Review: ‘Hud’

Hud is a near miss. Where it falls short of the mark is in its failure to filter its meaning and theme lucidly through its characters and story.

Hud is a near miss. Where it falls short of the mark is in its failure to filter its meaning and theme lucidly through its characters and story.

The screenplay, adapted from a novel by Larry McMurtry, tells a tale of the modern American West, of its evolution from the land of pioneer ethics, of simple human gratifications unmotivated by greed, to the rangy real estate of shallow, mercenary creatures who have inherited the rugged individualism of the early settlers, but not their souls, their morals or their principles.

The new westerner is Hud (Paul Newman), noxious son of old Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas), pioneer Texas Panhandler who detests his offspring with a passion that persists to his bitter end, after he has just witnessed the liquidation of his entire herd of cattle (hoof and mouth disease) and the attempt of his son to have him declared incompetent to run his ranch.

It is in the relationship of father and son that the film slips. It is never clear exactly why the old man harbors such a deep-rooted, irrevocable grudge against his lad.

But the picture has a number of elements of distinction and reward. The four leading performances are excellent. Newman creates a virile, pernicious figure as that ornery title critter. The characteristics of old age are marvelously captured and employed by Douglas. Another fine performance is by Brandon de Wilde as Newman’s nephew. Patricia Neal comes through with a rich and powerful performance as the housekeeper assaulted by Newman.

1963: Best Actress (Patricia Neal), Supp. Actor (Melvyn Douglas), B&W Cinematography.

Nominations: Best Director, Actor (Paul Newman), Adapted Screenplay, B&W Art Direction

Hud

Production

Paramount/Salem/Dover. Dir Martin Ritt; Producer Martin Ritt, Irving Ravetch; Screenplay Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank Jr; Camera James Wong Howe; Editor Frank Bracht; Music Elmer Bernstein Art Dir Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen

Crew

(B&W) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1963. Running time: 113 MIN.

With

Paul Newman Melvyn Douglas Patricia Neal Brandon de Wilde Whit Bissell Crahan Denton

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  1. HUD is NOT a near miss! It is a truly great film with Paul Newman giving the greatest performance of his career. Hud is superficially charming, but essentially self-serving to the point of evility–admired by his nephew and despised by his father. Hud is a schemer, a womanizer, an alcoholic.

    Yet [ and this is where Newman is brilliant], Hud is a hard worker whose likeability wins over fellow ranch hands. Newman manages to elicit
    our sympathy when we learn that part of his father’s disdain for him is that he holds Hud responsible for the auto accident which killed Hud’s brother–likely the father’s favorite son.

    Yet Newman displays Hud’s insensitivity and
    evilness when the cattle are revealed to have foot and mouth disease and Hud proposes to his father, much to his disgust,and that they sell them off to fellow ranchers before they know the cattle are diseased. And after Hud drunkenly attacks the cook [played by Patricia Neal] and she realizes the ranch is in jeopardy, she leaves

    Melvin Douglas, an actor from Hollywood’s golden era, is flawless as Hud’s disapproving
    father, and when he dies in the film, Hud’s nephew [Brandon de Wilde] realizes Hud’s
    failings and instead of staying with Hud, leaves.

    This film establishes a moral standard that all young people should see. Beyond his outward charisma, Hud is an evil guy. His father is the
    very image of honesty and morality who sees through Hud’s deception and warns his nephew that Hud is not a good role model.

    This is a timeless, classic film with stars performing at their peak and Hollywood
    at its very best. It is a solid hit!

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