Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1948. RKO Radio Pictures. Screenplay by Ben Barzman, Alfred Lewis Levitt, based on the story by Betsy Beaton. Cinematography by George Barnes. Produced by Stephen Ames. Music by Leigh Harline. Production Design by Ralph Berger, Albert S. D’Agostino. Costume Design by Adele Balkan. Film Editing by Frank Doyle.
Orphaned after his parents die in London during the war, Dean Stockwell is sent to live with a succession of relatives until settling with Pat O’Brien, whom he calls “gramps” and with whom he has a wonderful life. The old man works as a singing waiter and must leave the child alone late at night, but when they’re together it’s a home full of love and adventure, while outside of it Stockwell fits in well with his fellow students and works hard at his job as a delivery boy after school. One morning he wakes up and finds that his hair has turned a bright green; he does not know why and can’t seem to fix it, and before long he becomes a pariah in a community that he sees him as a threat to safety and as a brazen example of someone not willing to fit in. The allegory would be plain enough at this point, but the script goes that one step further and includes a supernatural vision involving war orphans, by which point director Joseph Losey, here making his first feature film, has really marched deep into Captain Obvious territory. Thankfully, it’s a family movie and its talking down to its audience won’t feel as insulting to the young, who could benefit from the message and might be amused by the story overall. Stockwell is remarkably sure in the lead role, exuding dramatic intensity within the capricious plot as well as responsibly passing on the social messaging to the camera, doing it all without the slightest evidence of strain.