The Outsiders 1983Written by Matteo Sedazzari
The Outsiders (1983) is a film based on the best selling novel, The Outsiders, written by S. E. Hinton who was a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma and a pupil at an Art Deco school, Will Rogers High School, in the early sixties. It was here that Hinton observed and possibly participated in the gang counter culture The Greasers.
The normal look would be greased back hair, leather or denim jacket, white tee shirts, denim jeans, more than likely Levis with Converse trainers or boots. With a love for rock ‘n’ roll and usually stemming from a working class background. Whilst their fierce enemy, The Socs, well dressed kids in classic Ivy League clothes, polo shirts, Chino trousers, original Baracuta jackets, brogue shoes with smart hair cuts, came mainly from middle class backgrounds.
Hinton, inspired by her surroundings, and feeling there were no books that were relevant to her generation, in 1965, at the age of sweet sixteen, she put pen to paper and wrote about the world she lived in. The book was published by Viking in 1967, and became an instant best seller. So by the time Hinton had turned 18, she had written the great American novel and became known as The Voice of the Youth. That was quite remarkable for a teenager. Far from being a one hit wonder, Hinton produced four best selling books, That Was Then, This Is Now (1971), Rumble Fish (1975), Tex (1979) and Taming the Star Runner (1988) all centring around the dilemmas and joys of youth, with characters occasionally overlapping into the novels, and all set in Oklahoma.
The impact of her work came to the attention of director, producer and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola, (The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now) thanks to the students of Lone Star Elementary School in Fresno, California who sent Coppola a copy of The Outsiders saying he was the only man who could make American’s classic teenage novel into a film. He accepted their request, and equally impressed by S. E. Hinton’s work he made Rumble Fish straight after The Outsiders.
The film Outsider begins with the song Stay Gold, a soulful ballad performed by Stevie Wonder, which immediately creates a poignant mood, and as the credits start to roll, you see that many of the fresh faced and new actors went on to become superstars, Ralph Macchio, (Johnny Cade) Rob Lowe, (Sodapop "Soda" Curtis) (Ponyboy Curtis,) Patrick Swayze, (Darrel "Darry" Curtis) Emilio Estevez (Keith "Two-Bit" Mathews) Tom Cruise (Steve Randle) and Matt Dillon (Dallas "Dally" Winston.) However Dillon was already a seasoned actor by 1983, and had had a starring role coincidently as Tex, based on the novel of that name by S.E Hinton.
The film centres around Ponyboy Curtis, the youngest of the Curtis brothers, who are parentless, so he is looked after by his older brother Darry, much to Ponyboy’s resentment. He and his close friend Cade are protected and also ribbed by the older members of the Greaser gang as they are the babies.
Coppola creates an idyllic setting of youthful summer days, yet there is always a sense of violence in the air as around each corner there seems hostility. This is demonstrated when Ponyboy, Cade and Dally go to an outdoor cinema to meet some ladies, and this is not without its problems for the girls they hit upon are out on the rebound due to an argument they had with their boyfriends, who happen to be Socs. The perfect excuse for a fight, which results with their world spiralling out of control and for this gang of Greasers their world will never be the same after the summer of 1965.
Without using sentiment or strong violent overtones, Coppola creates a coming of age film, that is a mixture of tension and where daylight offers hope and night time can provide disappointment.
Moreover the film is an obvious homage to the original angry teenager film, Rebel Without A Cause, with camera shots of Ralph Macchio looking remarkably similar to Sal Mineo as John 'Plato' Crawford in the James Dean classic. As with Rebel Without A Cause, The Outsiders, is all about growing up, yearning for love, belonging , learning and taking responsibility, against the backdrop of violence and being misunderstood.
© Words Matteo Sedazzari