The Boy with Green Hair

Discussion of programming on TCM.

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

Post Reply
User avatar
Moraldo Rubini
Posts: 1107
Joined: April 19th, 2007, 11:37 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

The Boy with Green Hair

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

When I was a kid this movie played on television a lot -- and always on channels we didn't have. I was intrigued. Today I finally saw it and it was one surprise after another.

"Nature Boy" has always been a favorite song of mine. The haunting melody line was perfectly interpreted by Nat King Cole in 1948. It made for a promising opening for Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge and was the highlight for this mostly otherwise disappointing movie. I had no idea it was from The Boy with Green Hair.

I hadn't realized that it was made by Josef Losey, who I knew better from his movie version of Mozart's Don Giovanni back in the 1980's, or his earlier movies The Servant and The Go Between. Dean Stockwell is the boy; but I was surprised to find Pat O'Brien as an ex-vaudevillian song and dance man. This was one of his more charming roles. Nice! Robert Ryan is the child psychologist who gets the boy to tell his story. Della Street...er, Barbara Hale made for a beautiful and gracious teacher.

SPOILERS --

But the biggest surprise was the tone and theme of the movie. I wasn't expecting it to be such a serious anti-war parable. I suppose it has Dore Schary all over it; his penchant for message pictures being well known. But it seemed a mighty brave act for Losey to discuss war orphans and the consequences of war in such a confrontational way. He slaps us across the face by having Stockwell abruptly turn toward the screen, look deep into the camera [and at us] with "The world doesn't have to be blown up! Everyone doesn't have to be killed!" Themes dealing with issues of assimilation were fascinating for someone in the "gay community" that also deals with similar issues. Whether to try to be like everyone else, or to attempt to educate his community. He closes the movie saying, "When my hair grows back, it's going to grow back green.", implying no matter the outcome, he'll remember the cause; to remind people of the horrors of war.
User avatar
mrsl
Posts: 4220
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 5:20 pm
Location: Chicago SW suburbs

Post by mrsl »

Moraldo:

Your post confuses me. You talk about surprise and disappointment in the film, but you don't really say why you have either emotion. I know it's not because of the song, which you did cover in the first half of your post, although the song has nothing at all to do with the plot.

In your assessment of the performances of Ryan, O'Brien, Hale, and Stockwell, you were basically non-descriptive. Ryan seemed to me to be quite understanding and sympathetic to the child while trying to pull the story out of him, and Barbara Hale played several roles before Della, and this one was extraordinarily attuned to the boy, being one of the few townspeople who did not ostracize him. O'Brien has often played a kindly grandfather or father type whether or not vaudevillian, so your 'Nice!' was curious to me. Finally, I thought Dean, as young as he was, did a fine job of carrying the entire movie on his young back. He was a master of facial expression, and always a lovable little guy. Unfortunately this type of part fell to him as it did in Gentleman's Agreement, which he had done just the year before, so there is little basis for comparison with someone else since he was facing the same type of brainless superstition.

But remember this was only 3 years after the war ended. There were war orphans all over Europe and Japan, some not only because of bombs, but because the heroic American G.I.'s were so attractive to the female residents of the re-claimed countries, then left when shipped out with no thought of responsibility to girls left behind. Granted the girls had to carry responsibility also, but it should not have been 100%.

The trick of talking directly into the camera was not new, but seemed to carry a little more effect when done by a child about a very serious matter. As I said originally, your post just confused me a bit so I gave my opinion to which you may or may not agree.

Anne
Anne


***********************************************************************
* * * * * * * * What is past is prologue. * * * * * * * *

]***********************************************************************
User avatar
Moraldo Rubini
Posts: 1107
Joined: April 19th, 2007, 11:37 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: The Boy with Green Hair

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

Moraldo Rubini wrote:["Nature Boy"] made for a promising opening for Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge and was the highlight for this mostly otherwise disappointing movie.
Sorry Anne, I didn't make myself clear. That's what I get for writing at midnight. There was no disappointment in The Boy with Green Hair. The otherwise disappointing movie referred to [above] was Moulin Rouge. I was saying that the use of "Nature Boy" in Baz Luhrman's movie was its highlight.

