Paul Newman gives an excellent character portrayal as the irresponsible, womanising son of a hardworking Texas rancher in Hud – A powerful modern-day Western which takes a hard look at interpersonal family relationships and the deterioration of moral values.
The family patriarch is elderly widowed rancher Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas), who lives with his son Hud (Newman), his teenage grandson Lonnie (Brandon De Wilde) and his wise housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal).
Homer is a man of strong moral principles while Hud is arrogant, cynical, selfish and unscrupulous, prepared to do anything, no matter how unethical, if it will advance his own interests.
Hud has gained a reputation in the local town for being a drunken hooligan and a womaniser, most of his lovers being married women. We learn that he was responsible for the crash which killed his brother (and Lonnie’s father), Norman, but he clearly feels little grief or remorse.
Lonnie is caught in the conflict between his grandfather and his uncle Hud (particularly his success with women), but he can also see how irresponsible Hud is being.
A key scene comes when Hud tries to rape Alma and Lonnie intervenes to protect her, showing that he chooses Homer’s values rather than Hud’s.
Things come to a head when the Bannon herd contracts foot and mouth disease, Homer dies, and Lonnie takes off for a new life, leaving an unconcerned Hud, a man of straw, presiding over a ranch that has become a physical and moral wasteland.
Both Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal won Academy Awards for their work. Cinematographer James Wong Howe also won the Oscar for “Best Black and White Cinematography”.
Brandon De Wilde
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