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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hud (1963)

A rancher (Melvyn Douglas) finds out his cattle is infected with hoof and mouth disease which would mean devastation to his life's work. His unprincipled son (Paul Newman) is all in favor of selling the diseased stock before the word gets out but he insists on doing the right thing. Based on the novel HORSEMAN PASS BY by Larry McMurtry (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) and adapted for the screen by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. The screenplay makes some changes to the book. It shifts the focus away from the rancher's grandson (Brandon De Wilde) to the immoral younger son played by Newman. The rancher's wife is eliminated altogether and the black housekeeper is now Caucasian (Patricia Neal). As directed by Martin Ritt, this is a fine modern day western. Newman (in one of his best performances) is such an attractive screen presence that his cold hearted bastard was looked upon many as "cool" in spite of his being morally reprehensible. But the film belongs to Douglas in the best performance of his career. Who would have thought the lightweight actor of 1930s comedies would turn into such a great character actor. Neal brings a lifetime of living to her slovenly housekeeper, her expressive face and voice hinting at a lifetime of disappointment. James Wong Howe's stunning B&W cinematography is a thing of beauty. With Whit Bissell, Val Avery and Yvette Vickers.

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