The Boy with Green Hair (1948)
It's Not Easy Being Green
For those who think old movies have no relevance in today's age should watch "The Boy with Green Hair" because in many ways this movie has never been more current. Now from look you wouldn't think so because this has a look of a whimsical tale about the titular boy with green hair yet it is a movie with strong messages from brief messages about racism to bigger anti-war messages. In fact this movie is part of the reason why screen writer Ben Barzman and director Joseph Losey ended up being blacklisted and at the time had Howard Hughes, who had just brought RKO, trying to change the movie's "lefty" message.
Now "The Boy with Green Hair" starts with a young boy with a shaven head in a police station having been brought in for some reason with a children's doctor played by Robert Ryan trying to get him to open up. What follows for the first half of the movie is the young boy called Peter (Dean Stockwell) telling the Doc his life story, from being shipped from one "Uncle & Aunt" to another after his parents never returned from Europe till he eventually ended up with the kindly Gramp Fry. We get to see how Gramp makes Peter feel like he is his grandson and how he fitted in with the community from making friends at school to doing deliveries for the grocery store. It is a first half which whilst charming makes you begin to wonder where it is going and when will Peter get green hair.
Then the second half starts as the truth comes forth that Peter is in fact a war orphan and that makes him different to others and to make matters worse out of nowhere he wakes up one day with green hair which makes him even more different and a visible reminder. This is where the movies messages come forth as it tackles racism with the way Peter is treated, stared at and with people worried they may catch something because he doesn't look like them. But then we get the bigger message, that war is bad especially for children and alongside this we get a political message as Peter speaks out against war and because he is different is forced to try and conform by those who want to chop his hair off. That may not sound that great but "The Boy with Green Hair" has very deep and powerful messages which make you think about what you are witnessing and the treatment of Peter.
Now as I said "The Boy with Green Hair" is an old movie but the messages at the heart of the story are as important now as ever and whilst it is understandably an old style movie the messages come across loud and clear. That isn't criticising the movie for being old because it is exceptionally well made with the central casting of a young Dean Stockwell as Peter and Pat O'Brien as Gramp being absolutely perfect. There is such a great bond between them, a real understanding which makes their scenes touching and they are aided by equally good supporting performances especially from Barbara Hale who in her small role is spot on as the sympathetic teacher.
What this all boils down to is that "The Boy with Green Hair" may be a movie which some might overlook because of its age and whimsical look but what it has to say is as important now as it was back in 1948. And whilst an old movie it has that charm which old movies have which makes it incredibly watchable with a lot of that down to Dean Stockwell and Pat O'Brien working so well together.
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