This is one I have been hoping to catch. I feel sure I saw it once when it came out about 57 years ago, and I have not seen it since. It’s Hud from 1963, based on Larry McMurtry’s first novel, Horsemen, Pass By. It features Paul Newman in the title role, as one of the most worthless of the species in film, and the movie is painfully grim. It opens on a down note and descends from there. I’m catching it now, streaming on Hulu, although Amazon Prime Video is also featuring it. Details are from Wikipedia.
- Paul Newman as Hud Bannon, the arrogant, self-centered son of rancher Homer Bannon. To prepare for the role Newman worked for ten days on a Texas ranch, sleeping in a bunkhouse. For his Texas accent he was coached by Bob Hinkle, who coached James Dean for his role as Jett Rink in Giant.
- Melvyn Douglas as Homer Bannon: Hud’s father, Lonnie’s grandfather and owner of the Bannon ranch. Although Paramount was doubtful about casting him due to his heart condition, Martin Ritt insisted that he was the right actor for the role.
- Brandon deWilde as Lonnie Bannon, Hud’s teenage nephew who idolizes him. DeWilde, a former child actor, was best known at the time for his award-winning role in Shane.
- Patricia Neal as Alma Brown, the Bannons’ housekeeper. Ritt decided to cast Neal (whom he had met at the Actors Studio) when he was impressed by her performance in The Untouchables episode, “The Maggie Storm Story”. The actress signed for $30,000; although she had third billing and 22 minutes of screen time, the film had a major impact on her career.
- Whit Bissell as Mr. Burris
- Crahan Denton as Jesse
- John Ashley as Hermy
- Val Avery as Jose
- George Petrie as Joe Scanlon
- Curt Conway as Truman Peters
- Sheldon Allman as Mr. Thompson
- Pitt Herbert as Mr. Larker
- Carl Low as Mr. Kirby
- Robert Hinkle as Radio Announcer Frank
- Don Kennedy as Charlie Tucker
- Sharyn Hillyer as Myra
- Yvette Vickers as Lily Peters
Its iconic scene is one etched in cinematography for all time. Everything in the movie either leads to it or falls from it. Here’s how it goes.
Lonnie Bannon hitches a ride into town to fetch his uncle Hud Bannon. He looks for Hud’s pink Cadillac, and he follows a trail of moral destruction to find the Cadillac parked in front of a married woman’s house. Hud is leaving, putting on his boots, but the two don’t get away before the woman’s husband drives up, back from a business trip. The husband demands an answer, and Hud gallantly lays the blame on his nephew. This kind of loyalty is Hud’s brightest trait.
Hud is needed at the Bannon ranch. A heifer has died of unknown causes, and his father Homer Bannon wants to take an opinion from the son. We wonder why. If there is a cause for alarm, Hud wants to avoid the truth. The government agent will be called in to make an evaluation. Hud and Lonnie are to stand by the animal’s corpse until relieved. After Homer and the two ranch hands depart, Hud unloads the responsibility on Lonnie and heads into town to pursue some loose pussy.
We see the remaining Bannon household, including housekeeper Alma Brown.
The government agent suggests the problem might be foot and mouth disease, which would be devastating to the ranch. All clove-hoof stock would need to be killed and buried. Hud will have no part of such a suggestion. He resents government interference, and he suggests a quick sale of the stock before buyers get wind of their situation.
Homer Bannon has no use for his younger son. Lonnie’s father was the older one, and we learn later he was killed in an automobile accident while Hud was driving, drunk. While Homer and Lonnie are dining in town Hud comes in with one of his married women, but Homer will not agree to have the two join them at the table.
We see Hud getting his nephew into drunken brawls. Hud is the worst example in the world, but Lonnie is strangely fascinated. Meanwhile the ranch sits under a cloud, being forced into quarantine.
There is no hope for selling the stock now, and Hud wants to open the ranch to oil exploration. This is West Texas. Homer will have none of that. He is the ultimate sentimentalists. Nothing is worth having that is not created by human sweat.
We see life in a small Texas town. A bunch of this recalls my own childhood. Here grown men are engaged in a contest to catch a squealing pig and drag the animal to the finish line.
Drink is Hud’s first enterprise, right before women who don’t belong to him. Drunk and out of sorts one evening he breaks down Alma’s door and assaults her. Lonnie saves her, and Hud is remorseful, possibly.
The cattle have foot and mouth disease, and here comes the scene for which the movie is famous. The bulldozers start up their engines and begin to carve out a trench for the doomed livestock.
Shooters working for the government stand by as the cattle are herded in.
Then the shooting starts, and in a minute or so it’s all over. The bulldozers complete their work, and the ranch is dead.
The two ranch hands are fired. Alma packs her things and catches the bus out of town. Hud stops to say goodbye.
Hud and Lonnie drive to the ranch, Hud in the Cadillac and Lonnie in the truck. They come across Homer lying in the ranch road. His horse has thrown him. He dies as they tend him.
Lonnie attends the funeral, but he leaves before the grave service. When Hud gets to the ranch Lonnie has packed a bag and is leaving. He never looks back.
The cattle slaughter scene lives on in history of American cinema. Bill Cosby featured in a famous monologue.
I watched a film/movie called Hud, which was a great picture. No plot, no nothing to it, just a guy who’s chasing all the women in town, you know.
And the high point in the picture to me was really when they shot all the cows, because the cows had hoof and mouth. And they dug a hole, and they led the cows into it, and the guys were all dressed up in rubber suits and everything, and they have to shoot the cows [makes gunfire sounds]. And it’s very important to wear the rubber, because if the foam gets on you they have to shoot you. “This is fun shooting cows, ain’t it?” “Yeah, and it looks like you got a little foam on you.” [makes the sound of a gunshot]
So I was thinking like, uh, how do the cows feel about this whole thing? Really, you have to think about it, because cows must think about something.
And one cow talks to the other. [some deleted]
Hey! Where’re we going?
We’re going to get shot.
I said we’re going to get shot.
Because we’ve got hoof and mouth.
Hoof and mouth? What’s that?
See that foam around your mouth?
That’s hoof and mouth.
They’re gonna shoot us?
Any way I can get out of it?
Wipe that foam from around your mouth.