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Thursday, November 10, 2016

When Barbed Wire Souls Were In Fashion


Heel Hud Becomes 1963's Hero

Hud was offered up by Paramount publicity as a "Man With A Barbed Wire Soul" when this came out in May 1963, but what filmmakers didn't recognize was barbed wire souls coming into vogue as old standards of behavior and morality got 60's heave-ho. Or maybe it was casting ultra-male Paul Newman as title character and giving him sharpest dialogue. Anyway, we liked Hud Bannon, and that upset all of apple cart as loaded by writing and direction. You just don't take a dynamic young lead, surround him with a righteous old man (Melvyn Douglas) and goody-goody kid (Brandon DeWilde), then expect us to side with them. Human nature will cooperate but so far with a movie's message. Hud was meant to be a selfish bastard we'd hate, or be made uncomfortable by. Instead, he came off a hero and role model. James Cagney once complained that his Cody Jarrett of White Heat had a same kind of unintended consequence, urban youth cheering the character as he pumped bullets into occupied trunk of a car. Films might instruct minds in how to react, but never the heart. We wanted Hud to win, and never mind the right or (mostly) wrong of him.



Hud came out shortly before we "lost our innocence" (what, again?). I've never understood just when it was we were supposed to lose our innocence. The Kennedy death, Vietnam, Watergate? Depends on individual agendas, of course. Maybe it's what Hud himself said, "crooked game shows, souped-up expense accounts," etc. --- only he makes all that seem fun, which is another thing we like about him. Hud isn't serious about anything, save pleasures of the moment. Setting Hud in arid Texas rather than urban milieu implies freedom too from social responsibility. With people spread out so far, there's less call for concern over humanity as a whole. Increasingly political films wanted to worry about the mass of us. Hud worried only about himself. He was refreshing for just that. There was always risk in using attractive players to play villains, as they had way of upending narrative intent. Hud tries valiantly to isolate its bad man and hand moral authority to his victims. That it fails doesn't make the film a whit less enjoyable. In fact, it's said frustrated effort that keeps Hud interesting.


Advance Teaser
1963 posters said "Paul Newman IS Hud," an early application of actor not just as, but becoming, a character. Sean Connery would be laden with such billing, and despair of such close association, with James Bond. In Newman instance, Hud was continuation of anti-heroic mold set by The Hustler and to be repeated with further terse titles beginning with "H." He did become Hud according to co-star Patricia Neal, who was shocked by the actor's evident insensitivity to her daughter's recent death. Neal would realize later that while she addressed Newman, it was Hud that answered back (with one word, "Tough"). Method actors gave much to the art, including relationship with peers, but was rudeness rewarded with great performances? In Newman's case, I'd suppose yes (he certainly is great as Hud), and there had been others outside Method training who took on surly aspect of characters they'd play throughout a shoot, John Wayne an instance when he did The Searchers, according to a cowed Harry Carey, Jr. We could wonder, then, how Newman behaved through production of The Secret War Of Harry Frigg, but so far, I know of no one who's asked.

Paul Newman Briefly Takes On James Wong Howe's Camera Job


Hud's world is flat and parched. The Last Picture Show later went for the same look. Others that would try missed out for using color made mandatory by people having it at home on television. Hud is wrecked unless seen in scope, so was laid low by sale to television within five years after theatrical. During interim, there was a reissue, a double with Hatari!, which made for hard seating after four and a half hours (both long movies). When ABC picked up Hud for 1968 broadcast, there was still trimming for language, which took guts out of Hud in addition to half its intended frame width. I had one of the network's 16mm spots for a Sunday night premiere, where dialogue went thus: Hud --- "What made you go sour on me, old man, not that I give a chit-chit" (sound of blooped profanity), then dad Melvyn Douglas answering back, "That's just it, Hud. You don't give a chit-chit ..." What a fraud movies were on TV back then, networks buying titles, then giving viewers but skeleton of them.

