Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Produced by||Irving Ravetch
|Screenplay by||Irving Ravetch
Harriet Frank, Jr.
|Based on||Horseman, Pass By
by Larry McMurtry
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Edited by||Frank Bracht|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||112 minutes|
|Box office||$10 million|
Hud is a 1963 western film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal. The film was produced by Ritt and Newman's recently founded company Salem Productions and was their first film for Paramount Pictures. It was filmed on location on the Texas Panhandle and in Claude, Texas. The screenplay was written by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., based on Larry McMurtry's 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By. The film's title character Hud Bannon was a minor character in the original screenplay but was reworked to become the leading role. With the main role conceived as an anti-hero, the film was later as well described as an anti-western.
The film's narrative centers on the ongoing conflict between principled patriarch Homer Bannon and his unscrupulous and arrogant son Hud, which occurs during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which puts the family's cattle ranch at risk. Lonnie, Homer's grandson and Hud's nephew, is caught in the middle of the conflict and is forced to choose which character to follow as his role model.
Hud premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and became a critical and commercial success upon its wide release. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three; Patricia Neal won Best Actress, Melvyn Douglas won Best Supporting Actor and James Wong Howe the Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography. Howe's use of contrast to create a wider space and the selection of black-and-white was favored by the critics. Meanwhile in later reviews, the film received further praise.
Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) is an ambitious and self-centered man, the opposite side to his old fashion rancher father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas), a deeply principled man. Living at the Bannon Ranch is also Hud's teenage nephew, Lonnie (Brandon deWilde), who looks up to both men, but is deeply impressed by Hud.
After the sudden death of a cow on the ranch without an apparent cause, Homer sends Lonnie to town and bring Hud to the ranch to get his opinion.
Hud is annoyed by the decision of his father to call the state veterinarian to find the cause of death. Hud proposes instead to sell the animals to other ranchers before the news spread and tells his father the government agents will kill all of their cattle, depriving the Bannons of their livelihood, and Hud's years of hard labor and inheritance will be nothing. Hud also blames his father for not realizing that the cheap Mexican cattle were sick before he bought them. Firm to his principles, Homer ignores Hud's idea and waits for the veterinarian. Upon his arrival, the state veterinarian immediately issues a legally binding State Livestock Transfer Order. The order directs that the Bannon ranch be quarantined for a possible infection of foot-and-mouth disease. This action freezes all movement of all livestock of whatever kind, to or from the Bannon ranch while they wait for the diagnosis.
Lonnie and Hud are both attracted to the Bannons' middle-aged housekeeper, Alma (Patricia Neal). Hud is crude and insulting to her, while Lonnie is protective. Although there is a mutual attraction with Hud, Alma keeps her distance due to her past relations with other men with the same behavior.
After the results of the tests revealed the cattle as positive for the disease, the veterinarian orders the entire herd be killed and buried on the ranch under state supervision, to quarantine the infection there and to keep it from spreading. Although mindful of the bankruptcy risk for the Bannon ranch, Homer complies. Hud, infuriated by his eroded inheritance, attempts to have Homer declared legally incompetent, so that he can take the control of the ranch.
One night, Hud takes Lonnie out for a night on the town. They get drunk and triumph in a barroom brawl. Afterwards, back on the ranch, Hud begins to reflect on the past, when he and Lonnie's father used to do the same thing. He reveals his feelings toward his brother, Norman's untimely death, and his father's coldness towards him. As they come into the ranch house, Homer confronts Hud. He accuses his son of trying to corrupt Lonnie. Most angering of all to Homer is that fact that he clearly sees the cunning, ulterior motive of Hud in his show of personal attention and feigned affection toward Lonnie, in that Hud is trying to use this attraction to gain Lonnie's support in his moves against Homer. An argument between father and son starts; Hud who accuses Homer of hypocrisy, and nursing a hatred for him over Norman's death. Homer reveals that his disappointment towards him started before the accident, telling Hud that he cares about no one but himself, and remarking that he is "not fit to live with." Hurt and angry, Hud tells his father "my mama loved me but she died" as he walks away. Lonnie tells Homer that he was too harsh on Hud and that other people act like him, Homer tells Lonnie that one day he is going to have to decide for himself what is right and wrong.
After learning from Lonnie that Hud is trying to take control of the ranch Homer confronts Hud and tells him that he will lose. Homer admits that he was too hard on Hud growing up and that he made mistakes but Hud says that his father had a "shape up or ship out" policy. Homer asks how a man like Hud can be his son as he storms off to his room. Hud goes outside and in a drunken rage forces himself upon Alma, and Lonnie comes to her aid. She promptly flees the ranch, disgusted and demoralized at Hud's brutishness. After Lonnie drops her off at the bus station, Hud happens by as she is waiting. He apologizes for his drunken assault, but not for his attraction to her. Driving back to the ranch, Lonnie spots his grandfather at the roadside. Homer has fallen from his horse during a survey of the Bannon ranch. Hud pulls up behind Lonnie, and both try to help Homer, but he does not survive.
