70-plus years ago director Joseph Losey teamed with producer Dore Schary on a thoughtful antiwar drama called The Boy With Green Hair (’48). Which no one mentions today, not even in passing. But it was a touching little film about tolerance and nonconformity. Anyone who saw it as a kid was probably affected by its message about compassion, humanism, and resisting the mainstream.
11 year-old Dean Stockwell played a war orphan named Peter who lives with a kindly, gray-haired grandpa who’s adopted him (Pat O’Brien, who was only 49 when the film was shot — by today’s standards he looks like a guy in the mid 70s). One day Pete wakes up with shamrock green hair, which of course results in all kinds of hateful, fearful behavior on the part of school kids as well as their parents and everyone else.
Peter’s hair turns out to be a kind of metaphor for innocent victims of war carnage. Under considerable pressure Peter is persuaded to shave his head, but when he actually submits to the barber…well, it’s heartbreaking.
The Boy With Green Hair was a huge money loser — it cost just under a million to make, and would up $420,000 in the red. You can’t stream it. The only way to watch Losey’s film is to buy the DVD or watch the YouTube version, which looks atrocious.
Ben Barzman and Alfred Lewis Levitt‘s screenplay was based upon a same-titled 1946 short story by Betsy Beaton.
The costarring cast include Robert Ryan, Barbara Hale (Perry Mason‘s Della Street), Dwayne Hickman (Dobie Gillis) and the uncredited Dale Robertson and Russ Tamblyn.