Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Hud DVD Cover, Widescreen Collection

The motion picture Hud (1963), released by Paramount, directed by Martin Ritt, and starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, and Brandon de Wilde, was based on an early novel by Larry McMurtry, Horseman, Pass By (1961). Hud was filmed in and around Claude, a small town a few miles east of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, and its extraordinary power can be explained by the fact that it is a morality play cast in the form of a family drama about Texas cattlemen.

At the center of the drama is Lon (de Wilde), a parentless teenager who has been raised by his grandfather, Homer Bannon (Douglas), and his uncle, Hud Bannon (Newman), two male role models whose values and ethics are in collision. Alma (Neal), the housekeeper, a woman of quiet beauty and dignity, serves as a surrogate mother for Lon. The dramatic tension resides in the decision Lon will make regarding his role model and hence the set of ethical values and principles represented, on the one hand, by his grandfather Homer and on the other by Hud. The decision to cast Brandon de Wilde, the little boy who so idolized Shane in Shane (1953), as Lon underscores the dramatic tension, as Hud is largely about the passing of heroes of mythic proportions and the epigones who follow them. Indeed, Hud resonates with this particular theme of the Western film, specifically, the passing of a generation that saw itself and the land as inseparable, represented by the laconic Homer and his cattle, and the arrival of a belated, pragmatic generation, represented by the epigone Hud in his misguided desire to drill oil wells.

The film garnered Academy Awards for Patricia Neal, Melvyn Douglas, and cinematographer James Wong Howe. Paul Newman and director Martin Ritt were also nominated for awards, as were the writers of the screenplay, Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. The film was nominated for best art direction and set decoration as well.

See also LITERARY TRADITIONS: McMurtry, Larry.

Samuel J. Umland University of Nebraska at Kearney

Wiley, Mason, and Damien Bona. Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, edited by Gail Mac- Coll. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988.

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