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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|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||112 minutes|
|Box office||$5,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
Hud is a 1963 western film whose title character is an embittered and selfish modern-day cowboy. With screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., based on Larry McMurtry's 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By, it was directed by Martin Ritt and stars Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal and Brandon deWilde and features Whit Bissell.
The tale chronicles the ongoing conflict between Homer Bannon, a principled, honorable and unyielding patriarch, and his son Hud, an unscrupulous, arrogant libertine. Caught in the middle is Lonnie, Homer's grandson and Hud's nephew, who ultimately has to choose between the two. The movie was primarily filmed in and around Claude, Texas.
Hud was a critical and commercial success. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Director for Ritt. Patricia Neal won Best Actress, despite the brevity of the role which might have relegated her to Best Supporting Actress, and Melvyn Douglas won the first of his two Best Supporting Actor statuettes. James Wong Howe won the Best Black and White Cinematography Oscar.
Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) is an ambitious, brash, callous and self-centered man whose life fits him like a cheap suit. He has few interests other than enjoying himself and avoiding responsibility. His life is limited to drinking, brawling in bars, joyriding in his sporty pink Cadillac, and sleeping with women (married or otherwise). Although his elderly rancher-father Homer (Melvyn Douglas) is a deeply principled man, none of his ethics have rubbed off on Hud; he's (maybe) the spoiled youngest son and baby-brother of Homer's eldest son, Norman.
Also living at the Bannon Ranch is Hud's teenage nephew Lonnie (Brandon deWilde). Lonnie's late father was Hud's elder brother, Norman, who died in a car wreck as a result of Hud's recklessness. Hud wrongly believes that his brother's death is the primary cause of Homer's anger and resentment toward him. The age difference between Hud and (his late brother) Norman makes Hud much nearer in age to his nephew Lonnie than he would otherwise be. Throughout the early part of the film, Lonnie is continuously seeking ways to develop a post-childhood brotherly relationship with Hud, looking toward establishing as a young man the kind of personal bonds that can exist between young-adult brothers. Indeed, in the course of the screenplay's unfolding of its events, Hud does begin to open up to his nephew. but for reasons that will later be revealed, the transparent falseness of Hud’s opening up to Lonnie only confirms the despicable nature of his character. Hud, in a true act of adult cruelty (that reveals his true nature) comes to recognize Lonnie’s desire for an emotional attachment to him, and tries to use this attraction to gain Lonnie’s support in his moves against Homer.
The central challenge in the screenplay’s plot that the Bannons have to confront is the fact that Homer has probably permanently destroyed the ranch’s operational and financial viability through his own acts of carelessness. He buys some cheap Mexican cattle which, unknown to him, are infected with foot-and-mouth disease. He failed to quarantine these animals (after they were brought to the ranch), though they had been bought from sources both out of the state and out of the country entirely.
Homer only calls in Hud after some of the cattle in the herd have simply dropped dead, without obvious cause. Homer alone decided upon what course of action to take and merely wanted Hud to share standing watch over the dead carcasses in shifts until the state veterinarian arrived to formally test them. Hud, who suspects what the problem might be when Homer tells him the origin of the newly bought cattle, recommends they quickly sell them before word gets out.
But Homer, ignoring both Hud’s suggestion and the financial consequences to the ranch, does not alter his decision, and he calls in the state veterinarian (Whit Bissell). The vet immediately issues a legally binding order that the Bannon ranch be quarantined. Thus, no livestock movement to or from the ranch is possible. After the test results come back, the vet orders the entire herd be destroyed and buried on the ranch under state supervision, to quarantine the infection there and to keep it from spreading. Although this will probably bankrupt the Bannons, Homer complies, rather than risk spreading the disease or passing the problem on to unsuspecting buyers. Hud is angry that his inheritance has been eroded; he attempts to have Homer declared legally incompetent, so that he can usurp control of their ranch.
In a key scene, 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 "old times" when he and Lonnie's father used to do the same thing. He briefly lets down his guard about his feelings toward his brother, Norman's untimely death, and his father's coldness towards him. Homer confronts Hud as they come into the ranch house; 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.
A huge blowup between father and son ensues; Hud accuses Homer of hypocrisy, "quoting Scripture like he wrote it himself" and nursing a hatred for him over Norman's death. Homer reveals that his disappointment runs deeper than that and long predated the fatal wreck: "I took that hard, but I buried it!" He is then goaded by Hud into spilling out his deep, visceral disgust for him, saying that Hud cares about no one but himself and is so unethical that he's "not fit to live with." Hud says, "My mama loved me, but then she died."
Lonnie and Hud are both attracted to the Bannons' middle-aged housekeeper, Alma (Patricia Neal); yet Hud is crude and insulting to her, while Lonnie is protective. Although Hud's attraction to her is (at first) somewhat mutual, Alma keeps her distance because she has already been "around the block" with macho womanizers like Hud.
In a drunken rage, Hud 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. At the very end, Homer accuses Hud of being eager for him to die.
Although Lonnie initially idealized Hud for his charm and liveliness, he is repelled by his uncle's treatment of Homer and Alma; Lonnie now sees Hud for what he is. After Homer's funeral, Lonnie leaves the ranch, not sure if he will ever return. Lonnie tells Hud to put his half of their inheritance in the bank, then walks off. For a moment, Hud feels the emptiness of his life, which he has created by driving everyone who loved him away. But after a swig of beer and a moment's thought, he dismisses Lonnie's departure with a deprecating wave and a smile of indifference. Hud goes back into the Bannon house alone; the final fade-out shows the window shade's pull-ring, swaying to and fro.
- Paul Newman as Hud Bannon
- Melvyn Douglas as Homer Bannon
- Patricia Neal as Alma Brown
- Brandon deWilde as Lon "Lonnie" Bannon
- John Ashley as Hermy
- Whit Bissell as Burris
Production notes 
In the source novel Horseman, Pass By, the Bannons' housekeeper Alma is a black woman and her role in the story is somewhat larger; in the film, Alma is played by Patricia Neal and the part is comparatively small. Despite the small part, Neal won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal.
Awards and nominations 
|Best Director||Nominated||Martin Ritt|
|Best Actor||Nominated||Paul Newman|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Nominated||Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank, Jr.|
|Best Art Direction (Black-and-White)||Nominated||Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen, Samuel M. Comer, Robert R. Benton|
|Best Actress||Won||Patricia Neal|
|Best Supporting Actor||Won||Melvyn Douglas|
|Best Cinematography (Black-and-White)||Won||James Wong Howe|
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