Answer Man: Where can I buy 'The Outsider'?

News-DemocratJune 25, 2013 

I always found the 1961 movie "The Outsider" with Tony Curtis and James Franciscus to be very moving. Is it available for purchase? -- F.G., of Troy

One of the saddest stories to emerge from World War II and the years that followed was that of Ira Hamilton Hayes.

A Pima Indian from Arizona, Hayes enlisted in the Marines in 1942. After fighting bravely in the Bougainville campaign, he moved on to Iwo Jima, where, on Feb. 23, he helped raise that now-legendary flag over Mount Suribachi to put an exclamation mark on the brutally fierce and bloody U.S. victory.

As recently depicted in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers," Hayes and the five other flag-raisers became national heroes thanks to Joe Rosenthal's Pulitizer-Prize winning photograph. In 1946, Hayes was instrumental in revealing the true identity of the man holding the bottom part of the flagstaff -- Cpl. Harlon Block, who was killed in action just six days after the photograph was taken.

But although he would appear with John Wayne in the 1949 "Sands of Iwo Jima," Hayes was never comfortable in the limelight. After leaving the Marines, he tried to soothe his unease with alcohol and was arrested dozens of times for public drunkenness. On Jan. 24, 1955, he was found dead of exposure and alcohol poisoning. He was just 32.

"I was sick," said Hayes, who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. "I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they're not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me."

That's the heart-wrenching tale depicted in "The Outsider," which stars Curtis as Hayes and inspired "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," recorded by Johnny Cash in 1964. VHS copies are hard to find and are expensive, but one is available at amazon.com ($25.99) and they occasionally pop up on eBay.

For a DVD copy ($10), try www.classicmoviereel.com. Note: Although not an official release, this company says the movies it offers are in the public domain, legal and good quality.

Did Elvis Presley ever record a song entitled "Old Shep" or "Ole Shep"? -- Ed French, of Belleville

If you think Elvis would have forgotten the dog that first put him on the map, you'd be barking up the wrong tree.

The date was Oct. 3, 1945, when 10-year-old Elvis entered the youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo, Miss.

It was possibly his first public performance, and he was so short, he had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone, according to the official Presley website, www.elvis.com. Then, without all the hip-shaking and sequin-studded outfits that came later, Presley treated the fair crowd and the WELO Radio listeners to his rendition of "Old Shep."

For those who haven't heard it, it's a tear-jerker written by Red Foley and Arthur Willis about a young man facing the horrendous prospect of euthanizing his longtime canine companion. (Actually, it was inspired by Foley's German shepherd named Hoover who was poisoned by a neighbor, but that's another story.)

"Old Shep he has gone where the good doggies go and no more with old Shep will I roam," ends the country classic that Foley recorded several times and was covered later by Hank Snow and a raft of others. "But if dogs have a heaven there's one thing I know: Old Shep has a wonderful home."

There probably wasn't a dry eye in the house after Presley finished his performance, which earned him a fifth-place award. But while he wasn't yet the King, he probably felt at least like a little prince as he spent his prize money -- $5 in ride tickets.

Throughout his career, Elvis went back to those early roots to include "Old Shep" on numerous recordings, many of which are available at cduniverse.com. Your best and cheapest bet might be the reissue of Presley's second album, "Elvis," for $8.19 plus shipping. It contains not only the original 12 tracks, but also six bonus songs, including "Love Me Tender," "Don't Be Cruel" and an even more famous canine sound --"Hound Dog."

But you have dozens of other choices, including "Great Country Songs," "Separate Ways" -- even "Elvis Sings for Kids." If you need help ordering, please write or call.

Today's trivia

Speaking of going to the dogs, what hit canine song once sent usually smooth, mild-mannered DJ Casey Kasem into a profanity-laced tirade?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: In about 1840, Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant, a retired trapper-turned-bootlegger, opened a tavern he named the Pig's Eye. A community soon grew up around it and locals called it Pig's Eye Landing. But after a Catholic priest established St. Paul's chapel nearby, Pig's Eye became part of the capital of St. Paul when the Minnesota Territory was formalized in 1849.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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