Longtime actor Dean Stockwell died last week. He was 85, but I remember him best at age 12 on-screen in the 1948 flick “The Boy with Green Hair.” With racial tension poisoning the air today, this movie ought to be part of every grade school curriculum.

True colors

The tale the movie tells is about the public reaction when a boy’s hair suddenly turns green. His classmates make fun of him. Adults treat him as an outcast. The tale is a plea for tolerating differences.

Racism was clearly on America’s mind in the late ‘40s. In 1949, Broadway premiered the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.” The show, which became a movie in 1958, is probably better known for songs like “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out-A My Hair.” But it was beside the point.

The theme of bigotry was made plain in the musical number - “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.” No one is born a racist, the song says. You become one after you’re taught to be one. This line in the song sums it up: “You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made And people whose skin is a different shade…”

In question

The year before “The Boy With Green Hair,” Stockwell played in a movie about religious intolerance - “Gentlemen’s Agreement.” In one scene, after being bullied by boys who believed he was Jewish, he asks his father why Jews are hated. His father pointedly said he couldn’t explain why.

Yet anti-Semitism is so underlying that it seeped into the art world where Degas famously showed his bias.

He was so narrow-minded that when the Chicago Tribune reviewed a show of his work at the Art Institute in 1996, it noted how he threw a model out of his studio screaming that she was Jewish.

Degas wasn’t the only anti-Semitic painter. Julie Manet, the daughter of Edouard’s younger brother and Berthe Morisot, was a diarist who routinely recorded Renoir’s anti-Jewish remarks.

One entry in January 1898 quotes the painter saying, “The Jews come to France to earn money, but if there is any fighting to be done they hide behind a tree.”

Renoir proceeded to contradict himself at another point by saying, “There are a lot of them in the army because the Jew likes to walk about wearing a uniform.” Julie also quoted Renoir fuming, “The peculiarity of the Je is to cause disintegration.”

There have been many movies about racism and anti-Semitism, but except for “The Boy with Green Hair,” they’re mostly adult fare.

Yet, when ABCNews reported Stockwell’s passing, you had to wait until the end of the report to find mention of this movie.

Not that Stockwell’s long list of film credits is not worthy of mention. Of course, they are. He won two Best Actor Awards for his role in the movie version of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at the Cannes Film Festival. He also was a Golden Globe Award nominee for Best Actor in the ’60 film ”Sons and Lovers.”

But surely AP film writer Jake Coyle or someone at ABCNews might have mentioned the relevance of a movie made 73 years ago, and how particularly material it is today.