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USA 1963
Directed by
Martin Ritt
112 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


A classic of the era, with Paul Newman, looking very beautiful, playing the kind of role which was his stock-in-trade – the protagonist with a chip on his shoulder – in yet another instance of a very popular theme of the time, the Oedipal conflict between father and son.

Based on a novel, "Horseman, Pass By" by Larry McMurtry, it tells the story of Hud (Newman) and his father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) a widower and head of a small ranch that is also home to Homer’s grandson Lon (Brandon de Wilde) and their housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar).

Belonging in sensibility much more to the1950s than the '60s Hud is a simmering stew of sexual frustration and generational tension. Whilst '50s films such as Rebel Without A Cause (1955) or Written On The Wind (1956) tended to treat similar themes melodramatically, Hud is restrained albeit at times overdoing the dimwit cowboy laconicism of which Newman's shuffling gait becomes a somewhat irritating symptom.  .

Ritt has the help of striking Oscar-winning photography by James Wong Howe, and acerbic dialogue in a script by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank whilst Newman gives one of his best performances in a telling portrait of an intractably bitter young man who conceals his low self-esteem behind a veneer of brutal indifference. Douglas’s Homer is less autocratic than the typical hardline patriarch of the era, such as Orson Welles’s Will Varner in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), also directed by Ritt and also starring Newman, and in general the film is less melodramatic in depicting family conflict than most of its peers. This well suits the implication of changing times referred to in the difference between Douglas’s old school cattleman with a love of the land and cynical, unprincipled Hud who wants to start drilling (i.e.penetrating) it for oil.

Hud is a beautifully economical portrait of the last days of Old Texas and in hindsight clearly a strong influence on Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971).




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