We must dissect why Hud succeeded with reviewers and audiences alike, but to differing effects. The task at hand is not merely to provide a clear analysis of the issues of adaptation, namely, the truncation of plot and simplification of characters, but to distinguish that process from an assessment of the audience’s unexpected reaction.
* * *
Martin Ritt’s adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel Horseman, Pass By (1961) into the film Hud (1963) is an instance in which the adaptation process resulted in a popular misreading of the film, initially. Ritt sought to defy the lingering Motion Picture Production Code by portraying the title character (Paul Newman) as an unapologetic reprobate from beginning to end. Hud enters the film from inside the house of another man’s wife, shoving open a screen door 180 degrees, stretching the spring until the door slams against the house front. He exits unchanged, slamming a back door at the camera – shade half drawn – “The End” superimposed on the frame. Ritt and company would have the audience admire Hud’s father, the old rancher Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas), and eventually shun his sociopathic son, as the teenager Lon (Brandon deWilde) and the cook Alma (Patricia Neal) come to do. It is not that Ritt and screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. had no idea that audiences would relate so strongly to Hud. Rather, they thought it would be self-evident that Hud’s very charm but thinly disguised his villainy. “There’s something in the American psyche,” said the screenwriters, “that’s sadly attracted to the dangerous, the flamboyant, and the immoral” (Baer 264). They also wanted to complicate Hud’s character, dropping hints that he might yet reveal, if not a heart of gold, at least a heart. That way, the moviegoing public could feel all the more betrayed by Hud’s unrepentant defiance at the end. That backfired. Preview audiences listed Hud as their most admired character. Hence the filmmakers’ “terrible shock” when the box office turned Hud into a cult hero (260).1 I think this case study of audience misprision uniquely illuminates both texts and the material history that produced them. And I want especially to emphasize the adaptation’s effect on audience reception, about which the filmmakers expressed dismay.
To this end, we must dissect why Hud succeeded with reviewers and audiences alike, but to differing effects. The task at hand is not merely to provide a clear analysis of the issues of adaptation, namely, the truncation of plot and simplification of characters, but to distinguish that process from an assessment of the audience’s unexpected reaction. Judith Crist found the screenplay “terse, perceptive and engrossing, and Martin Ritt’s direction and photography glow with subtle artistry in this completely satisfying film” (8). Bosley Crowther stated that the conflict, in what could be “this year’s most powerful film,” was “simply a matter of determining which older man will inspire the boy.” Crowther was struck by the “clarity,” while Variety considered Hud a “near miss” because “it is never clear exactly why the old man harbors such a deep-rooted grudge against his lad.”2 Pauline Kael saw Hud as “possibly the most schizoid movie produced anywhere anytime,” defeating its purpose as “an indictment of materialism” and turning itself into a “celebration and glorification of materialism – of the man who looks out for himself – which probably appeals to movie audiences just because it confirms their own feelings” (79). Carlton Jackson reads Hud as another one of Martin Ritt’s “memorable outsiders.” He explains that “Ravetch and Frank wanted to revise Horseman, Pass By to show the despicable nature of someone who lived entirely without a sense of responsibility.” It resulted in “one of the great ironies in film history of the 1960s” (70). Both novel and film have inspired interpretations based on changing modes of production (Andrew McDonald, Clifton Hudder), and the evolving genres of the classic versus the modern western (Pauline Degenfelder, Gabriel Miller). According to Walter Poznar, unlike film endings of the 1950s that “maintained their faith in the power of good will to resolve at least some of the social and psychological problems of the age . . . ,” only Hud “explored the peculiarly existential nature of life itself [as] amoral . . . indifferent . . . unregenerate” (230). As such, Hud’s genre is both a western and a 1950s film, as indeed Elmer Bernstein’s score suggests with its folkloric lyricism broken by an interlude of jazz chords.
But what kind of historical situation promotes Hud’s cynical foregrounding of existential, amoral alienation? Heretofore, the criticism, for me, falls short of a sufficient accounting for the initial audience’s “surprising” reaction to Hud. The simple answer is that the filmmakers knew the novel, but most of the audience of the adapted film did not. Of course, it is more complicated than that, as recourse to adaptation and cultural theory reveals. Not only does the process of adaptation, in all its doublings, erasures, and superimpositions, “confuse” the filmmakers into selectively believing Hud remains as onerous if not as off-putting as his source character in the book, but the Hud of the film struck its contemporary audience as a sympathetic rebel, not against the System so much as against the System’s façade of righteousness, represented by Homer. As we shall see, what the filmmakers meant as a dramatic warning of cynical times ahead, the initial audience, meeting the film version anew with no awareness of Hud’s even cruder persona in the novel, took as rather liberating. This phenomenon, I argue, derives from the story’s theme of wrenching historical change, youth coming of age in seemingly less heroic but more ambiguous times than their parents did, and a growing culture of post-World War II narcissism, often expressed in existentialist terms. It is not that the spectators who lionized Hud literally endorsed his misdeeds. Rather, they saw his behaviors ironically against all that they foresaw would box them into their own small lives.
Doubling Scott/“Hud” and Hud
This future small life could not contain a youthful energy seeking an outlet in the present. Teenager Lonnie Bannon, an orphan, in fact narrates Horseman, Pass By in first person as one bristling with adolescent desire against the listless isolation on the empty plain. He reveres his grandfather, the rangeland, and longhorn ranching’s bygone days. Yet he is also given to contemporary wanderlust. Larry McMurtry’s birthplace, Archer City, Texas, south of Wichita Falls and the Red River, inspired his fictional Thalia in his trilogy Horseman, Pass By, Leaving Cheyenne (1962), and The Last Picture Show (1966). Martin Ritt filmed Hud in the “drabness” of black and white on the upper Panhandle plains in and around tiny Claude, Texas. The opening of Hud introduces Lon, who in turn introduces Hud by searching out his uncle in town early one morning, a scene not in the novel. The film’s opening credits and first scene are, in fact, a classic characterization before the lead character’s grand entrance. A pickup truck tows a horse trailer hauling a saddled quarter horse moving westward (screen right to left) along U.S. Highway 287. James Wong Howe’s camera is “completely faithful,” writes Larry McMurtry, to the beauty and pitilessness of the Panhandle” (Narrow 39). Howe’s deliberate lens glare accentuates the sunrise on another summer scorcher. The camera, positioned deep into a pasture, pans a straight-ribbon highway on flat terrain. Bernstein’s brooding score for three acoustic guitars accompanies these opening scenes, a desolate scene in mid film, and the empty ranch in the end with arpeggios expressing vehicular movement. The pickup enters town from screen right turning southward, toward the camera. A mid-twentieth-century-style water tower looms in the distance, the morning sun glaring on it, only three letters visible: “VER . . . .”3 As the credit sequence transitions into the tale, the driver grinds the pickup’s gears and guns the engine while crossing four railroad tracks. Bernstein’s non-diegetic score yields to different music, “The Wabash Cannon Ball,” a country-folk homage to a train compared to an artillery projectile. The first lyrics we can discern are “hear the mighty engine.”
