by Pail Big Bear
I returned home the other night after hosting my radio show, warm Ovaltine in hand I crawled into bed and checked to see what was on the TV at one AM; a movie I had not seen in years caught my eye, “The boy with the green hair.” This 1948 film, filmed in color, had slipped from my movie radar the story began with the police finding a young boy wandering the streets in post World War II America. The boy refuses to say who he is or where he is from so the police bring in a “sympathetic child psychiatrist” to speak with him. The boy begins to tell his story, his name is Peter (portrayed by a very young Dean Stockwell) and he lives with his “Gramps” (portrayed by Pat O’Brian) because his parents were killed trying to save children from the horrors of war in Europe after sending Peter to America.
At first Peter did not know his parents were dead but after seeing a poster of war orphans and abruptly finding the truth he awakens to find his normally brown hair has turned green. His friends tease him to the point of chasing him with scissors to cut off his green hair, the milkman is upset as people blame his milk for this oddity. The local Dr. is perplexed, the town already afraid that the world is going to be blown up and all are going to die see this as some foreboding sign, only Peter’s teacher and Gramps seem to have sympathy for his dilemma.
Frustrated Peter goes out into the woods where he meets the children from the poster who tell him they were hoping he would come, that his green hair, the color of spring representing hope marked something good like a medal. They tell him everywhere he goes people will say there goes the boy with the green hair and ask him why. He is to tell them that there must never be another war and how bad war is for the children. How does this tale play out? Look for it and watch it and you come to your decision. I believe the message of this 1948 screenplay is that wars fought by countries, governments have far reaching affects on many, too often the children, innocent unwitting casualties. Peter’s message to the world “All countries – Russia – Germany – France – Japan – the entire world must be no more wars.” His hair must bring attention to the orphans of this and other wars, Peter must carry the message that we must not forget the true casualties of war they must be remembered so no more wars are fought. The idea that a boy with green hair can cause such strong emotions of fear sounds ridiculous but please watch this movie, it certainly is no more ridiculous than fearing the damage caused by playing with a 69 year old child’s toy named Mr. Potato Head.