Ever heard of this movie? I hadn’t either, but it showed up on Turner Classic Movies a while back. It was a Saturday afternoon, I think, and my husband, Sean, and I watched it because it starred Dean Stockwell as a little boy. If you don’t know who Dean Stockwell is and you’re of a certain age, maybe you recall the TV series “Quantum Leap.” Mr. Stockwell played Sam Beckett’s pal, Al, who often showed up to explain what was going on or to save Sam’s bacon! Anyway, he was the cutest kid so we were intrigued.
I don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to see the movie. It’s not a great film, kind of a heavy handed morality tale. But the message is a good one. The title character, whose name is Peter, is a war orphan. That’s World War II. The movie came out in 1948.
The thing is, Peter doesn’t know for a long time that he is a war orphan. It’s a long story (feature movie length long) so I’ll just get to the climax of this parable, which is worth discussing.
Peter learns that there is a good reason that his hair turns a bright emerald green over night. It’s so he will stand out and then, once people are looking at him, he can tell them that war orphans want to see an end to wars. Wars are dangerous for the children of the world. Peter is told this sad fact by a group of multi-national war orphans who appear to him after he’s run away from home, upset by his new outrageous hair color and the negative response he’s getting from almost everyone.
But once Peter understands the reason why he has green hair, he is determined to take on this mission of proclaiming to the world that wars must end, for the sake of the children. He actually learns to appreciate his unique hair color and will no longer let the derision and isolation he experiences deter him from his mission. He learns that the very thing that causes people to insult and ostracize him can be an effective vehicle to get the community’s attention. Then the message that everyone needs to hear will be heard. Now young Peter is able to carry on with courage and even pride in this task he’s been given.
It’s a lovely little movie for children, I think. To stand up for what you believe in, to bravely meet head on the taunts and the unreasonable anger your mere presence can evoke, is easier to do when you know the mission you’ve been given matters. To bravely meet the crowd of naysayers because you know that there are life altering, even life saving, consequences in the news that’s been handed on to you is a wonderful lesson for children to learn.
I don’t suppose I can really recommend the movie because it’s not the best writing or storyline, though the acting is pretty good with some first rate actors of that time. But I did want to share the basic plot and the lesson to be gleaned from the story. It reminds me of another lone figure, with just a few friends, who would not let the mocking, jeering crowd deter Him from obedience to deliver the Message given to Him. And that should be a real example for us still, for that’s a Mission that we share to this day.
One thing I can recommend is listening to the theme song from the film that is well-known and became a jazz standard. It’s entitled ‘Nature Boy’ and I’ve included a link so you can listen to the Nat King Cole version of it. You may recall this song if you saw the musical film “Moulin Rouge.” There are elements in this song that might also remind us of that same Young Man with the Mission…