The camera then pans the pickup down Trice Street, past the Gem Theater looking toward Highway 287.4 When the driver drops Lonnie off near “Claude’s Café,” we realize the tinny music is diegetic, emanating from a transistor radio in Lon’s shirt pocket. He has hitched a ride into town to track down his uncle Hud at the behest of his granddad Homer. Lon’s inquiries yield information about Hud’s dynamic personality, henceforth associated with canons, trains, and high-octane engines, his life force free of qualms emblematized by his pink Cadillac convertible. When young Lon suggests he tag along on Hud’s escapades, Hud proclaims, “the pace would kill ya, Sonny.” And when Hud is as old as Homer, “I won’t need a week’s sleep like him to be fresh.” It feels exciting to bask in Hud’s presence.
But this very life force in both Horseman and Hud produces dirty deeds associated with two parallel traumas during the teenager’s coming of age: the horrific slaughter of his grandfather’s entire cattle herd to prevent the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease and his uncle’s sexual assault on the hired cook and housekeeper whom the lad loves. The 1960s film audience did not know what in the novel had been covered, deleted, covered up, or superadded. But the filmmakers did. In creating a hybrid work, they were inspired by the more violent and uncouth “Hud” in the novel, whom his stepfather calls Scott, Hud, or Huddie. The novel’s Lonnie uses the nickname “Hud.” To avoid confusion, I will refer to the novel’s “Hud” as Scott and distinguish between the novel’s “Lonnie” and the film’s “Lon,” as well. Scott’s mother, Grandma, is Homer’s hypochondriac second wife. For much of the novel Scott is away, having driven Grandma to faraway Temple, Texas, for fake kidney surgery. Those familiar with both tales know that “however much our gorge rises” (Poznar 231) at Hud, his offenses pale beside Scott’s callousness, violence, racism, verbal and sexual abuse, rape, betrayal, and killing of Homer. Scott is hulky; Paul Newman is slight. Both are womanizers. Both Scott and Hud are caustic insult artists, but the latter exudes Paul Newman’s charisma along with the cowboy aphorisms. Both Scott and Hud attribute the father’s buying diseased cattle to senility and move to acquire power of attorney over the old man’s ranch, further upsetting the teen. Hud drives his pink Cadillac convertible at the outset, whereas Scott buys such a car late in the narrative on the proceeds of a shady futures deal with Truman Peters, with whose wife Scott is cavorting (107).
But “The Hud of Hud is, frankly, much less of a fiend,” writes Cliff Hudder (82). Similarly, Lon is also a sanitized version of Lonnie. The respective treatments of the ranch cook and housekeeper show the textual difference. In Horseman, Lonnie has a powerful crush on the sensuous African American housekeeper and cook, Halmea, both a mother-sister figure and his romantic love interest. Although Ritt was among the first Hollywood filmmakers to broach racial issues, he and his screenwriters felt that preserving the novel’s Halmea as Black would not work in this narrative in the racial climate of the early 1960s.5 Hudder calls it “the most wrenching change” from novel to film (81). The novel suggests, however, that a possible interracial relationship might develop between Halmea and the newly hired ranch hand Jesse. Likewise, the film dangles the possibility of a dalliance between Hud (who at first is a Jesse figure to young Lon) and Alma, if Hud should ever adjust his hypermasculine attitude. Scott utters racial slurs, then violently pinches Halmea’s breast, reducing her to tears, upsetting young Lonnie (Horseman 58). Even so, Lonnie has his own connection to Scott as the novel’s Id. Halmea has a snake phobia. One evening as she crosses the yard, Lonnie hisses like a bull snake to tease her (20-21). This little cruelty foreshadows Scott’s “snake-in-the-grass” rape of her. Likewise, the boy in Hud lusts after Alma, but not in a “mean” way like Hud. The novel’s breast-pinching scene is paralleled in Hud as Hud’s less graphic but intense sexual harassment of Alma on the back porch in Lon’s absence. In the novel, a drunken Scott rapes Halmea in her bunkroom, punching out her would-be rescuer, Jesse. Lonnie arrives armed with a .22 rifle, but cannot bring himself to shoot Scott. The rapist knocks him down, too. But Lonnie remains conscious, passively witnessing the rape both sickened and in semi-voyeur fashion, the guilt for which he suffers thereafter (97). In Hud the sexual assault, and Alma’s frantic resistance, consists of a series of brief shots in two-point lighting with close-in camera setups. Hud has attacked Alma partly in revenge for her earlier rejection and as a displacement of drunken rage against his father. The fact that Hud relents when Lon intervenes comes at great relief, perhaps a sign of Hud’s possible redemption to come?
Moreover, the film’s Hud gets away with many transgressions, but outright murder, at least, is not one of them. At novel’s end, after all Homer’s cattle have been herded into three pits and shot by government agents,6 old Homer, stricken with sorrow and confusion, falls from the porch (the novel falsely foreshadows a more dignified falling from his spirited horse named Stranger). He sustains a mortal compound fracture. He crawls into the road, where Lonnie almost runs him over in his grandfather’s pickup. Scott, with Truman Peters’s wife Lily, had driven up behind, tormenting the teen, bumping the truck. Lonnie spins out, crashing both vehicles. During Lonnie’s protracted, futile attempt to flag down help on the distant highway while Homer is, in Scott’s frantic words, “sufferin’ agony!,” Scott finally shoots Homer. Scott explains the father/son conflict to the angry youth: “You don’t know the story” (129). The murder, Lonnie tells us, “could have been for kindness or for meanness either, whichever mood was on him when he held Granddad in the ditch” (130). Later, Scott feels sure the authorities “will try to indict him for murder without malice,” and expresses confidence that the sentence will likely be suspended. “I knew he’d probably come out on top,” Lonnie says (141).
