Directed by: Martin Ritt / 1963
“Little by little the country changes because of the men we admire.” –Homer Bannon / Hud’s Father.
It’s ironic to me that the name HUD spelled backwards is a word/sound that I use to define men just like Paul Newman’s outstanding character Hud Bannon in the American masterpiece “Hud”. Guys like HUD have a head so dense with ignorance and bull that they release DUH into the air and it’s astonishing why people find it and flock to it as some sort of charm or confidence radiated from their arrogance and ignorance. Yet, people love the idea of the outsider or the tough guy, and in general all people can be pretty ignorant. I particularly don’t try to flock to such people in real life, but at time I’ve had them flock to me and walk on me. However, I do volunteer to dive into such portrayals at the movies and I can say that I was charmed by what I feel is the late Paul Newman’s greatest performance. Men like Hud lie, cheat, steal, sloth, drink, fight and womanize through a life lived for them and them only, getting away with the easy shots out, the unprincipled and unethical way. They are the block heads that won’t budge, casting the guys that are truly fighting and working for something onto the chopping block, even if it’s their own blood and block chips. Though I try to find the good in people and try to give a lot of grace, it’s still hard to deal with the Huds in real life without letting them walk all over. However, the older I get I do find benefits of doubt in the fact that people are more complex and bruised than I sometimes have given them credit for. Hud’s cattle rancher father gave up on him a long time ago, never missing an opportunity to do his own walk of disappointment on him. Even if it does feel justified and Hud seems to thick-skin-it, he still feels burned from it. I imagine that burning is from love, or lack of it from his father. But, I see his father as having a lot of love for saying what he says to his son, maybe it’s just not distributed in the right manner at times. During one such moment, Hud says, “Well, at least my dead Mama loved me.” Sometimes Huds are the way they are because of their upbringing or the fact that they just had never had anybody stick with them from the get-go, even in the tough-stuff, or in many cases they’ve never had anybody knock sense into them. In Hud’s case at the age of 34, it’s too much too late. This doesn’t make it right or excusable for guys like Hud to walk all over everyone, but it doesn’t mean that we should assume that there isn’t any good or change left in them to help mold them or push them, instead of pushing them farther away or being a push-over towards them. It’s certainly a tough balance that we all can relate with in some way or another. Most of the time a hard exterior is swapped for a past of tarnish, disappointment and hurt and this is the case with Hud Bannon. And sadly I feel that a hard exterior can even be the result of a hard interior, and sometimes people simply find acceptance and admiration in the dark side. I feel that Paul Newman shines with a wide array of added complexity branded to the insides and out of Hud, putting on a Hell’s Angel skin so full of depth, power and life that sticks beyond the last movie frame as he closes the door on his world. I gather that many film-goers have been disappointed in unanswered questions and in the bleak outcome of the screen lives and messages in “Hud”. But, I think it is played and ends to perfection and in many ways would make a great “Southwestern Moody Meditation on Man” double bill with 2007’s “No Country For Old Men”. Movies like these need to be watched and digested and need to rattle us because they ring truths in our inner and outer landscape, things we don’t really like to face sometimes. And I know for a fact that we all have known or dealt with a Hud before, some of us might even be wearing one now. Perhaps even this country has changed because of the men and actions we have come to admire and accept?