9 Comments:

Blogger radiotelefonia said...

The thing I like the most about HUD is James Wong Howe camerawork. Yes, it is a black and white film but the way the gray tones are used from its very beginning is no impressive that no color is necessary in this show. Even the posters with orange tones are basically in black and white up to its reissue with HATARI! (I never understood why those two films had to be paired).

Seeing it on television, in a chained pan and scanned version (also dubbed in Spanish) as I saw it originally, it is a very unremarkable experience. This show has to be seen in a big screen to fully appreciate it.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Newman could be so good I forget he was a method actor. And he possesses something method actors usually lack: charisma. For someone selfish like Hud, charisma is essential. It allows him to get away with so much, until it doesn't.

3:33 PM  
Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

I think anyone growing up in a rural town knew someone like Hud and like Patricia Neal's character in the film - they're both wonderful in the roles.

Another film in that vein is the Kirk Douglas vehicle, "Lonely are the Brave". Some nice cinematography in that one, but it's really blown by a pretentious, talky script. It just doesn't "click" and seems intent on proving to us it's "important" and has something to day.

"Hud" makes a good pairing with "The Hustler". Jackie Gleason just about steals the show in that one.

8:12 PM  
Blogger ClassicMovieFan said...

John, you mentioned changing standards in this 1963 movie.
Our nation USED to be a nation of patriotism, morality and decency. When the movies broke the Production Code--actually in the late 50s, but broke it really wide open in the 60s.

Values began changing in the 1960s---I was there. Sex was no longer reserved for marriage, graphic violence was in vogue---and still is--in movies and now more and more in daily life.

The liberal changes to our nation's values and behavior in the last 50 years have
produced the dysfunctional society--on every level-- we have today.

I for one will not run in my home theatre for my movie group most movies made after 1956---and evaluate pre-codes too. Nowadays movie fans think the sexy pre-codes are a great thing, but in their day, they ran against "decent" society which made the Code enforcement inevitable.

I believe there is an eternal definition of right and wrong, and after our civilization falls from internal decay, we will answer to our Creator--but that's another subject.

11:02 AM  
Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

I don't want to start a political argument, but, in response to ClassicMovieFan, it's worth nothing that the two big mass media of that period - films and radio - were censored to "pass muster" with the most conservative areas of the country.

The Production Code was put into place so that studios could avoid having expensive film prints sliced and diced by local censor boards. Some, like the censor board in Tennessee was so infamous that they'd still ban and cut prints that wound up in many regional theaters.

If you look at what the public was reading and the best-sellers of the time, it tells a different story. Books were something that could be read in the privacy of your home and many bestsellers of the time were filled with the actual range of human experience - sex, rough language, and adult situations. Try comparing some of the novels and short stories that were turned into movies during the classic Hollywood years and you see that Americans were perfectly happy getting their naughty content at home, while still enjoying the sanitized pictures at the local movie theater.

And don't even get me started on those clean cut movie stars that were carrying on affairs, getting abortions, or being pumped full of uppers so they could keep up with performing on screen.

It was all a mirage. An entertaining, well crafted and marvelous mirage, but a fantasy nonetheless.


7:28 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Wow, ClassicMovieFan, that's the saddest and most disheartening post Stinky has read in a long time. I hope you are happy screening the same six movies over and over again.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Sooke said...

"Hud" makes a good pairing with "The Hustler". Jackie Gleason just about steals the show in that one."

Jackie Gleason isn't stealing anything after George C Scott shows up.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

coolcatdaddy, you said everything that I wanted to say as a rebuttal to ClassicMovieFan and their nonsense.

For more on what coolcatdaddy was saying (especially with regards to how GLBT people were portrayed on screen), check out the book (and documentary) The Celluloid Closet.

8:50 PM  
Blogger tomservo56954 said...

Maybe that's as much why HUD didn't get a Best Picture nomination as CLEOPATRA's needing one.

Paul

6:54 PM  

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