Sunday, July 26, 2015


SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

Well ladies, Paul Newman is attractive and ugly in this 1963 Martin Ritt (Norma Rae) directed film. He is sexually appealing, but he is pure id, - selfish with a capital S.  The locale is Texas. We immediately understand the kind of man Hud (Newman) is in the opening scene. His nephew (Brandon de Wilde) is tracking him down in town because Hud's father (Melvyn Douglas, in an Oscar best supporting actor role) wants him back on the cattle ranch to discuss dealing with the sick animals. The trail Hud has left leads de Wilde to a bar which his rowdy uncle busted up the night before, and then to Hud's pink Cadillac convertible (obviously a car that does not fit in with the surroundings, much like Hud himself). The car is parked outside a married woman's house, where Hud has spent the night.  Apparently married women are his sexual objects of prey, since there is no chance of commitment with them. When the husband arrives, Hud blames his nephew and says he will take care of things. He drives his car fast and recklessly. These scenes show us Newman's character's egocentric personality in short order. 

Hud's rebelliousness against rules involving sex, drinking, and the treatment of others is attractive to his nephew. Douglas scorns his son, especially after Hud wants to sell off the herd before it becomes known that they are suffering from hoof and mouth disease.  Douglas has two long-horned steer that he raised, and which are becoming extinct, much like Douglas' code of ethical behavior. When we see Hud's bedroom, he has steer horns over his bed, emphasizing that his type of person is responsible for the death of an old morality. We see Hud give his car keys to his nephew to drive to town after Douglas gives him a nasty stare. We later learn that de Wilde's dad died in a car accident when Hud was drinking and driving.  Douglas does not want to shelter his nephew.  He tells him he deserves to go out with women and sow his oats.  But, Hud is still dispersing those wild seeds into his thirties, and doesn't care where he plants them.

Patricia Neal (another Oscar winner for this film) plays the housekeeper, who has had a negative past with a man. But, she too, is attracted to Hud's sexuality, flirting with him, but backing off when he is too forward, fearing a repeat of past experiences. The way Neal and de Wilde devour food symbolically shows the effect Hud has on their appetites.  On the other hand, the housekeeper's nurturing ways make an impression on the nephew, who sees her as a good person, and leads him to respect women in a way his uncle does not. When in a drunken rage Hud tries to rape Neal, it is de Wilde who comes to the rescue. Although it is Newman who withdraws from beating his nephew, pulling back on his own drives.   

Ritt depicts Hud on the outside of circles of people, emphasizing his anti-social ways. He is the winner in the pig catching contest (it takes one to know one), stealing one animal off of a fellow contestant. He wants to shoot the buzzards that are close to the cattle that are to be examined for disease. Douglas tells him that the birds are necessary in the life cycle, but Hud has only contempt for that circle of life.  Hud wants to forget about raising animals, which along with the ranch, represent the life process. Instead, he wants to make money drilling holes for oil, grave robbing the earth for profit. Hud’s plan is a blasphemy to his father. When they have to kill the herd, including the father’s beloved two steer, and bury them, it is Douglas' way of life that also has died.  He tells Hud he always despised him because he just didn't give a damn about anything and had no control over his selfish appetites. When the father is thrown from a horse and physically dies, it is after he was killed spiritually.

Neal leaves after the assault. The nephew, after seeing how Hud tried to declare his father incompetent before his death, and witnessing the assault on Neal, also leaves. When all you care about is yourself, you are left alone.

Next week’s film is To Kill a Mockingbird.

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