While Hud does not shoot Homer in Hud, Lon nonetheless assigns him responsibility for his granddad’s demise. This scene is much curtailed in the film, the woman absent. Old Homer moans that he feels “like throwin’ in the sponge” and dies while lying across Hud’s lap. Lon pulls his dead granddad’s head out of Hud’s lap into his, accusing Hud of fixing “it so that he didn’t want to [live] anymore.” James Wong Howe gives us a high angle of Hud standing and moving to his right toward the Cadillac’s headlamps.7 We cut to an instant of blackness before Hud enters the frame screen right, camera looking up. Hud stops in the center of this extraordinary shot, starkly but flatteringly lit against black, looking down at Lon and us: “You don’t know the whole story.” He repeats Scott’s ambiguity, “I guess you could say I helped him about as much as he helped me.” By now Martin Ritt may have assumed the audience, having a bellyful of Hud, would feel that no backstory could excuse Hud. But we must draw a vital distinction between explanation and justification in order to consider more thoroughly why Ritt’s desired effect was “lost in translation” from novel to film.
First, the Hollywood-conditioned audience was likely pulling for Hud to be a misunderstood hero who will be redeemed by a good woman. Except for the rape scene, for example, Newman is always photographed in classic three-point lighting, which enhances the star’s attractiveness. In the early flirtation scene, the couple photographed separately, misogynist Hud slyly compliments Alma as “a good cook . . . a good housekeeper . . . a good laundress.”
Hud (holding a daisy to his nose, leering): “What else you good at?” (Cut to)
Alma: “Taking care of myself.”
Indeed, she defends herself in the film’s sexual harassment scene involving no such violent groping as in the novel. She next refuses to watch Hud compete in the greased pig scramble: “I don’t like pigs.” But what if this is just the woman that Hud can come to respect?
After the rape attempt, Hud spots Alma waiting at the bus station; “I’m sorry,” he says, cocking his hat. She reasserts her own libido and female power by stating an irony: she might have seduced him eventually “without the roughhouse.” Her silent stare at Hud when he responds, “Why didn’t you speak up sooner?,” fairly clenches Patricia Neal’s Academy Award for Best Actress.8 The movie by no means gives Hud a pass for his attempted rape, nor can this scene in any way be construed as their patching things up before she leaves. For despite the momentary apology, sincere or not, we realize that Hud’s callous entitlement remains intact: “I’ll remember you, Honey,” he says as she boards the bus, camera looking down on him from within. “You’re the one that got away.” Hud, the outsider, drifts to screen right and out of frame as bus and camera take Alma mercifully away from this “cold-blooded bastard.” But the original audience might still have wondered whether some part of Hud, a remorseful, tragic hero, really means, “You’re the one I could have loved had I not injured you so”?
In any case, the film turns the novel’s antagonist into an ironic protagonist. This strongly suggests that Hud’s having accidentally killed his older brother Norman (Lon’s father) in a drunken car crash at age seventeen accounts for his need to protect himself from the guilt and loss. He had walked away without a scratch. (The film’s publicity poster described Hud as in fact “the man with the barbed wire soul.”) Homer “took that hard,” but reviled Hud long before the accident, we are surprised to learn. Hud doesn’t “give a damn”; he does not value or respect anything, keeps no check on his appetites, lives for himself only. This suggests that Hud may be a born psychopath, but the movie, despite its laudably realistic ending, leaves room for doubt. The novel, on the other hand, mentions several instances of Scott’s aberrant behavior that might, with a different mode of narration, elicit compassion as well: his stepfather Homer raised him harshly, kept him “driving that feedwagon” instead of letting him go to college (Horseman 66) and sent him to the Pacific in World War II where he was likely traumatized (92). Such revelations do not appear in Hud to fill in gaps complained about by Variety and Pauline Kael. Yet given these explanations, readers still don’t respond with sympathy to the ruggedly handsome Scott in the same way they do to close-ups of [Paul Newman’s] “blue, blue eyes and hurt, sensitive mouth” (Kael 91). Hud characteristically had tried to dodge the draft (Hud’s release date suggests the Korean War) as we discover in the final scene when Lon, like Alma, is abandoning him, suitcase in hand. He tells Lon, “I suppose you’ve come to be of your granddaddy’s opinion that I ain’t fit to live with.” Yet Hud’s original audience strongly identified with the title character as the film’s protagonist. This implies an unknown “whole story” beyond the text, if not to justify then at least to explain a character partaking of a recent Hollywood genre of post-World War II generational conflict, as in The Wild One (1953) and Rebel without a Cause (1955).9
In this light, the following interviews with the filmmakers raise several issues I will address below via an amalgam of adaptation and cultural theory. Screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. were disgusted by the audience’s worship of Hud, even as they admitted adding vulnerability to his villainous charm (Baer 260). Martin Ritt was asked why Hud became so popular:
I do have an idea, and I’m very sorry to tell you about it. I got a lot of letters after that picture from kids saying Hud was right. The old man’s a jerk and the kid’s a schmuck, or a fag, or whatever. . . . And if I’d been near as smart as I thought I was, I would have seen that Haight-Ashbury was right around the corner. The kids were very cynical; they were committed to their own appetites. . . . That’s why the film did the kind of business it did – the kids loved Hud. That son of a bitch that I hated they loved. So the audience makes a film their own – it depends what’s going on at the time in the country. (Miller, “Interview” 67)
Paul Newman’s biographer Daniel O’Brien writes, the actor “felt the audience had only seen the ‘cool.’ superficial Hud Bannon, failing to pick up on the dark, amoral character underneath” (O’Brien 96).
Doubling Text and Text
Perhaps Hud’s phenomenal backfire derives from its kinship with the source novel as known to the filmmakers but unknown to the film’s initial audience. In the case of Hud, I see this as central to the filmmakers’ unintended effect on an audience whose social, historical, and cultural predispositions they did not fully anticipate. According to Linda Hutcheon’s A Theory of Adaptation, Hud would constitute a doubling of its source tale. One of the characters orbiting around the narrator-as-central-character exhibits what today might be loosely diagnosable as antisocial personality disorder. The adaptation renders this born “psychopath” or environmentally made “sociopath” the central character, yet with modifications more enticing to a Hollywood-trained audience. In their day such a man as Hud was simply called a “heel,” synonymous with “cad,” “scoundrel,” “rogue.”
