Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Cleveland Press June 8, 1963
"Hud" is a good movie, but not a pleasant one.
It has no hero whom you can admire, no philosophy in which you can find comfort. It reflects with brutal honesty much that is wrong with society.
Unfortunately, many viewers will remember only its unsavory hero, its thin plot, its earthy speech.
It's values are not spelled out, but neither are they so vague that a thoughtful audience will miss them.
The pivotal character, Hud (Paul Newman), is a man without values, thorough]y selfish, completely amoral.
"If you don't look out for yourself the only helping hand you'll get is when they lower the box," is the way he puts it at one point.
Hud has contempt for the law, an insatiable appetite for women (for whom he also shows contempt) and liquor.
This is the 20th Century individualist, a descendant of another individualist -- his father, played by Melvyn Douglas. Homer Bannon is a product of another age, as honest and noble as his son is rotten.
Through them the film reflects the contrast between the ethics of a pioneer who made his own way and the materialistic greed of a man who- feels the world owes him a living.
The movie states that this, in truth, is the new West as contrasted with the old.
When hoof and mouth disease strikes their cattle, it's Hud's notion that they should sell the herd before anyone discovers the truth, his father's belief that they must respect the law and their neighbors by destroying the cattle. Callously, Hud sets out to have his father declared incompetent.
As Hud, Newman is perfect. He's ornery. He's nasty. He wears a deceptive smile and the occasional decent sentiments that come from his lips sound as hollow as they were meant to be.
Douglas is a mixture of bitterness and grandeur, a man who looks back with longing while he honestly faces an empty future and battles with a son he hates.
Patricia Newman makes a switch from the role of the sophisticate she generally portrays. She is real as the slatternly housekeeper.
Hope for Future
Brandon de Wilde is Hud's nephew, a boy who respects his grandfather and his grandfather's values but is tempted to follow Hud.
His eventual rejection of Hud and his departure is the one optimistic note in the film, a suggestion that in another generation there may be a throwback to the old virtues.
Director of photography James Wong Howe reminds you how good black and white photography can be. His scenes are uncluttered. Figures stand out in bold relief against settings as bare and empty as Hud's soul.
Some may object to the earthy dialog. I always have when I felt that it was there only for its shock value. But in Hud certain words are in keeping with the characters. For them to have spoken in any other way would have been false.
In "Hud," art has reflected life's ugliness, not as something admirable -- as many sensational movies do -- but as something to be rejected.