Directed by Martin Ritt
Written by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. from a novel by Larry McMurtry
Paramount Pictures/Salem-Dover Productions
Repeat viewing/Amazon Prime Instant Video
#419 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Hud Bannon: Too late, honey, you already found him.
From the spare, stunning black-and-white photography to the pitch-perfect performances, it is hard to imagine how Hud could possibly be improved.
Orphan Lonnie Bannon (Brandon De Willde) has been raised by his grandfather Homer (Melvyn Douglas) on a cattle ranch in Texas. Housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal) does the family’s cooking and cleaning. Homer is feuding with his son Hud (Paul Newman), whom he sees as an irresponsible, amoral embarrassment. Hud continuously proves that Homer is absolutely right.
Despite all his faults, or maybe because of them, Lonnie kind of looks up to the hard-drinking Hud, who is handy at stealing wives and winning fights. Lonnie starts tagging along with his uncle to town and enjoys his first hard liquor and bar fight. But Lonnie is a dreamy, introspective teenager to whom riotous living does not come naturally. Both Lonnie and Hud lust after Alma. Hud is constantly making lewd remarks and crude propositions to Alma but she is having none of it.
Disaster, in the form of hoof-and-mouth disease hits the ranch. Hud wants his father to get rid of his cattle before the diagnosis is proved but Homer refuses. He also refuses to sell oil leases on his land. Hud starts talking about incompetency proceedings. Lonnie must decide his future for himself.
Paul Newman is so dynamic (and sexy) as the title character that it would be easy to see Hud as the (anti-) hero of this story. On this viewing, it seemed clear to me that this film is actually Lonnie’s coming-of-age story. I had also forgotten how bleak the film is. It gets even more bleak with age when we ponder the work of a lifetime – here gone in an afternoon. I like the fact that, while Hud is shown to have reasons for his rebellion, the writers make no excuses for him in the end. He just doesn’t care about other people.
I had not been so familiar with Melvyn Douglas’s work of the 1930’s when I saw this before and it was extra fun to see the leading man in his old age. He richly deserved his Academy Award. Patricia Neal is incredible. She is so strong and vulnerable at the same time and has such great chemistry with Newman. Highly recommended.
Hud won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (Douglas), and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (James Wong Howe). It was nominated in four additional categories: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay based on material from another medium; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.
Clip – Paul Newman and Patricia Neal – acting at its finest