The Boy With Green Hair

Talkie of the Week: The Boy with Green Hair

USA 1948, 82 minutes, color, RKO Radio Pictures. Director: Joseph Losey, Story: Betsy Beaton, Screenplay: Ben Barzman and Alfred Lewis Levitt. Cast: Pat O’Brien, Robert Ryan, Barbara Hale, Dean Stockwell and Richard Lyon

Plot summary: Peter Fry is being handed down from one relative to the next until he finally finds a home with ex-vaudevillian Gramp. Peter doesn’t know he’s a war orphan until his teacher Miss Brand tells him so. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter’s hair suddenly turns green…

Review: The Boy With Green Hair is a film for children and adults alike. Especially popular in post-war Great Britain, the film’s pacifist message still rings true today. Shot in technicolor to emphasize the stunning effect Peter’s changing hair color has on him and his surrounding peers, the film has not lost its touch. Blessed with a stellar cast, the war topic may sound daunting to an entertainment-thirsty audience of the 2010s, but it is worth seeing this often praised gem.

Dean Stockwell, The Thin Man‘s Nick Charles Jr. who would later find success on shows like Quantum Leap or Battlestar Galactica, gives a gripping performance as war orphan Peter Fry whose hair suddenly turns green over night. The way he struggles first with himself and then with almost everybody surrounding him is convincing and deeply touching. He is supported by an equally moving Pat O’Brien whose Gramp supports Peter with a little help from the boy’s charming teacher Miss Brand, beautifully played by RKO starlet Barbara Hale.

The Boy With Green Hair is a memorable example of an imaginative movie of the late 1940s. The topic reflects the Zeitgeist of an era that was deeply haunted in the aftermath of WWII. It has often been said that this film was ahead of its time and foreshadowed the 60s. I disagree inasmuch as this film tackles the war topic with imagination and a deep craving for tolerance and change that had already been visible in other films of the 1940s and its preceding decade(s). The Boy With Green Hair doesn’t spell out its message in a way comparable films of the 1960s or 70s do (and sometimes splendidly so), but it rather merges reality with fantasy. It shows the effects and evils of war from a child’s point of view.

The Boy With Green Hair is not a film you will watch and forget. It will touch your heart and trigger questions you may not find an easy answer to. Take the chance to watch this with your kids today and you’ll be surprised how little certain questions have changed.

Available on DVD. The Boy with Green Hair feature film

General Electric Theater

TV classics: General Electric Theater aka G.E. True Theater

USA 1953-62, 10 seasons,  approximately 300 episodes, ca. 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Presented by: Ronald Reagan. Cast selection: Ann Baxter, Charles Bronson, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Tony Curtis, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., James Dean, Joan Fontaine, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Greer Garson, Barbara Hale, Kim Hunter, Michael Landon, Joi Lansing, Charles Laughton, Piper Laurie, Myrna Loy, Walter Matthau, Suzanne Pleshette, George Sanders, James Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Natalie Wood – and many others

Plot summary: Host Ronald Reagan presents an always prestigious cast of actors in an anthology of teleplays of multiple genres, including crime, drama and westerns.

Review: G.E. Theater was a television program that presented an adaptation of novels, short stories, plays, film or general fiction on each episode, featuring working actors as well as Hollywood starlets and stars in different roles every week. The program featured live as well as filmed segments before it turned into a fully filmed show in 1957. Presenter Ronald Reagan served as host with his already familiar Hollywood face to give the show a touch of continuity.

Each episode differed from another and it’s safe to say that for everybody who enjoys watching an ever changing cast of decent actors in a different set of roles, this program is a real gem, a fabulous opportunity to discover great talents like Bette Davis, James Stewart, Myrna Loy or my personal favorite Barbara Hale in individual episodes, often supported by a beautiful stage setting and quality.

In essence, G.E. Theater is a beautiful example of 1950s television and its connection with the golden Hollywood era of the days. It also shows a genre coming into its own, little by little, step by step, with its own aesthetics and perception of storytelling.

For those of you who are not familiar with teleplays and their magic, I’m asking you to give them a chance. I’m sure you will soon find it’s worth getting used to a different viewing pattern, a different understanding of having your imagination teased and tickled. I, for the most part, am a big fan of teleplays and recorded theater, and highly recommend some of these rare episodes that you will find scattered on the internet and on a couple of DVD collections. Go get them!

Sample episode with James Dean (1954)

Sample episode Judy Garland musical special (1956)