Lonnie is repelled by his uncle's treatment of Homer and Alma. After Homer's funeral, Lonnie leaves the ranch, not sure if he will ever return. He tells Hud to put his half of their inheritance in the bank, then walks off. Hud tells Lonnie that he has come to see him as Homer saw him and dismisses him then goes back into the Bannon house alone; the final fade-out shows the window shade's pull-ring, swaying.
- Paul Newman as Hud Bannon, the arrogant and self-centered son of rancher Homer Bannon. To prepare for the role, Newman worked for ten days on a ranch in Texas, sleeping in a bunkhouse. To speak with a Texan accent, he was coached by Bob Hinkle, who previously coached James Dean for his role as Jett Rink in Giant.
- Melvyn Douglas as Homer Bannon, Hud's father, Lonnie's grandfather and owner of the Bannon ranch. Paramount was initially doubtful about casting him due to his heart condition. Douglas was cast after Ritt insisted that he was the right person to play the role.
- Brandon De Wilde as Lonnie Bannon, Hud's teenage nephew who idolizes him as a role model. De Wilde, a former child actor, was best known at the time for his award-winning role in Shane.
- Patricia Neal as Alma Brown, the Bannon's housekeeper. Martin Ritt decided to cast Neal after he saw her appearance on the television series The Untouchables chapter "The Maggie Storm Story". Ritt, who previously met her on the Actors Studio, was impressed by her performance and wanted her to portray Alma. She signed for the role for a fee of US$30,000. Although Neal was billed third within the cast and had a twenty-five-minute appearance in the film, the production made a major impact on her career.
After working together in other projects, director Martin Ritt and Paul Newman co-founded Salem Productions. The newly created company made a deal for three movies with Paramount Studios. For the first film, Salem hired scriptwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., who had worked with Ritt and Newman on The Long Hot Summer. Ravetch found a copy of Larry McMurtry's novel Horseman, Pass By on an airport shop during a stop in Dallas, Texas. He was convinced to present the project to Ritt and Newman after reading the description of the main character, Hud Bannon. The two partners met Ravetch at his home, and approved the project. Ravetch and Frank adapted the script.
While the novel focuses on his nephew Donnie Bannon, the writers expanded the character of Hud and turned him into the leading role. Ritt asked that Hud be depicted as an anti-hero character who did not regret his actions at the end of the film. He was shifted from being Homer's son-in-law to his son, while they eliminated the character of Homer's wife. Newman and Ritt initially named the project Wild Desire, then The Winners, Hud Bannon Against the World, Hud Bannon, and then finally, they settled for Hud. The Ravetch-Frank team accompanied the director and leading actor through pre-production, casting and film publicity design.
Ritt also requested that the character of the housekeeper—originally a black woman called Halmea—be renamed Alma and played by a white actress, since he thought that a relationship between Hud and a black woman would not work. Reflecting on a romantic possibility between a black maid and Hud, Ravetch and Frank felt that "neither American film nor American society was quite ready for that back then". While in the novel Halmea is raped by Hud, the writers decided to add in the film Lonnie's intervention, that stops Hud. Irving and Ravetch indicated that it "highlights" Lonnie's significance in the story, while keeping Hud "human" and not "totally and simplistically evil". To accentuate the violence, the roughness of Hud was complemented by the scene being shot in shadows. Film critic Pauline Kael described Neal's performance as "perhaps the first female equivalent of the white-negro".
Cinematographer James Wong Howe decided to shot the film in black and white to "elevate its dramatic propensities". Filmed in Panavision, Howe used high contrast in the film, with unbalanced light and dark tones. He highlighted the white ground and clear skies, while he filmed the shadows black. The dark tones where "overpowered" by the light ones, creating a sense of "infinite space". For the faces, Howe used the light reflected from the ground, as well as for structures. The contrast between the environment, and the silhouetted objects against the background, gave a sense of depth. Ritt's biographer Carlton Jackson opined that in Hud "the scenery becomes a part of the thematic development itself". Texas Monthly opined: "Howes austere rendition of Texas landscapes [...] remains one of the film's most distinctive pleasures".
The production was shot over four weeks in and around the Texas Panhandle town and of Claude, Texas as a setting. Filming began on May 21, 1962, and the rest of the scenes were finished by the second week of June. The outdoor scenes were film at the Goodnight Ranch, while the interior scenes were filmed at the Paramount sound stages in Hollywood, California, starting in the first week of July. The film was completed on August 1, 1962. The scene that depicted a pig scramble was written by Hinkle, and used to replace a softball game from Ravetch and Frank's script, while Hinkle also portrayed the announcer. During the filming of the cattle slaughter scene, the Humane Society was present controlling the treatment of the animals. The herd was sprayed with a product to make it look unhealthy, while bungee cords were tied to their legs.  The camera angles were arranged by Ritt and Howe to avoid showing the death of the cattle. When a man was shown shooting, the camera would switch to the cattle, while the crew would shake the cords to create an effect that imitated the herd being shot. During the location shooting, Newman and De Wilde changed often hotel rooms due to the gathering of female fans that followed them.
