When producer Dore Schary hired Joseph Losey to direct The Boy with Green Hair, Losey was almost forty years old and had already enjoyed a long and varied career in theater and radio. In addition to writing book and theater reviews for various New York City newspapers and magazines, he spent the 1930s and 1940s as a stage manager and director, attended film classes in Moscow taught by Sergei Eisenstein, helped create the theater style “The Living Newspaper” for the New York stage, supervised dozens of documentary short subjects for the Rockefeller Foundation, and, immediately preceding his contract with Schary, directed Charles Laughton on stage in Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo. The Boy with Green Hair, of a piece with this body of politically and socially aware work, is both a parable about war and its effects on children worldwide and a plea for tolerance of the foreign or strange. Peter (Dean Stockwell), a war orphan who is moved from one foster home to another until he settles in with Gramps (played with affecting understatement by veteran Pat O’Brien), wakes up one day with green hair. Despite his best efforts to embrace the transformation, he is persecuted by the townspeople until he agrees to have his head shaved clean. When the town gathers around to see Peter’s offending hair cut away, the sadness and humiliation of the moment are palpable, anchoring this otherwise light allegorical film to the harsh realities of life.
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 209.