Joseph Losey’s feature debut, The Boy With Green Hair aroused attention because it was such a peculiar little socially-conscious fable, emerging as it did during Dore Schary’s brief, adventurous span as head of RKO, and in a period when postwar Hollywood was releasing more or less heavy-handed message pictures on racial and ethnic prejudice.
The opening scene gives a shock reveal: a bald little boy in a police station. This is Peter (Dean Stockwell), an ordinary American lad whose parents were killed in London during WWII, during which the film is set. In flashback, he tells a friendly doctor (Robert Ryan) about how he got shuffled among various relatives until he came to live with “Gramps” (Pat O’Brien), a singing waiter who’s actually no relation to him. Apparently social services were very informal back then, especially in movies. Gramps may not have any legit claim, but he showers the kid with Irish-accented blarney and even gets a fantasy musical sequence with co-star Walter Catlett.