RKO has turned out an absorbing, sensitive story of tolerance and child understanding in The Boy with Green Hair.
Story [by Betsy Beaton] is that of a war orphan, shifted around from one relative to another, who finally finds haven and security with a waiter in a small town. Then, one morning, he wakes to find his hair has turned green – and the world turns topsy-turvey about him. Other kids jeer at him; adults are perturbed; even the kindly milkman turns against him when accused of bringing it about through his product.
Film was made by Dore Schary for RKO before Howard Hughes gained control of the studio, and in its small way was one of the things that caused Schary to step out of the RKO setup. Pic had been completed, but Hughes ordered it to be re-edited and the tolerance theme taken out, on Hughes’ general theory that films should entertain only and eschew social significance. Studio found that pic couldn’t be re-edited, although it’s reported to be toned down somewhat.
Through this parable about the unconscious cruelty of people to what is different, and the need of tolerance, runs another theme, that of anti-war preachment. When the boy meets children from war-orphan posters in a dream scene in the woods, and returns to annoy the townsfolk with the message that war is very bad – his green hair has thus acquired a meaning, to preach pacifism – the film hits a well-intentioned but false note.