, hating the film's pacifist message, did his best to sabotage it. Losey, however, managed to protect the integrity of his project. Screenwriter Ben Barzman, who was also later blacklisted along with Losey, would later recall that "Joe shot the picture in such a way that there wasn't much possibility for change. A few lines were stuck in here and there to soften the message, but that was about it". Barzman also remembered that 12-year-old Dean Stockwell was called into Hughes' office and Hughes told him that when the other children spoke of the horror of war, he should say, "And that's why America has gotta have the biggest army, and the biggest navy, and the biggest air force in the world!" According to Barzman, little Stockwell was so in sympathy with the film's message that he dared to respond, "No, sir!" Even after Hughes started to scream at him, the boy held his ground and refused to do it. See more »
As the film begins, young Dean Stockwell (as Peter Fry) is in a police station; obviously, the adults do not know where he belongs, or why his head is shaved bald. Robert Ryan (as Dr. Evans) gets young Stockwell to speak, after giving the hungry boy a hamburger. Stockwell tells his story: he was a war orphan, and was shuffled between relatives ("I sure lived in a lot of places"). Finally, he winds up with Pat O'Brien (as "Gramps"), a vaudeville-type actor. He and Mr. O'Brian form a relatively happy family. However, at school, Stockwell is teased, for being an orphan; specifically, he is told he resembles an "Unidentified War Orphan" depicted in a poster. That evening, O'Brien comforts Stockwell, and promises the next day will bring hope in the form of a surprise.
The surprise is, of course, that Stockwell becomes "The Boy with Green Hair". This is a very unusual film, particularly for the time period; it is both thought-provoking, and entertaining. Stockwell and O'Brien are wonderful. "Nature Boy" is a beautiful, and apt, theme song. Stockwell's meeting with the War Poster children is very well done - still, quiet, and effective. However, the themes of "peace" and "tolerance" could be better connected. And, there are some minor story difficulties; for example, the milkman couldn't possibly be responsible for the green hair, unless Stockwell is the only milk drinker in town (stipulating the townspeople, as a whole, are of average intelligence). Still, a lovely film about being different, which we all are.
******* The Boy with Green Hair (11/16/48) Joseph Losey ~ Dean Stockwell, Pat O'Brien, Robert Ryan
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