By Warren Phillips


[The following is an article from Collier's Magazine, 1949.]

In The Boy With Green Hair, Hollywood Has Turned Out A Really Stirring Antiwar Picture. The Star Is 12-year-old Dean Stockwell, And He's Great!

For reasons probably best known to our psychiatrist, we've never quite been able to look a child actor squarely in the eye. There he is on the screen, trying hard to get through to Grumpy Old Us, and there we sit concentrating on some spot on the brat's forehead, wondering if when he grows up he'll have more wives than Mickey Rooney. Boy actors have a way of acting too manly; and Junior Bernhardts with dyed permanents are always being sued by their parents for non-support. Often we get an urge to spank them on their little fat egotisms.

This doesn't go with young Dean Stockwell, though. After watching his haunting, competent job as The Boy With Green Hair, a touching realistico-fantasy about a one-boy crusade for world peace, we dub the lad: Hamlet, Jr. We believe he's twelve, as he says.

Possibly it's the Stockwell home influence. Dean was born in North Hollywood on March 5, 1936, of theatre folks, and practically brought up backstage. However, Mama Betty Veronica Stockwell, a former George White's Scandals gal, has raised Dean and his older brother Guy from a small-town viewpoint. She wants them to be just two other kids in the neighbourhood. When traces of hambone appear in her young genius, she showers him with psychological vegetables.

When he was seven, Dean debuted on the stage in a Theatre Guild flop. After some radio, Dean wound up in Hollywood in Anchors Aweigh, making only the infant bobby-soxers squeal.

But from there on it's been a breeze. Possibly you caught Dean in Gentleman's Agreement, among others. Dean's now about four ten, weighs 70, has brown hair and eyes, and a serious, sensitive face.

Despite a tendency toward moving into the upper brackets, the Stockwell’s cling to a five-room bungalow in Culver City, hard by the M-G-M studios.

M-G-M owns Dean's contract. Dean attends the M-G-M studio school. He's a 90 student.

We are also informed, reliably, that inside the home Dean is like any other boy. He hangs his clothes on the floor; has drawerfulls of boyhood treasures, pieces of string, hunks of metal, marbles, and yoyos that whistle.

Three movies a week satisfy Dean, so long as they're Westerns and whodunits. When he isn't wrestling with brother Guy, playing ball, or being left half on the neighbourhood Tigers, Dean will engage you in fact-crammed gab on such topics as sports, movies and politics. Like many others, he thought it would be Dewey.

Though he'd like to make a career of flying, he's more likely to put it this way: "Gee, Mr. Phillips, I've given it a lot of thought, but I don't know if I want to be an actor all my life. I know one thing for sure. I want to go to college and play football."

Now that he's twelve, Dean has discovered Girls. From time to time there is a sound of revelry by night issuing from the modest Stockwell living room. Dean's pretty serious about his polka. Later he'll speak casually of the tall fat girl, the small fat girl, and of Joyce. Joyce is a blue-eyed blonde who lives near by. We hope we're violating no confidences when we add she's about Dean's age, and has what he points out as a "very pleasing personality."

Dean likes to play the drums (to the neighbourhood’s unhappiness), and there are two Stockwell dogs: Thug, a cocker, and Thief, a dachsie.

Such being his talents and home life, it was a dead-beat cinch for Dean to be tapped as The Boy With Green Hair.

Here's how the story goes: The police in a small town pick up a sullen, mute runaway boy with a completely shaved head. The lad refuses to identify himself until a police psychiatrist wins his confidence. Then he reluctantly tells his story.

The boy's parents had gone to England years before and he'd been shuttled from relative to relative. Finally he had come to live with Gramps, an old circus performer, now and a singing waiter. Pat O'Brien, the Irish Gable, plays Gramps.

With Gramps, the boy begins to feel the first security he has known in his pushed-around life. He becomes an un-scared, normal kid.

One day, however, he overhears some women talking about a new war. This upsets him very much.

Later, during a clothing drive his school is putting on for war orphans, the boy accidentally learns that he, too, is a war orphan. His parents were killed in a London blitz.

The next morning he wakes up to find that his hair has turned a brilliant green. At first he thinks it is one of Gramps' sleight-of-hand tricks and he's pleased. But soon he finds that Gramps is disturbed, too, as is the town doctor, who can't explain the phenomenon. The townies begin to stare; and the other kids won't play with him.

His security vanishes - and he runs away. Stumbling into oblivion, he unexpectedly comes on a clearing in the woods, and there stands a pathetic group of battered war orphans - miraculously come to life just as they appeared on the posters used in the school drive. One of them explains why Peter's hair had turned green: "We did it, Peter, so it would attract attention. Go back, and when anyone asks you about your hair, say that war is bad for children and it must stop."

Peter goes back -- and what happens then makes up into as moving and unusual a preachment as we've ever seen. Not once does it get preachy, however. The scriptists have concealed their message in everyday terms. They've also included some useful tips on how to raise children. On his first night with Gramps, young Peter reveals he's afraid to sleep in the dark. "Lad," says O'Brien, "there's nothing in the dark that wasn't there when the light was on." Pete believes him -- but sleeps with a baseball bat alongside the bed, nevertheless, for insurance.

Playing the out-of-date mush-hearted ham, Pat O'Brien gives the performance of his life. But it is to young Stockwell that the picture goes. After their first scene together, in which Stockwell did what was asked of him in an effortless way, O'Brien cried tragically: "I'm sunk. The kid's murder -- he'll steal every scene."

The only false note is the green wig worn by Dean. The Boy With Green Hair should be flashed on every screen in the world -- including the Iron Curtain!