Linda Hutcheon builds on numerous theorists, then, to establish why an adapted text may be called a “second degree” text and at the same time an autonomous work interpretable and admired on its own: “Although adaptations are also aesthetic objects in their own right, it is only as inherently double- or multi-laminated works that they can be theorized as adaptions (Hutcheon’s emphasis, 6). As she explains, a work can be seen as first “a formal entity or product,” second, as “a process of creation,” and third, “a process of reception” (Hutcheon 7-8, italics in original). For during the writing and shooting of the screenplay, the “second degree,” doubling, or multi-laminated aspects of Hud’s relationship to Horseman, Pass By were present to the creators of Hud. Hutcheon calls this a “felt presence” that shadows “the one we are experiencing directly” (6). I am suggesting that Ritt’s hated “son of a bitch” was the “felt presence” of the novel’s Scott. But the audience did not know the formal entity of Horseman in the process of the film’s reception. “If we do not know that what we are experiencing actually is an adaptation,” Hutcheon explains, “or if we are not familiar with the particular work that it adapts, we simply experience the adaptation as we would any other work.” So Ritt’s original “unknowing” audience could not “oscillate in [its] memories with what [it] was experiencing,” thereby filling “in any gaps in the adaptation with information from the adapted text” (Hutcheon 120-121). Ritt, Ravetch, Frank Jr., and Newman transformed Hud somewhat out of the novel’s sociopath into what I call a wounded narcissist with antisocial traits, a role that proved the perfect vehicle for Paul Newman’s “sensitive rebel” persona, even if here Ritt thought to cast Newman against type as a raw villain. For in their urgency to portray Hud as no mere two-dimensional reprobate like his prototype in the novel, the filmmakers re-created the novel’s antagonist into the movie’s protagonist, yet evidently expecting the audience to condemn him nonetheless.
From this point on, then, it is the film’s process of reception that I want to emphasize. This is where we must consider the way Hud’s original audience usurped the narrative’s very theme of the conflict of old and new where the latter wishes to question the former’s values. This regional theme carries, therefore, a universal one as well where changing modes of production and cultural changes interact. Larry McMurtry commented on this theme and the relationship between Horseman, Pass By and Hud in his book of essays In A Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas.10 McMurtry’s lifelong project writing westerns is the all-too-rapid fade-out of longhorn cattle ranching’s Golden Age in the late-nineteenth-century’s open range, replaced by barbed wire fencing and more industrial modes of careful breeding to produce more high-maintenance cattle for market – beefier, fatter, tastier – an enterprise soon merged with Big Agribusiness.11 Suddenly, “The cattle range had become the oil patch; the dozer cap replaced the Stetson almost overnight” (11). In both works, Homer is dead set against allowing oil companies to scar his sacred rangeland: “I piss on that kind of money,” he says in Horseman. His money should “come from something that keeps a man doin’ for himself” (Horseman 88). Clearly, if Martin Ritt’s sympathies lay with Homer, how could the original audience have problems with Homer’s lament: the passing away of all the old virtues that earned him his land and cattle? I think it has to do with the audience’s instinctual recognition that Homer is talking about his exclusive enjoyment of non-alienated work. But Hud voices Scott’s repeated complaint of only working “from the shoulders down myself” (14, 65), which smacks of alienated work. As we know, in rebellious youth culture, the meaning of “cool” is that temporary ironic reversal of the very virtues and values the elders are trying to imprint onto the next generation, as if to question why the better part of wisdom is about never getting to have any fun. By the early 1960s, to be “cool,” perhaps, seemed integral to that separation and individuation process. As landowner in this new age, our “protagonist” Hud would be oil rich, enacting new “virtues” that mock those of Homer’s bygone era. I will come back to the problem of Homer’s “virtues” below.
Already, our protagonist performs a most entertaining, ironic reversal of virtues through debauchery, barroom brawling, and “cool” greed. In the fight scene, we see a bullfight poster behind Hud as he sets up a cattleman for a sucker punch.12 His fighting reputation lets him bluff one cuckolded husband, Joe Scanlon (George Petrie), into scapegoating Lon. He shirks guard duty with Lon in order to pursue his sexual appetites, leaving his forlorn nephew to fend buzzards off a dead heifer awaiting inspection from the state veterinarian. As Pauline Degenfelder sums Hud,
The outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease coincides with Hud’s ascendancy, suggesting that he is a sick animal and an infection in the state. . . . . [H]is emblem is the Cadillac, at times suggestive of a hearse, for Hud is death-inducing – he crushes Alma’s flowers, his reckless driving has been the cause of his brother’s death (a Cain-Abel motif), and almost the cause of Homer’s. . . . [H]e is juxtaposed with horns, signifying his sexual appetite and prowess. The pig catching contest also dramatizes his personality. Hud says, “I wouldn’t want to be hoggish,” but his actions belie his words. (85)
For he appropriates
an opponent’s pig, Lon’s ice cream, and another man’s wife, and [his greed] reaches a crescendo in his attempts to rape Alma and to seize his father’s land. The desecration of the earth goddess Alma is paralleled by Hud’s plan to defile the land with oil rigs. Both actions signify his antipathy to nature, his departure from the attitudes of classic Western heroes, and his role as ironic protagonist. (85).
It is important to understand that Hud’s original audience, ignorant of the source novel’s Scott, need not endorse all of these behaviors in any literal sense in order for Hud’s acts to symbolize, even self-caricature, its own rebellious impulses. Nor would that audience have picked up on the nasty insinuation of Homer’s command, “Lon, close that screen door, we’re gettin’ a lot of flies in here,” just as his “lord-of-the-flies” son Hud walks through the kitchen from the back door.
Thus, we have the doubling within and between the source text and adapted text as well as the combination of the western genre with the post-World War II “rebel-without-a-cause” genre. Observing the father/step-son conflict in Horseman is seventeen-year-old Lonnie in McMurtry’s bildungsroman. He lusts for Halmea and re-reads James Jones’s worldly 1951 novel From Here to Eternity.13 One symbol for the cusp of adulthood is the “hard gate.” It is the youngster’s duty to dismount the pickup to open and close a pasture gate with a stubborn latch while the men observe, a self-conscious struggle for the lad (25, 36). It suggests the timely loss of virginity (to satisfy that curiosity as well as enable young male bragging rights). It symbolizes the orphan’s passage from revering his granddad’s link to ranching’s Golden Age to scratching the youthful itch for contemporary belonging: “Granddad and I were in such separate times and separate places. I got where I would rather go to Thalia and goof around on the square [with friends] than listen to his old-timey stories” (21). More universally, adolescent rebellion in the industrial age largely derives from elders’ “illiteracy” of late adolescent brain development confronting the uniquely daunting “hard gate” of more rapidly changing techno-social conditions, especially since World II. That is, older adults whose youth had endured the Great Depression and all-out war admonished the young by remembering their own younger selves facing former, now seemingly irrelevant, “hard gates”: hence the painful disconnect between generations. What elders exhorted seemed frumpy, possessive attempts to relive their own “simpler” lives vicariously through their young. Elders thus utterly misunderstood their young as individuals uniquely forged by new social formations. Yet youth could not articulate or analyze the feeling as such, contributing to the shared postwar “rebel-without-a-cause” syndrome, whether “cause” might be understood as unknown impetus or lack of purpose.
