HUD

(1936)
With Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, Brandon de Wilde, Whit Bissell, John Ashley
Directed by Martin Ritt
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

Tune in next week for a funny caption!     HUD is a film with more mixed messages than its makers probably intended.  On one hand, it skewers the arrogant self-indulgence of youth (represented by Paul Newman) and their thoughtless disregard for the accumulated decency and wisdom of older generations (represented by Melvyn Douglas).  Yet Newman's amoral Hud Bannon is so seductively charismatic, and Melvyn Douglas's stern and stoical father so emotionally distancing, that it is difficult to tell whose side we are supposed to be on.  Such ethical duality is one of the great strengths of HUD.  At first, we want to tag along and emulate Hud, as teenaged Brandon de Wilde does.  Hud's main concerns in life are women, beer, and fast cars, and he is seemingly immune to the usual consequences of such a lifestyle.  By the end of the film, after he attempts to rape the family housekeeper (Patricia Neal in an Oscar-winning performance) and sell off his father's diseased cattle for a quick buck, we are repulsed by him.  We are also repulsed at ourselves for letting Hud lead us by the nose for so long, which is a testament to both the magnetism and multi-layers of Newman's remarkable performance. 4½ - JL

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