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Hope you all enjoy this featured article which was originally published in our April 1997 magazine. Official Fan Club member Shelagh Morse from Devon in England, shares her thoughts and gives us an insight into Patrick's film "The Outsiders".

Cast: Patrick Swayze (Darrel Curtis), C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy Curtis), Rob Lowe (Sodapop Curtis), Matt Dillon (Dallas Winston), Ralph Macchio (Johnny Cade), Emilio Estevez (Two-Bit Mathews), Tom Cruise (Steve Randle), Diane Lane (Cherry Valance), Leif Garret (Bob Sheldon), Darren Dalton (Randy Anderson), S.E.Hinton (cameo role as a nurse).

Article written by Shelagh Morse

A Warner Bros/Zoetrope Film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Music Score by Carmine Coppola
"Stay Gold" Theme, Lyric composed and Sung by Stevie Wonder
Screenplay by Kathleen Knutsen Rowell, from the Novel by S.E. Hinton
Released in 1983 (Approx. 88 mins running time)

FRANCIS COPPOLA, an established director, later of "The Godfather" trilogy fame, makes movies as a Coppola family business, here with music by Carmine, Gian Carlo as an Assistant Producer and Roman a Production Aide. "The Outsiders" is known as the original "Brat Pack" movie and all the main cast members became bigger stars. Patrick has been called the "Patriarch" of the "Brat Pack" though, already 30 and a respectable married man, he couldn't really be called a "brat". He made several other movies with his new friends (or a brother) such as "Grandview USA" and "Red Dawn" with C. Thomas Howell (the latter also with Charlie Sheen) and "Youngblood" starring Rob Lowe.

Patrick as "Slam" Webster with C. Thomas Howell and Jamie Lee Curtis as his co-stars in "Grandview USA"
(Click for larger image)

Patrick co-starred with Rob Lowe and Cynthia Gibb in the frantic ice-hockey Drama, "Youngblood"
(Click for larger image)

S.E. Hinton had a cameo role as a nurse in "The Outsiders"
(Click for larger image)

Miss Hinton, 17 when this first novel was published in 1967, also wrote "That Was Then, This is Now" and "Rumblefish", about alienated youth, which became movies. "Rumblefish" reunited Coppola, Diane Lane and Matt Dillon.

SET IN TULSA, Oklahoma in 1966, "The Outsiders" are the three Curtis boys and friends - Greasers - who grease their hair, wear jeans, a lot of black and leather, and come from poorer homes on "the wrong side of the tracks".

Darrel (Darry), the eldest, has a steady paid job roofing houses, and a "spare time" job keeping the family together and out of trouble after their parents died in a car crash. The threat of Sodapop (16) and Ponyboy (14) being put into a boys' home is always there. Darry, though, is still loyal to his extended "family", and Johnny, Two-Bit and Steve are welcome regular visitors, preferring the Curtis home to their own, where no one seems to care whether they're there or not. Two-Bit says Darry could be a Soc (short for Socials) if he didn't have friends like himself.

Sodapop, a High School drop-out, works at a gas station. Ponyboy, still in school, is a good student. Sodapop and Ponyboy are close but there is tension between Darrel, the authority figure and Ponyboy, the dreamy, sometimes thoughtless youth. Sodapop usually manages to keep the peace. Steve is Soda's best friend, Johnny is Ponyboy's. Dallas (Dally) is Johnny's hero and Two-Bit is everyone's friend.

The Socs are rich kids from better neighbourhoods who drive flashy cars. The two groups fight sometimes, and Johnny has been badly beaten up, but nothing else too serious happens until Dallas, Two-Bit, Ponyboy and Johnny provoke Socs Bob and Randy at a drive-in movie by talking to Cherry and Marcia, their girlfriends, with whom they've argued about drinking. Johnny recognises Bob as one of the guys who beat him up.

One of the Socs' girlfriends, Cherry, is played by Diane Lane (left). She recently appeared with Sylvester Stallone in "Judge Dredd"
(Click for larger image)

The groups disperse, Ponyboy and Johnny staying very late in the park, talking. When Ponyboy goes home, Darry tells him off for being late and causing him to worry. Ponyboy is resentful, they quarrel and Darry loses his temper and hits him. He apologises, but it's too late. Ponyboy bolts out of the house, finds Johnny, and they decide to run away.