Restated, if passage into modern adulthood is daunting, clumsy, fraught, and promising mostly bureaucratic drudgery, no wonder youths in a suburbanized, hyper-consumerist culture may bargain for hedonistic rites (indulging “appetites”) as the very incentive to negotiate the transition. Call it sowing wild oats, extremes of which conduce to loneliness. Thus, Horseman’s Lonnie yearns to collect experiences like Jesse’s: “When I was seventeen,” Jesse remembers, “I never got enough of anything. . . . We made ever square dance and rodeo and honky-tonk in the country, and I don’t know which we run the hardest, that car or the country girls that showed up at the dances. . . .” (19). Hud viewers will recognize this as Hud’s speech to Lon. “You know,” Lon replies, “I wouldn’t mind going that route myself.” Even as Jesse recalls his former adventures to Lonnie’s eager ears, however, he is himself lonely and depressed, for his rodeo career has fizzled; he owns no land and cattle. He remains unmated. Yet, unlike Scott, it seems his very compassion for others constricts his life force. He must cobble a living as an odd-job cowpoke indefinitely. In Hud, most of these issues from the novel are absent or sanitized, and yet the original youth audience seems somehow to know them as their contemporary condition. Our seventeen-year-old Lon joins his uncle in a bar next to a sign, “No minors allowed” on the scarred wall, the night of his first drunken bar fight, a painful but exhilarating rite of passage. At thirty-four, it seems, Hud has yet to grow beyond seventeen, his age the night he drunkenly “racked up the car” killing Norman. When Lon asks Granddad why Hud has invited the household to join him in town, Homer also utters one of Jesse’s speeches from the novel: “Lonesome, I imagine,” to which the novel’s Lonnie objects, “Why, he can get more women company than anybody around here.” Jesse responds, “That ain’t necessarily company, neither. Women just want to be around something dangerous part of the time. Scott ain’t so mean but what he could get lonesome once in a while” (70). As psychologists explain, people with antisocial personality disorder can be superficially popular; ultimately, they alienate others, leaving them isolated. Indeed, a defiant Hud at film’s end directs his “who-needs-ya?” gesture (a euphemism for the middle finger) at Lon – accompanied by Bernstein’s final, forlorn guitar chords.
Doubling Text and Cultural History
In adapting Horseman, the filmmakers, perhaps inadvertently, shifted emphasis from McMurtry’s elegiac nineteenth century giving way to the twentieth, to the twentieth century’s irritable “frustration” at being restrained by an outdated ethos: from Homer’s conflict with Scott in the novel, to Hud’s conflict with Homer in the film. As a blacklisted progenitor of the Old Left, Martin Ritt obviously wants his film to imply an ethos of discipline, restraint, and hard work as the way to wholesome social change contrary to consumerism’s appeal to mindless hedonism. While the novel is set during the summer of 1954, the film’s time frame is less than a decade later, but with significant new developments impinging on the film and its reception. Linda Hutcheon’s doubling, then, applies not just to the intertextuality of novel and film: “As if this were not complex enough, the context in which we experience the adaptation – cultural, social, historical – is another important factor in the meaning . . . (139). Raymond Williams famously evoked such cultural manifolds by conceptualizing dominant, emergent, and residual elements in a given cultural moment (121-127). A recent photograph of the long building in Claude north of the tracks and along Trice Street compared with the same building as it appears during Hud’s opening credits provides an image of the residual in the prominent sign, “Cavin’s Lumber.” In November 2019, when I visited Claude fifty-seven and a half years after Hud was shot there on location, the building was still there, time-worn, weathered, the paint long since faded such that “Cavin’s Lumber” was a barely discernable residue. What that old edifice might not convey, however, is the power that the residual still exerts on the present’s dominant conditions, along with emergent, not-yet-dominant elements that can only be detected, perhaps, retrospectively in narrative texts. In both Horseman and Hud, McMurtry explains, “Hud had made terms with the twentieth century, whereas Homer was unwaveringly faithful to the nineteenth, and in those parts the nineteenth-century ideal has not yet lost its force” (16). In this modern-day “western,” horsemen travel much more by pickup trucks and cars than on horseback. The novel interweaves Halmea’s rock and roll, Grandma’s “hillbilly” music, and preachers broadcasting on the large living room radio. In Hud, less than a decade later, young Lon listens to his own contemporary technology, his pocket-sized transistor radio. It is Hud’s ostentatious pink Cadillac convertible, however, that overtakes Lon’s radio as a harbinger of the hyper-consumerism to come. Hud connotes a more complete break with Homer’s past, leaving young Lon to represent what is dominant, even as he is pulled between Homer the residual and Hud the emergent at this “hard gate” of adult independence.
Indeed, what was dominant in the post-World War II West was that version of capitalism known as Keynesianism, a holdover from the New Deal. It was based on economist John Maynard Keynes’s notion that capitalism, while the best of all possible economies, nevertheless needed government intervention, progressive taxation, and regulation to balance private profit with public well-being: that is, to minimize negative and optimize positive externalities. “An external cost occurs,” writes economist Steven L. Slavin, “when the production or consumption of some good or service inflicts costs on a third party without compensation. An external benefit occurs when some of the benefits derived from the production of some good or service are enjoyed by a third party” (78). As Granddad Homer tells Lon early in the film, “I expect you’ll get your share of what’s good,” implying the capitalist ideal of pursuing personal gain without costing others: “A boy like you deserves it.” Indeed, after a night of carousing with, and defending, Hud, Granddad tells Lon, “You’re going to have to make up your own mind someday what’s right and what’s wrong.” Homer in fact speaks for the filmmakers when he warns the teen, “Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire.”
