Cast: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, Brandon de Wilde, John Ashley, Whit Bissell
Hud (Newman) is a crude self absorbed modern day cowboy whose habits have put him at odds with those closest to him.
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Paul Newman came about during the days of the rebellious youth persona that help to mold the career of James Dean, and defined a new generation. The 60ís and 70ís marked a new age in film in which the protagonist was an angry teen looking to defy the adult culture, no longer looking to conform to the norm but establish their own identity on their terms. Hud is the epitome of alienated youth and Newman is remarkable as the indifferent narcissistic cowboy.
In a small town, thereís not much to do, but Hud has developed a routine that works for him, sleep with women and drink, in no particular order. His family consists of his father, Homer (Douglas), his nephew Lonnie (Wilde) and the housekeeper Alma (Neal), all providing a stellar supporting cast, particularly Neal as a middle aged woman wise to Hudís ways. Each one has their own opinion about Hud, most are less than flattering with the exception of Lonnie, who admires Hud for his lifestyle.
The two develop an older brother little brother dynamic despite the disapproval from Homer, who views his son as a disappointment and holds him responsible for the death of his other son, Hudís brother. During one night, while driving drunk, the two get into an accident in which only Hud survives, this burden of guilt had an impact on the family, specifically on Homer and Hud. Since then, there has been a rift in their relationship.
But part of Homerís disappointment in Hud is not only rooted in that incident. It comes from a place of utter shame in how his turned out. He is ashamed of Hudís character and lack of responsibility in how he treats others. Yet Homer looks at Lonnie, and worries that he will become corrupt hanging around Hud, whose libertine persona will have an influence on the kid.
Hud works with his nephew and father on a cattle ranch, a not so thriving occupation. To help take care of the father, Alma comes making meals and doing laundry for the boys. There is a mutual attraction coming from both Lonnie and Hud towards Alma. While Lonnie is protective and kind towards Alma, Hud throws a few jabs and insulting quips, prompting Alma to not take Hud too seriously. But their awkward friendship turns sour when Hud forces himself on her. Lonnie saves Alma, only to have her leave later on.
Newman does a superb job of showing just enough vulnerability in Hud without having the audience sympathize with him too much. Look closely at the final scene of the film just before Hud closes the door as he watches Lonnie leave him, for good. We see enough to get understanding that this man is not bad for enjoyment; rather, itís the only way to escape the inner struggle he holds. Any disappointments or anger he has towards himself is expressed through his hard drinking, bar brawling ways. Itís a form of escape.
Hud speaks to a younger generation, one that was looking to break away from conformity during the 60ís, and this makes the film culturally and socially significant. It reflects a period in time that greatly influenced succeeding generations, but also contributed in establishing new types of heroes in modern films. Sometimes the hero is not so heroic, and can barely be described as an anti hero. Hud is not necessarily a bad guy, however, he represent the outcome of self alienation. Thereís not always going to be someone there to save you, no matter how badly you need it, or secretly want it.