Boy with Green Hair (1948): Joseph Losey’s Fable of a Misfit, Starring Child Star Dean Stockwell

“The Boy With Green Hair” is the first, eccentric feature by director Joseph Losey, who would become better known for his British dramas with playwright-scenarist Harold Pinter (“The Servant,” “Accident”), when living in exile after being blacklisted.  In this exquistely executed fairy tale, child-star Dean Stockwell plays Peter Fry, a young war orphan who is subject to ridicule when he wakes up one morning to find his hair mysteriously turned green.
Some critics considered this allegory to be pretentious, but I saw the movie at a revival house when I was an adolescent and it has continued to haunt me for decades.

One of the last movies made at RKO Radio Pictures under production chief Dore Schary, before he moved to MGM, the film was completed for theatrical release after Howard Hughes took over the studio.

The screenplay is credited to Ben Barzman and Alfred Lewis, though Losey is said to have made some alterations.  After finding a silent runaway boy whose head has been shaven, the police calls in the psychologist, Dr. Evans (Robert Ryan), and discovers that he is a war orphan. Moving in with a retired actor named Gramps (Pat O’Brien), Peter begins to attend school, trying to live the life of a normal boy, that is, until his class gets involved with trying to help war orphans in Europe and Asia.
Peter gradually realizes that, like the children on the posters, he, too, is a war orphan, a realization that makes him serious and further troubled, when he overhears talks about the world preparing for another major war. Peter awakens the next day with green hair, prompting him to run away after being taunted by the townspeople. 
Alone in the woods, he meets the orphaned children whose images had haunted him on the posters. They tell him he is a war orphan, but that with his green hair he can make a difference in the world by preaching about the dangers of war, particularly for children. 
Peter leaves determined to deliver his message, but upon his return, the townspeople ostracize and chase him. Even Gramps tries to encourage him to consider shaving his hair off so that it might grow back normally. He agrees, and goes to the town’s barber, but that night, Peter runs away. 
Later on, reunited with Gramps, Peter learns that there’s an audience for his pacifist message. Confident that his hair will grow back green, he vows to continue his mission.
Though a commercial failure at the time, “The Boy With Green Hair” went on to become a cult curio in American cinema, a fable-fantasy that recalls (and might have influenced) Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands.” The Technicolor production is impressive, and the movie’s criticism of American policies and the nuclear program were ahead of their time.
End Note
The song “Nature Boy,” written by Eden Ahbez, became popular when Nat King Cole recorded it with his velvety voice.
Cast
Peter Fry (Dean Stockwell)
Gramp Fry (Pat O’Brien)
Dr. Evans (Robert Ryan)
Miss Brand (Barbara Hale)
Mr. Piper (Charles Meredith)
Barber (David Clarke)