I was far from disapointed in Boy, which I found fascinating.
benwhowell
Posts: 568
Joined: April 16th, 2007, 3:14 pm
Location: Las Vegas
Contact:

Color me green...

Post by benwhowell »

Thank you, Marco, for such an inspired post. I was also cerebrally impacted by this unique and thoughtful gem.
I'm seldom disappointed in a Dore Schary "picture."
I'm also a fan of Joseph Losey. He began his career in the theatre-writing reviews and later directing. This led to his movie career-first doing documentaries and industrial shorts and even a marionete film for an exhibit at the '39 New York World's Fair. "The Boy With Green Hair" was his first feature length film.
His theatrical background is evident and put to great use in this film-especially with the fantastic "sets" and the actor's handling of various "props." I thought the scene with Peter meeting the "poster children" was very effective.
I also loved the whole child's point-of-view felt throughout. (Very Dr. Suess-ish.) It reminded me of "The Wizard Of Oz." You really must tap into your inner-child to totally appreciate this sentimental story.
The "pacifistic" theme was surprising...coupled with the "prejudice" "witch hunt" theme. (Ironically, Losey was later blacklisted for refusing to testify for the HUAAC.) Pretty heavy stuff for an innocent child to deal with. Dean Stockwell did a marvelous job playing one of Losey's "heros" with the odds stacked against him.
My favorite scene was with "Della Street" as the (concerned) teacher doing a check-list of her student's hair color and asking for any questions regarding this topic. What a small yet significant triumphant gesture for Peter.
I wish she would have had more scenes.
I also loved the glorious Technicolor. Technicolor was really at it's best in the '40's/'50's.
I was also touched by "Nature Boy" and loved hearing that haunting melody throughout. I remembered the song from "Moulin Rouge" (of which, I am a fan...but that's a different topic.) I didn't realize it was from this film.
The last lines from that song really sum up the whole movie, don't they...
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is how to give love and be loved in return..."
Handsome Johnny Eck
User avatar
Moraldo Rubini
Posts: 1107
Joined: April 19th, 2007, 11:37 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: Color me green...

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

Ben wrote:His theatrical background is evident and put to great use in this film-especially with the fantastic "sets" and the actor's handling of various "props." I thought the scene with Peter meeting the "poster children" was very effective.
I also loved the whole child's point-of-view felt throughout. (Very Dr. Suess-ish.) It reminded me of "The Wizard Of Oz." You really must tap into your inner-child to totally appreciate this sentimental story.
I was a little haunted by The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T during this film. Perhaps the Technicolor, but also the fantasy element mixed with anti-war sentiment as seen through a young boy's perspective ("It's atomic!").
Ben wrote:I thought the scene with Peter meeting the "poster children" was very effective.
No kidding! It was especially chilling because the poster used iconic images of war. The photos were actual famous shots of the time. I wonder if they had any problems getting rights to use them? Especially sobering was the image from 1937 of the crying baby on the tracks of the destroyed Nanking train station that was used as anti-Japanese propaganda during the war. And then to see the orphan girl carrying the baby in her arms. Yikes.
User avatar
ken123
Posts: 1807
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 4:08 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: The Boy with Green Hair

Post by ken123 »

I find it boring. ng.
jdb1

Re: The Boy with Green Hair

Post by jdb1 »

Wow -- I'll have to watch for this the next broadcast of this one.

Know why? Because the last time I saw it on TV was over 50 years ago, and it never even occurred to me that it was a Technicolor movie. You mean you really get to see his green hair? It's a testament to the effectiveness of this movie that I didn't need to see it in color to feel the impact of Stockwell's transformation.

Actually, the scene which is most prominent in my memory is Hale asking the class "How many here have black hair? Brown hair? Blonde hair? Red hair? And how many have green hair? Any questions?" To me, that brief scene encapsulated the entire essence of the movie.
Post Reply