Celebrating 40 years, ‘The Boys on 56th Street’ is a generational masterpiece that launched a stellar cast


to Philip Mazarella

After the success of Apocalypse Now and its subsequent flop, it was the movie that revived Coppola

At the beginning of the 1980s, after the titanic, painful, deeply troubled, paranoid exploit of Apocalypse Now (1979), the life of a master like Francis Ford Coppola suffered a sudden setback. He descended to more moderate advice after flopping (even critically) the experimental and visionary “One From the Heart” resume (1982) which bankrupted Zoetrope Studios (twenty-six million dollars at the time against an estimated budget that took just over two) At the suggestion of a high school librarian, Coppola chose two novels by Susan E. Hinton: “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish” (from us “The Boys from 56th Street” and “Rusty the Wild”) that deeply touched the forgotten strings of his own existence ( such as his belonging to a street gang as a teenager). The two films were filmed close to each other and were released in 1983: “Rusty the Savage” (universally considered a better though ignored by American audiences) in October, “The Kids of 56th Street” (which reported excellent also at home in regards to with its smaller budget than the budgets that preceded it) on March 22 of that year.

Both masterpieces without ifs and buts, also had the merit of exposing and launching an entire generation of young actors on trial for the entire decade (as in the case of Tom Cruise) much later. Oklahoma, 1965. After the death of their parents, the two minors are raised by Darryl (Patrick Swayze), the eldest of the three Curtis brothers, “Pony Boy” (K. Thomas Howell) and “Sodapop” (Rob Lowe), who part-finished part of the “Grease” gang. in Tulsa, which also battles the cheeky and arrogant Dallas (Matt Dillon), the ruthless Tim (Glenn Withrow), the crunchier Johnny (Ralph Macchio) and the hotheaded “Two-Pete” (Emilio Estevez) and Steve (Tom Cruise) among its ranks. The group, made up mostly of children of proletarians or immigrants, is in marked contrast to the economically affluent “socs” (short for “social”), led by alcoholic Randy Anderson (Darren Dalton). When, during a night in a drive-in with mates, Dallas drives away after unsuccessfully trying to flirt with pretty “soc” Cherry Valance (Diane Lane), the latter and her friend Marcia (Michelle Meyrink) let Johnny and Ponyboy drive them home to the wrath of their friend Bob (Liv Jarrett). and Randy, who ambush them the next day along with three other “socs”. Ponyboy nearly drowns in a garden fountain, while a badly beaten Johnny retaliates by stabbing Bob to death. The two boys, with the consent of Dallas who arranges for the police to search for them in Texas and provide them with a gun and some money, flee to nearby Windricksville where they find shelter in an unconsecrated church. Reached by Dallas and a note from Sodapop urging them to return because Cherry is willing to testify on their behalf, the boys are initially divided over the decision to turn themselves in and then find themselves heroically chasing after some children trapped in a fire inside a church. The project costs both serious burns and Johnny’s broken back: and after the latter dies in hospital, the tension between the two gangs will escalate to the most tragic consequences.

Because adaptation commissioned Initially dissatisfied with young Kathleen Rowell, Coppola decided to completely and personally rewrite the film despite not seeing the credits as a screenwriter: and it all bent down to seeing the story as a glamorous melodrama on the loss of innocence of American youth in the years immediately following the Kennedy assassination, but also in Anthropological thinking about the need to belong to a “family” (not necessarily natural) and the need to be part of a community united by a sense of social reaffirmation (or revenge). But that’s not all: with a fairy tale and somewhat mythological dimension imbued with both historical reconstruction (brilliant sets by Dean Tavoularis) and purely cinematic representation (extraordinary “emotional” photography by Stephen H. It’s not so much the reality of the images as the psychological tension of characters and events), Coppola once again asked his own cinema (and almost certainly will again, for the rest of his subsequent output over the course of nearly two decades: with “Rusty the wild” and his expressive black-and-white cast of the last few months; with “The Cotton Club” and “Peggy Sue got married”, “Gardens of Stone”, “Tucker”, “Dracula” and ironically also with the repressed and influential “Jack” then) to return to the audience an idealized and completely outcast and past time, impossible “elsewhere” and ingrained in the spirit even by in memory, to use as a personal escape from the cage of contemporary pain. (attempt) “Stay Gold,” says one of the film’s main lines (borrowed from Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” 1923) and Stevie Wonder’s hit song “Stay Gold,” which accompanies the opening credits during which Ponyboy writes the page The first of memories of what has not happened yet.

March 22, 2023 (changed on March 22, 2023 | 09:43 AM)



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