Peter Fry is a runaway who was found with his head shaved and no parents before he goes to live with a retired actor named Gramps. It isn’t until he begins helping his class raise money for war orphans that he realizes that he too is one of them. When he wakes up the next morning, his hair is green. And that’s where the story really begins.
Suddenly, when Peter is in the woods, the orphaned children he’s only seen on posters appear to him and explain how he can make a difference, telling the world how much damage war does to children.
The townsfolk just can’t deal with Peter’s hair. They beg Gramps to cut it. A gang of boys chased him down and try to take it. So finally, a barber shaves his head and he runs away from home. Gramps finds him and tells him that there are adults who will accept what he has to say. His hair will grow in and his message will continue.
Joseph Losey, the film’s director, had to battle the politically conservative Howard Hughes — who had taken over RKO — to keep his vision. Both he and writer Ben Barzman would be blacklisted afterward. Hughes even brought 12-year-old star Dean Stockwell into his office and asked that when the orphans spoke of the horrors of war, he was to respond, “And that’s why America has gotta have the biggest army, and the biggest navy, and the biggest air force in the world!” Despite Hughes screaming at him, Stockwell refused.
Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn became lifelong friends after making this movie together, which led to Stockwell later introducing his buddy to David Lynch, who cast him in Twin Peaks.
I feel that Peter suffers from the Satanic sin of lack of perspective for some time. “You must never lose sight of who and what you are, and what a threat you can be, by your very existence. We are making history right now, every day.” By the end of the film, he remembers the final part: “Do not be swayed by herd constraints—know that you are working on another level entirely from the rest of the world.”