Hud’s character may suggest, then, a certain emergent element of which the Old Left Martin Ritt would disapprove: an alternative economic school heralded by economist Friedrich Hayek in England advocating far less state intervention into “free markets.” The later Left came to refer to that school pejoratively as neoliberalism because, for one thing, it made no provision for mitigating the negative externalities. A close relative was the libertarian Objectivism of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Significantly, Hud was released in 1963 when these new visions of a resurgent laissez-faire ideal were germinating, leading to Milton Friedman as the leading proponent of this rejuvenated “free enterprise” in the U.S. by the 1980s. A number of characters in Horseman, Homer included, speak fondly of a time (pre-New Deal?) when “the government didn’t have to run a man’s business for him” (103). Like Hayek, Ayn Rand famously decried what she considered collectivist notions of “altruism” as conducing toward centralized authority even unto totalitarianism. In that sense, she might well have disapproved of Melvyn Douglas’s and the filmmakers’ portrayal of Homer as a socially responsible businessman. For Rand advocated instead “the individual” and “the virtue of selfishness.” It was universal, individual self-interest that would foster the best of all possible worlds if only socialists (and softer-hearted, mush-minded capitalists as well) could be sidelined by “Objectivist” principles that turn out to be nothing if not elitist: the self-serving mental filter whereby only capitalism’s benefits are celebrated while conveniently ignoring its human and environmental costs.
Hud indeed makes selfishness a virtue. He is, of course, a libertine, likely not the principled libertarian that Rand had in mind. Perhaps a wounded narcissist herself, Rand immigrated to America from the repressive Soviet Union and found her niche as an entertainer, writing for Hollywood.14 Like Rand, Hud is an entertainer, siphoning narcissistic supply from a dull town in need of vicarious excitement. Speaking of “Hud” as a composite from novel and film, Larry McMurtry notes, “Any number of people assured me they knew someone just like Hud. Their Hud was a real hellion, they told me – if they were men their tone indicated that he was the sort of man they almost wished they had been; tough, capable, wild, undomesticated” (Narrow 37-38). Something of this spirit was emerging in business, government, academe, advertising, entertainment, and new lifestyles in the 1960s. By the 1980s, neoliberalism waxed dominant as many acolytes of Hayek and Rand rode economic-cultural trends to power.15
Such were the inchoate, right-wing elements emerging in 1963. A large contingent of the New Left youth, likewise, would succumb to what Adam Curtis analyzes in the BBC documentary series The Century of the Self (2002). While some activists remained altruistically motivated, and counterculture hippies were communal, according to Curtis, many left-wing participants despaired of any outward revolution in favor of social change brought about through each individual’s inward liberation from outmoded social constraints (Curtis 2:05:00-2:15:00). Technological advances in mass production allowed for a certain “customized” consumerism touting everyone’s unique individuality (Curtis: 3:04:00-3:09:00).16 Christopher Lasch likewise studied the mass psychology of the 1960s and 1970s as having grown dialectically out of older forms of neuroses like hysteria and obsessional neuroses, associated with older phases of capitalism, to the growing psychiatric concern with narcissism (35). It is as though the logical extension of Martin Ritt’s Old Left contempt for Haight-Ashbury was the Weather Underground, about which Lasch writes: “The atmosphere in which the weathermen lived – an atmosphere of violence, danger, drugs, sexual promiscuity, moral and psychic chaos – derived not so much from an older revolutionary tradition as from the turmoil and narcissistic anguish of contemporary America” (8). In 2003, screenwriters Ravetch and Frank Jr. reflected back that something of this spirit was emerging during the making of Hud: “We felt the country was gradually moving into a kind of self-absorption, indulgence, and greed – which, of course, fully blossomed in the ’eighties and ’nineties’” (Baer 260). Perhaps all that was farther along than they even anticipated in 1962. I propose, therefore, that the popular misprision of Hud owes much to both a right-wing and left-wing spectrum of this cultural narcissism, surely a dimension of the postmodern condition.
And narcissism itself indicates some psychological wounding at its heart contracted, as Marcuse argued in Eros and Civilization (1955), in a political economy experienced as “surplus repression” (35, Marcuse’s italics). Marcuse’s philosophy of psychoanalysis had distinguished this from “basic repression,” taken from his reading of Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents (1930) about the instinctual pleasure principle and the individual’s conflict with social conformity. By basic repression Freud had meant “the ‘modifications’ of the instincts necessary for the perpetuation of the human race in civilization.” Evidently, Martin Ritt thought Homer’s indictment of Hud as “an unprincipled man” rested on this bedrock social contract. Ritt’s Old Left would have regarded this notion as “social responsibility,” which happens to overlap with the cultural Right’s “personal responsibility.” It is Freud’s reality principle. But Marcuse describes below the “performance principle” as “the prevailing historical form of the reality principle.” That historical form is the mid-twentieth-century stage of capitalism in which
labor is work for an apparatus which [people] do not control . . . and becomes more alien the more specialized the division of labor. [People] do not live their own lives but perform pre-established functions. While they work, they do not fulfill their own needs and faculties but work in alienation. . . . [L]abor time, which is the largest part of the individual’s life, is painful time, for alienated labor is diverted for socially useful performances in which the individual works for . . . the apparatus, engaged in activities that mostly do not coincide with his [or her] own faculties and desires.” (45)
Thus, Marcuse debunks the stereotype that Marxism is unconcerned with the individual. Given Jesse’s perpetual laments about the scarcity of itinerant ranch work, we sense that Lonnie’s departure from the ranch at the end of Horseman may fetch him up on an alienating assembly line like young Marlet, a “pathetic character,” writes Andrew Macdonald. Marlet “works without pay as a cattle loader in the auction. [His] real occupation is as some unspecified functionary for the Dr. Pepper bottling company, but he is so desperate for contact with the farm life he knew earlier he is willing to endure the heat, dust and abuse of the paid auction loaders on his days off” (5). Lonnie says of young Marlet, “I thought he was the strangest kid I’d ever met” (64). Both Marlet and the jaded, chronically depressed Jesse envy the Bannons’ land and livestock.
