The Boy with Green Hair opens
The opening of the pacifist parable The Boy with Green Hair should be celebrated as the feature directorial debut of Joseph Losey. But, in truth, the film’s release, and subsequent failure, more clearly marks one of the first Hollywood casualties of the Cold War. Betsy Beaton’s original magazine story was focused on racism, but RKO chief Dore Schary and producer Adrian Scott wanted to turn the tale into a pro-peace childlike fantasy. Schary tapped Josephy Losey, who’d previously made a number of noir shorts for RKO, to direct. But in 1947, Scott was fired by RKO after he was called up before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). His replacement, stockbroker-turned-producer Stephen Ames, while not antagonistic to the film’s message, was more interested in promoting the color process, especially since he was a major stockholder in Technicolor. A young Dean Stockwell was hired to play the boy, and the film was made on the low scale of $500,000. But in 1948, when Howard Hughes took over control of RKO, the film, which he considered a perfect example of left-wing Hollywood politics, was singled out for scrutiny. Hughes not only came down hard on Losey, but also on the cast, calling up the 12-year-old Stockwell to get him to re-voice some of his dialogue. According to Norma Barzman, the wife of the film’s screenwriter, Hughes pushed Stockwell to add the line, “America has gotta have the biggest army, and the biggest navy, and the biggest air force in the world.” Stockwell refused to do it, and the film was released with little marketing muscle. Several years later, Losey himself was called up before HUAC, which cited among other things, his involvement with the film and his support of Adrian Scott. Rather than fight it, Losey moved to England to restart his career there, directing a number of classics of British cinema, like The Servant and Accident.