Bob and three other Socs find them in the park and they are looking for trouble. There's a fight and Bob and Randy dunk Ponyboy in the fountain. To save him from drowning, Johnny pulls a knife and accidentally kills Bob.

Now in real trouble, Ponyboy and Johnny ask Dally for help. He gives them money and a gun, tells them to ride a night freight train to an abandoned church near a small town, to buy food and lay low until he comes to them.

C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy) and Ralph Macchio (Johnny)
(Click for larger image)

Johnny also buys "Gone With The Wind" as Ponyboy had said he liked it and perhaps could read it aloud to pass the time. They cut their treasured long hair, and bleach Ponyboy's as a disguise. They enjoy their days in the country, especially Johnny, discovering the "gold" of sunsets. Ponyboy quotes - "Nothing gold can stay" by Robert Frost. (He died in 1963 and is probably America's favourite modern poet.) They wish things could "stay gold" but know they can't. Johnny wants Dally to really see a beautiful sunset, as he probably never has.

Dally arrives, with a note for Ponyboy from Sodapop to say Darry's really sorry he hit him and they're all worried about them, not knowing where they are, and wishing they'd turn themselves in. They go into town to eat and Dally tells them there'll be a rumble (huge fight) tomorrow with the Socs. Cherry Valance, who feels to blame, will spy for the Greasers and bring a message on terms for the rumble. Johnny decides they must turn themsleves in and he will plead self defence. Dally eventually agrees so they start back to Tulsa, passing the abandoned church and a children's picnic. The church has caught fire and some children are still inside. The boys go to the rescue and are hailed as heroes. Johnny is very badly hurt as a flaming roof beam falls on him, and all three go to hospital where Darry and Sodapop have an emotional reunion with Ponyboy, all is forgiven and they go home. Next day, Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Johnny who asks for another "Gone With the Wind". Johnny says he doesn't want to die yet as there's so much he hasn't done. Ponyboy and Two-Bit also visit Dally, who asks Two-Bit for his knife, says he hates to miss the rumble and that the Greasers must win it for Johnny.

Randy meets Ponyboy, looking at him differently after the brave rescue. Both boys realise the rumble won't settle anything, the two sides will still be there, but at least the two had talked. Later, Cherry tells Ponyboy Randy says there will be no weapons at the rumble.

The boys are heroes, but there's still a youth court to face over Bob's killing, and Darrel is worried. He's also unhappy about Ponyboy fighting in the rumble, but he insists.

Patrick as Darrel (Darry) at the rumble
(Click for larger image)

The gangs meet in the park and Paul, a Soc who was Darrel's friend when they played football together says he'll take him. Suddenly, Dallas arrives, having chosen to leave hospital, and the rumble starts. So does the rain. The Greasers are winning, the Socs are on the run as the police arrive.

Dally speeds to hospital with Ponyboy, to tell Johnny the news but a few moments later, Johnny dies. Ponyboy goes home to tell the others Johnny has died and Dally has gone crazy. Indeed, he has and, armed with Two-Bit's knife, and a gun, he robs a grocery store. The clerk calls the police.

Dally, on the run, 'phones Darry for help. The Curtis boys run to the park to meet him, but the police get there first and, as he's armed, they shoot. As the Curtis boys reach him, Dallas dies.

Ponyboy is given Johnny's "Gone With the Wind" so he can finish it, and a note from him. Johnny knew he was dying but didn't mind so much now. He knew rescuing the children was worthwhile as they all had a future. He tells Ponyboy to "stay gold", always enjoying sunsets and beautiful things, and to try to explain things to Dally, not knowing it was already too late. Ponyboy decides to tell the whole story, hoping to help others who are unfairly judged simply by their appearance, and the movie ends as it began, with Ponyboy opening his exercise book and starting to write.

THE ROLE OF "DARREL" is not large, but it suits Patrick and he plays it very well, having already had some practice as a Greaser on stage as Danny Zuko! This was his first important part of many as a street-wise tough nut with a soft heart that can be hurt, and a strong sense of loyalty. I'm sure you'll agree if you compare Darrel with Slam Webster in "Grandview USA" , Jed Eckert in "Red Dawn", "Tiger Warsaw", Dalton in "Road House" and the sweetest soft-centred hard candy of all, Johnny Castle.

