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It's more common now, but 1963's Hud kind of broke the rules with its irredeemable lead character, Hud Bannon. For the most part, fiction is transformative. We're looking at characters' lives during a crisis moment where they will "arc", learn something, suffer a change, etc. Hud's world changes (by emptying, mostly), but he doesn't, not a jot. He's a jerk at the start, and he stays a jerk. We know him better, so maybe he's even worse. Hud has a lot in common with Martin Ritt and Paul Newman's later production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but that one has a transformation in store for the lead. The crisis in this case is the potential loss of a ranch's cattle to disease and how it could destroy the fortunes of three men, all that is left of a ranching family. The youngest (Brandon De Wilde) is caught between his grandfather (Melvyn Douglas), a proud and ethical rancher, and his uncle Hud (Newman), who is ready to break all the rules to ensure his inheritance. There's a line that resonates strongly: "Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire." That's De Wilde's dilemma, and one gets the feeling it is also America's as a whole. It's interesting that by 1963 standards, the movie seems to exalt conservative values and condemn Hud as a liberal libertine, but today, Hud's greed and corruption would be better recognized as one of the worst strands of modern conservatism. Whatever it's saying, the best reason to watch Hud is Patricia Neal's turn as the family's earthy housekeeper, a wonderful performance that has you sit up every time she's on screen. She's captivating in whatever role she must play with each of the Bannons.
Very high quality family drama set on a ranch near small town Texas - the screenplay, cinematography, direction and performances from the four central characters are all first rate. The only negative is the sheer bleakness of the story - it doesn't end well for anybody, and there's no lightness to relieve the gloom apart from the pleasure of watching a story well told.
Great stuff. The terrific script and Newman's charisma make a much more complex central character than in most Hollywood films, even "prestige" flicks--the movie does a great job of seesawing you between liking Hud and despising him.
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In 9 official lists
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This movie ranks #30 in IMDb's Western Top 50
This movie ranks #37 in ASC's 100 Milestone Films in Cinematography of the 20th Century
This movie ranks #62 in Academy Award - Best Cinematography
This movie ranks #244 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #392 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #393 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #423 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #436 in Doubling the Canon
This movie ranks #792 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry