This 'n' That

Sunday, September 17, 2006


HUD (1963) stars Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, and Brandon De Wilde. Martin Ritt directed from a screenplay by the husband and wife team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. Based on a Larry McMurtry novel, "Horseman, Pass By", the film version belongs to Paul Newman. Though Oscars went to Patricia Neal - Best Actress and Melvyn Douglas - Best Supporting Actor.

Hud Bannon, as portrayed by Mr. Newman, is an unrepentant, irascible man who any viewer of this black and white film should love to hate. But he has good reason for being the way he is as he delivers lines such as: "You don't look out for yourself, the only helping hand you'll ever get is when they lower the box." This he says to his nephew, Lonnie Bannon, as
he attempts to persuade Lonnie to go along with him to have Homer Bannon declared mentally incompetent. Melvyn Douglas, as Homer Bannon, is father to Hud and grandfather to Lonnie. He is the owner of a Texas cattle ranch on which most of his livestock is discovered to have hoof and mouth disease. As a result, he is forced to have them all destroyed. Hud is against such drastic measures, because he fears it would decrease the value in what he is destined to inherit upon the death of Homer; and he lets his father know exactly what he thinks of the idea. Homer has lost all love for Hud: "Hud, how'd a man like you come to be a son to me?" Homer's vitriolic tongue lashing of Hud comes as a result of the tragic, accidental death of Hud's younger brother - Lonnie's father. Homer has always blamed Hud. Hence, the two of them, father and son, have a long history of near hatred for each other. Lonnie half idolizes Hud and wishes to imitate his every move. But each time he gets too close, Hud coldly takes action to fend him off. If Hud can't have the uncompromising love of his father, he wants none at all.

Alma, (Patricia Neal) the Bannon's cook and housekeeper, is desired by both Hud and Lonnie. She is devoted to the Bannon's in a way that she keeps to herself. And she conceals her admiration of Hud's masculinity, though repulsive at times. Perhaps she understands the anger brought on by the anguish that Hud works so hard to keep to himself. Where seventeen year old Lonnie expresses his sexuality in a sweetly innocent manner, Hud is overtly aggressive: "The only question I ever ask any woman is" 'What time is your husband coming home?' In the end, it is Hud's attitude toward Alma that completes the dismantling of the Bannon household after the death of Homer.

To coin a cliche, they don't make 'em like this anymore. "Hud" is a near perfect film about an extremely flawed man or men. What major actor today would take the risk that Paul Newman took - to portray a character that no one gives a hoot for? And he is not too far off the attitude of some of our most esteemed leaders in the world of big business and politics today when he says: "Well, I've always thought the law was meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner. Sometimes I lean one way and sometimes I lean the other."

James Wong Howe also won an Oscar for his black and white cinematography. It is a multi-layered and complex film that requires mulitple viewings to take it all in. Even so, it is guaranteed to hold your attention each and every time.