The classical film “The Outsiders” is a screen adaptation of the novel by S. E. Hinton which was published in 1967. The idea for the filming of "The Outsiders" began with a letter to Francis Ford Coppola from a school librarian in Fresno, California stating that the faculty and students had nominated the director to make a movie of their favorite novel. S. E. Hinton wrote the story from a real life experience when she was 16 years old.
The film was a jumping-off point for several of the teenagers cast in the film. Those who continued on in their screen careers after filming “The Outsiders” are: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane.
C. Thomas Howell - Wikimedia
The film tells the story of a typical town in Oklahoma in 1965 where two rival gangs fight for precedence. The poor kids are called “Greasers” and the rich kids are called “Socs” which is pronounced “so-shees” meaning social. At a drive-in theater one evening, Greasers Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon), Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell), and Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio) start talking to two Soc girls, Cherry (Diane Lane) and Marcia (Michelle Meyrink). Their intrusion is resented by the girls' Soc boyfriends Bob and Randy. The girls enjoyed speaking with the Greasers, but managed to avoid trouble by leaving with their rich friends. Dallas was quite obnoxious in talking with the girls but Ponyboy and Johnny were well-mannered and courteous.
Later that evening on their way home, Ponyboy and Johnny were accosted by the Socs, and Johnny was badly beaten up while Ponyboy was pushed into a huge fountain and was close to drowning until Johnny saved him by stabbing the Soc, Bob, with a knife, killing him. They ran from the scene and looked for the older, wiser Dallas who told them to hide out in an abandoned church outside of town. He gave them money and told them to buy food for five days, after which he would pick them up. He also gave Ponyboy dry clothes after his near drowning in the fountain.
Matt Dillon - Wikinedia
Ponyboy and Johnny Hide Out
We learn a little about Ponyboy and Johnny while they are hiding out in the church. Both are products of dysfunctional families. Johnny’s father beats him up, which is the only attention he receives from his father. Ponyboy’s parents have both passed away, and he lives with his two older brothers, Darrel Curtis (Patrick Swayze) and Sodapop Curtis (Rob Lowe), who sometimes beat up on Ponyboy, but mostly they look out for his welfare. Ponyboy has a sensitive side. He loves sunsets, poetry, and the novel “Gone with the Wind.” He is searching for a way out from being a Greaser, but feels that it is a lost cause. He read a poem to Johnny entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost, which says:
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
The song “Stay Gold”
In the background in this scene, and in other scenes throughout the film, the song “Stay Gold” by Stevie Wonder is heard. It is a hauntingly beautiful song which played in my head over and over the first time I heard it. The film brought back that memory which is from long ago. The YouTube version of “Stay Gold” is included here at the bottom of the review.
Ralph Macchio - Wikimedia
The Boys Become Heroes
When Dallas returned to the church to retrieve the boys, they told him they wanted to turn themselves in, pleading self-defense because Ponyboy was close to drowning. Dallas told them that Cherry promised to stand up for the boys if they had to go to court over the death of Bob. Ponyboy had bleached his hair with peroxide to disguise himself, and Johnny had cut his hair shorter for the same purpose. En route home, the three boys came upon a church in flames with parents outside screaming that their children were still in there. Dallas, Ponyboy, and Johnny risked their lives to save several dozen children trapped in the church. Johnny and Dallas were hospitalized but Ponyboy received less severe injuries. Johnny was badly burned and had a broken back. Dallas was released soon. The newspapers called them heroes, which they were indeed. Ponyboy’s brothers, Darrel and Sodapop, embraced him warmly, their true colors showing that they loved their brother dearly.
A touching scene occurred when Cherry drove up to Ponyboy to congratulate him on his act of courage in saving the children. She offered him an apology if she didn't speak to him in school, and Ponyboy understood. He is a Greaser.
Johnny had many visitors in the hospital. He told Ponyboy to show Dallas a sunset sometime, because he probably had never seen one. Ponyboy read Robert Frost’s poem to him once again, and Johnny told Ponyboy to “stay gold.”
Diane Lane - Wikimedia
No Happy Ending
The Greasers were ready for a rumble with the Socs who cannot forget that Bob died at the hand of a Greaser. The Greasers won the fight, but obtained no satisfaction from the win. There is no happy ending here, as you can imagine.
Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, and Rob Lowe had lesser roles in the film, but their fans will look for them and find them in several significant scenes.
This film, as well as the song “Stay Gold” speaks to me of the idealism of adolescence, which adults can never recapture except in memory. I loved the sweet return to that time which I experienced by viewing this beautiful film.
It is understandable that “The Outsiders” has gained huge appeal from young adults, who can relate to so much that is brought out in this film. The novel is required reading in many schools throughout the country, along with other great classics such as "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Catcher in the Rye," and "Jane Eyre."