The film adaptation, then, presents a paradox of audience reception. In Horseman, Scott implores Homer to sell his herd for more than the government’s compensation before the authorities liquidate. The sheer recklessness of the scheme would likely fail. “[T]hat ain’t no way to get out of a tight,” Homer protests (66-67). “The narcissist,” writes Christopher Lasch, “has no interest in the future because, in part, he has so little interest in the past” (xvi). As we have seen, Hud freely obeys his impulses, confident of simply improvising his way out of consequences. Homer argues not merely from neighborliness but from wider social responsibility: “And risk startin’ a’ epidemic in the entire country?”, which would be a severely negative economic externality. Hud argues from what he cynically regards as business norms: “Why, this whole country is run on epidemics, where you been? . . .” He equates epidemics with “big business price fixing, crooked TV shows, income tax finagling, souped up expense accounts” as though only socially beneficial externalities can result. In the novel it is the shiftless Lonzo, not Hud, who illegally shoots at buzzards and argues thus: “I had an old boy told me once, he was a highway patrolman, that the law was meant to be interpurted in a leenent manner. . . .” Therefore, “Sometimes I lean to one side of it, sometimes I lean to the other” (27). By novel’s end are hints that Homer himself may have built up his ranch in a similarly “leenent manner,” where his neighbors or industry regulations are concerned. While the film expunges most of these hints, perhaps what irks Homer is recognizing something of his younger self in Hud. And Hud’s original audience may indeed have cynically detected in Homer’s pieties a degree of hypocrisy. Pauline Kael found Homer “as prating and tedious as Polonius” (79). The youth may have seen Homer as sanctimonious and “overregulated,” identifying with Hud’s sneer when Homer intones, “I don’t like to break the law on my place, Hud.” Perhaps the paradox is that the youth of the 1960s were seeking substitute freedoms to compensate for the “surplus repression” of the Keynesian life-world that would soon put them into “little boxes made of ticky-tacky” as the song went.17 In this sense, Hud, released on the eve of the JFK assassination, is not just a modern western but very much a film of the long 1950s at the “hard gate” of 1960s unrest, soon to be cynically embroiled in disappointed idealism-turned-mass-narcissistic indulgence. Most famous for his working-class film Norma Rae (1979), Martin Ritt’s career spanned the political economy of race, gender, and class oppression of Keynesian-to-neoliberal capitalist America. Hud shows the director’s problem with middle-class, young, white male narcissism, even if that, too, his audience must have sensed, was vaguely symptomatic of “surplus repression.”
Wishful Emphasis and Bracketing
Moreover, from its own sense of “emptiness and insignificance,” the audience “of ordinary abilities” likely elevated and admired Hud’s cool “free-spiritedness” above his worst offenses in order, as Christopher Lasch would say, “to warm [itself] in the star’s reflected glow” (22). The novel also shows that Homer wants to set aside his own history with his stepson, denying the legacy of his having treated Scott as so much property. Homer asks, “What the hell do you want? I don’t doubt I treated you hard, and I don’t doubt I made some mistakes. A man don’t always do what’s right. But that was over an’ done with years ago. It ain’t got nothin’ to do with this.” Scott disagrees: “You’re too old to know what I want. You always were . . .” (66). Just as young adults realize their parents are fallible, no wonder the youth audience was ripe for suspicion. The film’s stark contrast between “the man with the barbed wire soul” and his sanctimonious father who favored his older brother lent resonance to Hud’s barb to Homer, “I just naturally had to go bad in the face of so much good.”
Although Martin Ritt took pride in morally ambiguous storytelling, he may have bracketed off in his own mind key moments in both novel and screenplay when Homer and Hud betray shared traits. Hud does seem, rarely, briefly, problematically, to express affection and concern for others. During the arduous roundup, Hud notes Homer’s exhaustion sitting by the water trough and gently suggests the old man go take a nap. Homer stubbornly refuses. Hud looks hurt. Is Homer’s rigid non-reciprocity the pattern of Hud’s upbringing? Had Homer focused only on Hud’s failings as a small child and poured scorn on him? Hud says, “My momma loved me, but she died.” And in the café when Homer faints, Hud’s alarm seems genuine. Of course, it remains ambiguous; a sociopath’s knack for dissembling is well known. After the traumatic cattle slaughter scene, the government man Thompson (Sheldon Allman) goes to shoot Homer’s two longhorns, the old man’s beloved, dying breed from ranching’s Golden Age. A grieving Homer is furious; “I’ll kill those two myself!” Thompson protests to the state vet Mr. Burris (Whit Bissell), “There’s no guarantee he’ll do it.”
Hud (growling in his father’s defense): “He just said he would!”
The filmmakers’ transferring these words from Homer’s “I just said I would” in the novel to Hud thus leaves a hint of residual “family feeling” on Hud’s part, which I cannot help but deem authentic. The audience, identifying with Hud, may have “bracketed in,” emphasized these more humane moments while “bracketing out,” downplaying, or ironizing his more egregious acts.
Or, as Michael Mirasol suggests, it is Hud’s relationship with his nephew that tempts our sympathy. When a cow injures Lon, Hud fireman-carries him up to his room, teasing affectionately, “I draw the line at bedpans.” Hud will come to confide in Lon in a way that “supplies [Hud] with the inklings of a soul.”18 Therefore, Lon, the empath, also provides a measure of what psychologists call “narcissistic supply.” “Notwithstanding his occasional illusions of omnipotence,” writes Christopher Lasch, “the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience” (10). Lon is experiencing his own narcissistic moment in that he initially regards Hud as mentoring him in the perks of adult, (hyper)masculine privilege, a relationship not present at all between Lonnie and Scott in the novel. In the only sequence in which Hud’s usual white shirt is black, when Hud’s “darkness” has its strongest hold on a youngster fresh from his first night of drinking and brawling, Lon comes to Hud’s defense at the foot of the stairs: “Why you climbin’ on Hud, Granddad?” Finally, Hud’s grief and guilt over his dead brother, whom Hud had worshipped, also seems genuine. It elicits empathy, especially from an audience that cannot “oscillate” between Hud and his unsympathetic prototype, Scott.
It is as though the audience resisted Ritt’s desire to portray the virtuous father and vicious son as poles apart. As François de La Rochefoucauld famously said, “No quarrel would last long if all the fault was only on one side.” Gabriel Miller likewise insists, “the contrast is not so simple,” even though it is the old man’s passivity that Miller faults. “Homer Bannon,” he insists, “despite . . . his unyielding moral righteousness,” has allowed his principles to “overwhelm his ability to act,” as “he stands helplessly by as the government destroys his diseased cattle.” His “inaction also allows Hud to take over the ranch.” Homer’s “vision of the future has been clouded by nostalgia for the past” (56). But does this not imply a sanitized past? Interestingly, Larry McMurtry felt that sacrificing the herd, Homer’s life work, was the moral imperative. But though he admired the film, the author of Horseman assigned fault to the screenwriters for “following my novel too closely.” The story’s great flaw, McMurtry felt, was rugged Homer’s collapse after the herds’ destruction “as pathetically and unconvincingly in the movie as in the book” (Narrow 39). Audiences today admire Melvyn Douglas’s rich portrayal as an endearing elder sentimentally belting out “Oh, My Darlin’ Clementine” in the movie theater scene (filmed inside the Gem Theater in Claude). But Homer is simplified from the novel’s patriarch complaining about “the government.”
