The title character, a cattleman in contemporary Texas, is the quintessence of Newman's amoral, opportunistic loners: he's arrogant, seething with ambition, incapable of much warmth or affection
He quarrels, drinks heavily, takes women with crude assurance ("The only question I ever ask any woman is 'What time is your husband coming home?' "), and doesn't give a damn about anyone except himself
Newman brings his familiar characteristics to perfection: the cynical, cold in manner; the nasty, contemptuous voice; the sly, insinuating smile
He's a model of casual defiance and detachment, as he drinks a pint of bourbon or stands insolently, hands on hips, hat down low over his forehead, or roars through the dusty town in his convertible Cadillac, making business deals or picking up loose women...
Hud resembles Ben Quick, which isn't surprising, since director Martin Ritt and writers Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. also did "The Long, Hot Summer." Like Quick, he is considerably sexy and charming, which attracts women and drinking buddies
He's the best example of Newman's idea of the glamorous, captivating, virile, but essentially rotten men we mistakenly admire; according to Newman, the film is meant to expose his underlying corruption
The drama revolves around the discovery of Hud's amorality by Lon (Brandon de Wilde), his seventeen-year-o1d nephew
Lon admires his uncle, but is ultimately torn between Hud's hedonism and the high moral principles of Hud's father, aging Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas).
When Homer's cattle become diseased, Hud wants to sell them quickly, but Homer refuses to spread an epidemic, and has them destroyed
Hud really becomes despicable as he tries to have his father certified incompetent, so that he can take over the ranch
Like Chance Wayne ("Sweet Bird of Youth"), he's afraid of ending up in poverty: "You don't look out for yourself, the only helping hand you'll ever get is when they lower the box."
Whereas Quick turned out to be a good guy after all, and Fast Eddie and Chance matured through pain and punishment, Hud is untouched and unregenerate to the very end
Refusing to accept his guilt, he says he's only as corrupt as everyone else; before he goes into the house, he angrily yells, "The world's so full of crap a man's going to get into it sooner or later, whether he's careful or not. "
Many people considered Hud a hero
But this is natural, since the film is actually filled with compromises
For instance, Homer, the representative of goodness, is self-righteous, inflexible, full of solemn, pious platitudes, and generally unappealing, while Hud is vital, life-affirming and humorous
Furthermore, Homer's contempt for Hud, which he justifies by Hud's having never given a damn, seems unfair
Apparently he soured on Hud when the latter was in his teens, and thus the boy was denied love when he most needed it
This again brings up the father-son alienation theme, and it makes us sympathetic toward Hud
Even in his relations with others, Hud is not entirely despicable
He displays some tenderness toward Lon, especially in the scene in which they get drunk together
There's a touching moment as Hud says, somewhat sadly, "Get all the good you can out of seventeen, because it sure wears out in one hell of a hurry." In his cynical conversations with Alma, he has Quick's insolent sexual confidence, but Alma is experienced, earthy and just as cynical, and she even seems to encourage his sly innuendos, making it a match of equals rather than a one-sided sexual pursuit
Finally, how does an actor play a man whose overpowering charm attracts people, without attracting the audience as well? Of course this is a problem inherent in all of Newman's sexy villains, but at least with Quick and Eddie the charming traits prepare us for their reformations, while with Hud they work against the concept of his worthlessness
At this stage in his career, Newman was so appealing that it was hard to consider him as completely rotten
"Hud" was nominated for seven Oscars
Awards went to Neal, Douglas and cinematographer James Wong Howe
Newman, up for his third Oscar, said, "I'd like to see Sidney Poitier get it. I'd be proud to win it for a role I really had to reach for." He got his wish: Poitier ("Lilies of the Field") won
In any case, "Hud" found Newman near the top of his form, and it was a culmination of the "seed of corruption" theme
To be sure, subsequent characters would be corrupt, and would coldly reject the world, but never as a result of such intense ambition