Boy With Green Hair, The (1948)

“Green is the color of spring… It means hope, a promise of new life to come.”

Boy Green Hair Poster

Synopsis:
A young war orphan (Dean Stockwell) living with a kind older man (Pat O’Brien) wakes up one morning to discover that his hair has turned green. Though ostracized by his friends and neighbors, he remains convinced that his hair serves a larger purpose.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary and many other critics (see links below) find this fable-like fantasy by Joseph Losey “too simplistic and moralistic”, but I’ll admit to a special fondness for it. Dean Stockwell is sympathetic in the lead role as a young boy struggling to adjust to the loss of his parents; he’s a remarkably natural child actor, and his performance is never cloying. His initial interactions with “Gramp” (sweetly played by O’Brien) are heartwarming; I love the moment when Peter (Stockwell) intentionally breaks a vase, and, after a brief pause, O’Brien responds, “I know what you mean”.

Because Peter’s hair doesn’t turn green until about halfway through the film, by this point we’ve grown to care about him, and understand the depth of his frustration and loneliness. Though ostensibly serving a larger purpose, Peter’s green hair ultimately signals his own coming-of-age: he must learn to trust his instincts and do what he feels is right rather than give in to the pressures of society. Thankfully, nothing is easily resolved by the end of the film; what’s important is that Peter has gotten to tell his story the way he sees it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dean Stockwell as Peter
    Peter
  • Pat O’Brien as “Gramp”
    O'Brien
  • A creative story about post-war trauma
    Orphans

Must See?
Yes. All film fanatics should be curious to see this most unusual little film.

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One Response to “Boy With Green Hair, The (1948)”

  1. A no-brainer must-see.

    [copied from my post today in facebook’s The ’40s-’50s in Film:]

    As his career as a director progressed, Joseph Losey’s film projects became more and more eccentric, overall. (‘Boom!’, anyone?) But his first full-length film could not be more straightforward…or more tender and charming. It stars a very young Dean Stockwell (but this is not his debut; he had already appeared in 12 films before this – and he is still working), who is given terrific support by Pat O’Brien (as the wonderful ‘Gramps’), Robert Ryan and Barbara Hale. It’s a film with an anti-war message – but, more than that, it is a film about being ‘different’, and being thought less of for being different (which is not only one of the causes of war but the root of prejudice). At about 80 minutes, it’s a rather compact film – it delivers its message economically (even, at one point, directly – as Stockwell faces the camera and the audience straight-on) and with a great deal of sensitivity. In short, a classic.
    ——————

    NOTE: Although there is no gay reference (per se) in this film, there is one reference to a ‘lack of masculinity’: At one point, Dwayne Hickman (as a bully) screams at Stockwell: “You thought, just because I wear glasses, I was a sissy!”

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