Combustible Celluloid
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With: Pat O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Barbara Hale, Dean Stockwell, Richard Lyon, Walter Catlett, Samuel S. Hinds, Regis Toomey, Charles Meredith, David Clarke, Billy Sheffield, Johnny Calkins, Teddy Infuhr, Dwayne Hickman, Eilene Janssen
Written by: Ben Barzman, Alfred Lewis Levitt, based on a story by Ben Barzman
Directed by: Joseph Losey
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 82
Date: 11/16/1948

The Boy with Green Hair (1948)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mint Tints

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Celebrated director Joseph Losey (The Servant, The Go-Between) made his debut with this 1948 war allegory, but his star, 12 year-old Dean Stockwell, was already a veteran actor, having made at least a half-dozen pictures. A handsome boy with a sturdy face and dark, brooding eyes, Stockwell would grow into a slightly offbeat character actor in pictures like Paris, Texas, To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Velvet and The Player, earning an Oscar nomination for Married to the Mob. In The Boy with Green Hair, Stockwell plays Peter, a war orphan who suddenly wakes up with a head of green. Everyone teases him until he realizes that that he's become a symbol for war orphans everywhere. (The green represents spring and rebirth.) Had the film been made today, Peter would have been interviewed on Oprah and become an intolerable media darling. But through sheer determination, honesty and an early smattering of his famous icy control, Losey avoids sentimentality and crafts his tale into an oddly effective little film. It's certainly the most bizarre anti-war film ever made, chiefly because of the scene in which a group of ghostly poster children appear to Peter and explain his purpose in life. The great, underrated Robert Ryan (The Set-Up, Caught) also appears as a child psychologist who gets the bald Peter to tell his story in flashback.

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