C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Matt Dillon are all excellent in their parts, but poor Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise get very little chance to show their promising futures.

In his 1990 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin calls "The Outsiders" a "highly stylized treatment" of the book which "evokes 50's melodramas (right down to overstated music score by Carmine Coppola) but never quite connects, despite some powerful moments." I'll agree it's not quite a classic, but certainly deserving of a special place in movie history.

Also in 1990, I read that "The Outsiders" was to be a TV series, again starring little-known actors, but I've never seen hide nor hair of it. Has anyone? I'm not sure it was such a good idea anyway.

NO MOVIE CAN do full justice to a book or play (except perhaps Branagh's new 4-hour "Hamlet") so, inevitably, characters are not so fully drawn, and details are omitted. However, here the bare story is faithfully followed and much of the dialogue is straight from the book. The major omission is the youth court, merely hinted at in the movie, when Randy and Cherry tell their stories, Ponyboy is cleared of blame, with no question of his being put into a boys' home. The book is a little moralistic as its narrator, Ponyboy, explains that his brothers and friends are not really a "gang", just a group of kids who have grown up together and are like family. They are all basically decent guys, though Two-Bit is not above a little shoplifting for fun. Dallas is the only wild one who's been in real trouble and has spent time in New York with a street gang.

Ponyboy and his brothers know they must stay out of trouble and, though they'll stand by Dally, none really wants to end up like him, mad at the world and with not much to live for. The brothers have each other, but after losing their parents they have a fear of losing anyone else close to them, and Ponyboy goes into shock for some time after Johnny's and Dally's deaths, finding it impossible to concentrate on his schoolwork. When Darry reminds him that Johnny and Dally were his and Sodapop's buddies too, and life has to go on after you lose someone, Ponyboy resolves to tell the Greasers' side of the story as his end of semester English theme, in the hope it will help other kids appreciate the good in the world and know that others before them have been misjudged, just by their appearance.

Darrel features more prominently in the book. He is described as a six-foot-two, broad shouldered and muscular twenty year old, "with eyes like two pieces of pale blue-green ice" with a determined set, who "would be really handsome if his eyes weren't so cold." Ponyboy wishes he didn't have to work so hard, becoming like an old man with no fun, to keep the family together. He is a young man with a young man's fears and worries and an older man's responsibility, which he takes very seriously, explaining why he is often more strict with his brothers than their father was.

Darrel, though still loyal, has almost outgrown the Greasers, and wore his brown hair short, without grease. He didn't smoke, being proud of his athletic ability and had been a good student, captain of the football team and voted Boy of the Year at High School. Though he won an athletics scholarship, there still wasn't enough money to send him to college and when their parents died, Darrel took the best paid jobs he could get, gave up thoughts of college, and kept himself too busy to have a girlfriend.

The Curtis boys do have one bad habit - chocolate cake for breakfast!

Ponyboy likes school, but Sodapop didn't so dropped-out to help Darrel pay the bills, and perhaps send Ponyboy to college in time. The tension between Ponyboy and Darrel arises when Ponyboy forgets what Darrel has given up, and that he's strict because he cares. Sodapop's sunny nature makes both forget he too has problems and he's the man in the middle who can't take sides, hurt by both, but hiding his feeling.

Happily, at the end Sodapop brings Darrel and Ponyboy to a better understanding of each other and they resolve to stop fighting and hurting him. Ponyboy also preaches the futility of fighting Socs, as there will always be Greasers and Socs (by any other name) and all have their problems.

It's a well written book for such a young author and, even for me, "an oldie", very readable. It paints a vivid picture of adolescent life, the need to belong to and be accepted by a group and the fear of being on the outside. As I had seen the movie first, the book characters came alive immediately as I saw Patrick and the others in my mind's eye.

I was surprised that my local library quickly found a copy to lend me. For those interested, "The Outsiders" is published in the UK by Collins Tracks, an imprint of Harper Collins, priced at 3.99. It has been "anglicised" a little, for example "Mom" for "Mum" and "gas" for "petrol" but it is still very much an American story. The ISBN number is 0-00-672225-3 and it is available on order from good bookshops.