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Movie: "Hud," 1963, on DVD 2003
Cast: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, and Billy De Wilder
Director: Martin Ritt
Based on a novel by Larry McMurtry
Paramount Movie Release
Running time: 112 minutes
Rating: strong PG for suggestive language (originally not rated)
This black and white Golden Globe winner of 1963, also won Academy supporting roles for Douglas and Oneal, as well as an Academy Award for cinematography. This film is worth a watch for lovers of westerns and dramas. The picture does lose some of its power on the small screen. With the age of inuenndo, younger viewers will quickly become bored, except for the bar room fight and the pig wrestling contest. Few small Texas cattle ranches as this setting still exist, making the western a dated one. This is, however, a powerful movie for the right audience.
Homer Barron is the patriarch of the family, which consists of his 34 year old son Hud, and his nephew and his 17 year-old grandson Lon. Alma, the earthy and compassionate housekeeper, takes care of the woman's work for the family, spending her nights in a one room shack behind the main house. The ranch has a few cow hands, and about 200 head of cattle.
Three men could be no more different than these. The elder Barron has lost a wife and son to death, but lives and believes character and honesty are the measure of a man's worth. The good-timing Hud fulfills his chores on the ranch, but prefers hard drinking, affairs with married women, and driving his pink convertible Cadillac fast and hard.
Lon, on the edge of manhood with all the expected appetites for food and women intact, admires both his grandfather and his uncle. He's a good boy, and spends his time trying to emulate and buddy up to Hud, while still pleasing his stodgy old grandfather. Lon has a foot in each man's character while developing his own.
They story begins with Lon searching for Hud from carousing in town the night before. He locates Hud at a married woman's house, just as the husband arrives home. The two quickly depart, the hustler being wrongly revealed as they drive away, Hud adding details to benefit the young boy's reputation as a ladies' man, which he is not. Hud saves his own skin, and has fun with it.
A cow has been found dead on the ranch, for no apparent reason. Homer wants to call the state vet, and pursue proper guidelines. Hud challenges his father, saying to keep the government out of thier business, and to sell off the possibly sick cattle to the north while they still can. If this animal has died from hoof and mouth disease, all the cattle on the ranch will have to be destroyed, and the family will get only fifty cents per head, and have nothing for which to ranch. Homer declares Hud "a man of no principles," and calls for the state vet's assistance. The family must wait for over a week for lab results to clear or condemn the cattle.
The good old boys in town like Hud, and despite an attempted rape of Alma one late and drunk night, he usually gets what he wants. Hud cares for no one but himself. He contacts an attorney in the town to try to get possession of the ranch from his father, who he calls an old fool for buying sick Mexican cattle. Hud sees the old man as incompetant and a hypocrit.
Eventually all the cattle, as well as two special Longhorn cattle, must be destroyed to prevent spread of the disease, which is the worst news a cattle man can get. By today's standards the driving of cattle into a crowded pit in the field to be shot seems heartless, but bland in black and white. Bullets shower for over a minute, trailing off to the last three moving cows. Homer kills the two Longhorns himself.
The audiencess attachment to the characters, and the interactions of the personalities makes this film. Men's dreams may be slaughtered like cattle. With the death of the dream, dies the man. We know Hud will never change.
The dialogue is what makes this movie great. The sexual tension and very suggestive banter makes this a movie older adults will appreciate.