Elmer Berstein composed the original score of the film with sparse arrangements. On the theme song , Bernstein "insinuated" natural sounds with "poignant strings on the guitar". Variety felt that the theme was a "vital and noteworthy" contribution, and qualified it as "sombre, plaintive and foreboding".
The budget of the film was US$2.35 million. The Paramount executives were unhappy with the results by Ritt and Newman. They felt the film was too dark, and were not pleased by Hud's lack of remorse or change of behavior by the end of the film. The executives further complained about the black and white cinematography. Martin Rackin, asked Ritt to change the ending of the film, but Ritt and Newman decided to keep the original. After previews of the film were projected, Paramount Pictures considered dropping the project, since they felt it was not "commercial enough". Ritt flew to New York City and convinced in person the executives to release the film unmodified.
The posters advertising the film depicted Newman dressed with blue jeans, in a "suggestive, full-length pose" with the words "Paul Newman Is Hud... The Man with the Barbed- Wire Soul".
Release and reception
Hud was acclaimed during its premiere at the 24th Venice International Film Festival. Upon its wide release on May 29, 1963, the movie grossed $10 million at the domestic box office, earning $5 million in theatrical rentals. It was the 19th highest grossing film of the year. Life called the film an "arresting—almost great—movie", and praised Paul Newman's acting, describing it as "faultless." Outlook wrote that the four main cast members acted "splendidly." The review said that Newman "speaks at times with an unpleasant nasal twang, but is clearly suited to the part." It described Melvyn Douglas' performance as "impeccable"; Brandon de Wilde's as "[successful] in looking earnest unsure of himself"; and praised the expressiveness of Patricia Neal. Time called the performances "splendid", and said that Howe's photography "brings the Texas panhandle to dusty, sweaty life." The New York Times gave a favorable review, said Ritt's direction had "[a] powerfully realistic style" and described Ravetch and Frank Jr's work as "[an] excellent screenplay." The newspaper called Newman's acting "tremendous", Douglas' "magnificent", de Wilde's "eloquent of clean, modern youth" and Patricia Neal's "brilliant." The review also praised the "excellent" camera work by James Wong Howe and the "poignant" score by Elmer Bernstein. Variety published a negative review calling the film "a near miss" and saying that the screenplay fails to "filter its meaning and theme lucidly through its characters and story", although the publication called the acting by the four leading actors "excellent."
Although the role of Hud was planned to be an anti-hero, audiences interpreted the character as a hero. Ritt and Newman intended to show the corruption of modern capitalism and the pitfalls of admiring an individual blindly without observing his character. Life's review said the character was "likable, smart, and [had] the potential to measure up to his tough, honorable father." Saturday Review called him a "charming, raffish monster". Outlook said, "Hud Bannon is a mean, unscrupulous man who never has even a momentary twinge of conscience or change of heart." Regarding the end scene, the publication stated that Hud "[p]ulls down the shade on the world of goodness and decency." The film has been originally described by critic Pauline Kael as an "anti-western." Kael felt that Hud was an "Anti-american film", that was "so astutely made and yet such a mess that it (was) redeemed by its fundamental dishonesty."
Paul Newman stated, "We thought [the] last thing people would do was accept Hud as a heroic character ... His amorality just went over [the audience's] head; all they saw was this western, heroic individual." Martin Ritt later attributed the wrong interpretation of the character to the counterculture of the 1960s that "changed the values" in the young audiences that ultimately perceived Hud as a hero.
Later evaluation in film guides
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide rated the film with four stars out of four. Maltin called the story "excellent" and the performances "impeccable". Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV rated the film with four stars out of four. Scheuer called it "A must for movie-drama fans", while he felt that the cast was "superb". In Film and Video Guide, Leslie Halliwell rated Hud with four stars out of four and called it "unique". Allmovie rated the film with five stars out of five. The review described Hud as "a warning shot for the Sixties", assuring that its "generational conflict would prove prescient". Meanwhile, it praised Howe's cinematography, declaring that it gave the film "an authentic Western feel".
Awards and nominations
Hud was nominated for seven Academy Awards at the 36th Annual Academy Awards in 1963. The film won three, including Best Actress (Neal), Best Supporting Actor (Douglas) and Best Cinematography (Wong). Meanwhile, Neal won the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress. The film was nominated for five Golden Globes and earned four Laurel Awards (Top Drama, Top Male Dramatic Performance, Top Female Dramatic Performance and Top Male Supporting Performance). Additionally, it earned a Best Written American Drama at the Writers Guild of America Awards.
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