For a short time in the early ’80s, Tulsa and the surrounding areas were turned into a small bit of Hollywood, thanks to author S.E. Hinton and flicks based on her books like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish—both directed by Francis Ford Coppola—filmed there to great acclaim.
The one film that, to me, seems to be woefully forgotten, is also my favorite of them all: 1982’s Tex, surprisingly released by Walt Disney. Directed by Tim Hunter—something of a rural punk due to movies like Over the Edge and River’s Edge—this Hinton-adaptation starred Matt Dillion as high-schooler Tex, a mixed-up kid in Bixby, Oklahoma.
Living on a small farm with his hard-working brother while their irresponsible father travels the rodeo circuit, Tex is basically still a kid, prone to throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. And, for about an hour and a half, we follow him as he gets into one self-earned scrape after another, from laughable moments like setting caps in the typewriters, to far more adult territory, such as drinking and sex.
But, near the end, when a drug deal(!) goes bad, shit gets way too real—at least for a Disney flick—as a wounded Tex stumbles down a busy Tulsa street as blood pours from his gut. When I was a kid and we watched this in the library on rainy days, few movies viewed during school-hours ever made me feel more like a small-town badass.
While Dillion tends to get all the kudos for a role he’s seemingly stretched out for forty years, I think commendations should also go to Jim Metzler as older brother Mace, Ben Johnson as local rich guy Mr. Collins, and, especially, the transcendent Meg Tilly as Jamie, Tex’s would-be girlfriend.
What truly strikes me about movies like this, however, is how this—and the two other Hinton adaptations for that matter—were able to fill their films with the most realistic Okies ever captured on celluloid; director Hunter was a California kid that attended Harvard, yet is one of the very few writers and directors to truly get the trashy angst the rural youths tend to carry with them.