MOVIES | Paul Newman’s convincingly loathsome “Hud”

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When Hud Bannen (Paul Newman) tells his father Homer (Melvyn Douglas) they should sell their potentially disease-ridden cattle to some naïve out-of-town buyer, Homer looks at him and said, “You are an unprincipled man.” I said to myself, you got that right!

The 1963 movie Hud is one of four films the Walker Art Center is showing in Loring Park as part of Summer Music and Movies: Newman Rocks. The movie takes place in a small cattle-ranching town in Texas. The plot revolves around the strained relationship of the three Bannen men—Hud, Homer, and Hud’s impressionable teenage nephew Lon (Brandon De Wilde). Temperatures reach a boiling point when the unprincipled Hud crosses the line with the family’s sultry housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal).

hud is screening at dusk (about 8:45 p.m.) on monday, july 27 in loring park, minneapolis. preceding the screening, at 7:00 p.m., will be a musical performance by roma di luna. admission free.

The emptiness in the life of the Bannen family is palpable. The ranch and a past tragedy are the only things holding the family together. However, when the Bannens are forced to destroy the herd because of hoof-and-mouth disease, each person must examine what it is they want from life. How they choose to cope with this ordeal ultimately determines whether the family will survive.

Newman told a reporter that his portrayal of Hud was meant to make the audience feel “loathing and disgust.” If that was the goal, then he deserves a gold star because no two words better described my reaction after seeing this movie. Yet even while portraying a despicable person, Newman still has a way of charming the audience; as in when Hud remarks, “The law is meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner. Sometimes I lean to one side of it…sometimes I lean to the other.”

Newman’s realistic portrayal of an amoral narcissist who generally gets his way earned him his third Oscar nomination. Director Martin Ritt also was nominated because of his accurate depiction of a bleak, depressing town and a family filled with despair. Although neither won the coveted award, Douglas received an Oscar for best supporting actor award and Neal was named best actress.

For Newman to successfully immerse himself in a character that is completely repulsive is a testament to a great talent who will truly be missed. Love him or hate him (and I’m betting on genuine hate), Newman’s Hud will stay with the viewer for a long time.

I’m looking forward to watching Hud again in Loring Park and seeing the audience reaction. In the meantime, I’ll start searching Netflix archives for more early Newman films I’ve missed.

Deb Pleasants (deb@tcdailyplanet.net) is a full-time mother and a part-time freelance writer/citizen journalist. She enjoys writing about social and community issues; many of her articles have been featured in the Minnesota Voices series.

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