Of course, the novel’s Lonnie idealizes his granddad after his death, just not according to the phony funeral sermon proclaiming that Homer was universally loved. He wasn’t. Homer had himself been a hellion in youth. He likely omitted unsavory past actions in his mythologized, “old-timey” stories. Christopher Lasch restates, in fact, the older values Homer represents: “While celebrating the romance of the frontier in their popular literature, in practice Americans imposed on the wilderness a new order designed to keep impulse in check while giving free reign to acquisitiveness” (10). In Hud, Homer admits that he, too, once drank. It could be that having learned to check his own appetites, he has nonetheless bracketed off in his mind certain indiscretions that contributed to his acquisitiveness. Like Scott, Hud points out that his father was once known as “Wild Horse Homer Bannon” (Horseman 66). In Horseman, Homer expresses his share of cynicism upon the loss of his herd: “There’s so much shit in the world a man’s gonna get in it sooner or later, whether he’s careful or not” (104). Such is the last cowboy aphorism Hud speaks to Lon, ostensibly to warn the lad of worldly pitfalls. More immediately, Hud could be grieving the self-inflicted loss of what earlier he had referred to sarcastically as Lon’s idealism and “real family feeling.”
Just as Hud has his own anomalous moments, Homer betrays occasional positive regard for Hud. After all, the film begins with his seeking Hud’s advice about a dead heifer. But part of his animus toward Hud results from the latter’s reminding Homer of himself in former days, especially, his own shrewd business moves. At Hud’s victory in the pig chase, for example, Homer cocks his head admiringly: “I wish I could still get around like you do, Hud.” Gabriel Miller argues, “The ruthless drive that makes Tom Dunstan [in Howard Hawks’s Red River (1948)] a truly epic founder and invests Hud with a potentially redemptive energy is wholly missing in Homer” (56). I am suggesting instead that the younger Homer Bannon likely built his empire with more ruthlessness than he now fondly remembers in mythologized terms, having adopted a “mature stage” of apparent respectability. Only now he seems nothing but the kindly boss: When Alma announces that she will leave dishwashing till later, “Kitchen’s your department, Alma,” he says.
The novel’s ending attests as much. Unlike the film, it ends not with Hud left alone on the ranch but with Lonnie hitching a ride with a trucker named Bobby Don Brewer, who asks how Homer is. Rather than narrate his grandfather’s recent demise, Lonnie answers, “mean as he ever was” (142). Larry McMurtry insisted that the screenplay’s “Homer was a dreadfully sentimentalized version of the nineteenth century cattleman. . . .” (Narrow 38). If Homer hails from the late-nineteenth-century Gilded Age in which industrialists proclaimed the protestant work ethic while building their fortunes by less than ethical means, only later to “bracket off,” diminish, or erase their offenses in their mythmaking narratives, we may grasp why the first audience of Hud instinctively took Homer with a grain of salt.19 As Lasch maintains, “Many radicals still direct their indignation against the authoritarian family, repressive sexual morality, literary censorship, the work ethic, and other foundations of bourgeois order that have been weakened or destroyed by advanced capitalism itself” (xvi). Hud’s “rebellion” was therefore understandable in the abstract, even if such was the pseudo-rebellion of the new culture of narcissism across the political spectrum.20
In short, an audience of young, primarily white males, grappling with a historically unprecedented “hard gate,” mistook Martin Ritt’s desired effect because it did not know the story of the novel’s adaptation to film. And yet, culturally, it did know in ways that Martin Ritt, as an elder, could not. Even so, the audience did not know the whole story of the culture it had inherited and was incubating for the future, as none of us ever can.
Acknowledgments: My thanks to Diana Greene, Paul Rowe, Mark Holding, and John T. Hitchner.
Aftab, Kaleem. “La Haine and the Truly Great Screen Rebels.” BBC. 10 Sept. 2020. www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200910-the-truly-great-screen-rebels, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
Baer, William. “Hud: A Conversation with Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.” Michigan Quarterly Review, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 254-272.
Crowther, Bosley. “Hud Chronicles a Selfish, Snarling Heel: Newman in Title Role of Western in ’60’s.” New York Times. 29 May 1963. archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/12/07/home/mcmurtry-hud.html
Curtis, Adam. The Century of the Self. Episode 3: “There Is a Policeman Inside Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed,” 2002. www.youtube.com/watch?v=buPGp5YPdM4 Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
Degenfelder, Pauline. “McMurtry and the Movies: Hud and The Last Picture Show. Western Humanities Review.” Vol. 29, no. 1, 1975, pp. 81-91.
Freedland, Jonathan. “The New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won over Trump and Silicon Valley.” The Guardian. 10 April 2017. www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/10/new-age-ayn-rand-conquered-trump-white-house-silicon-valley. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
Hud. Directed by Martin Ritt, Paramount, 1963.
Hudder, Clifton. “Where’s Your Horse?” Hud and the Mythic Makeover of Horseman, Pass By.” CCTE Studies. 2009, vol. 74, pp. 79-85.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. Routledge, 2006.
Jackson, Carlton. Picking Up the Tab: The Life and Movies of Martin Ritt. Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1994, pp. 69-75.
Kael, Pauline. I Lost It at the Movies. Little, Brown, 1965.
Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.
The Last Picture Show. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, Columbia Pictures, 1971.
Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. 1956. Routledge, 1998.
McDonald, Andrew. “The Passing of the Frontier in McMurtry’s Hud/Horseman, Pass By.” Larry McMurtry: Unredeemed Dreams: A Collection of Bibliography, Essays, and Interviews, edited by Dorey Schmidt, School of the Humanities, Pan American University, 1978, pp. 5-11.
McMurtry, Larry. Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood. Simon and Schuster, 1987.
McMurtry, Larry. Horseman, Pass By. Harper and Row, 1961.
McMurtry, Larry. In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas. 1968. Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Miller, Gabriel. The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man. University Press of Mississippi, 2000.
Miller, Gabriel. Martin Ritt: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
Mirasol, Michael. “A Man with Inklings of a Soul.” RogerEbert.com. 15 August 2010, www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-correspondents/a-man-with-inklings-of-a-soul, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
O’Brien, Daniel. Paul Newman. 2004. Faber and Faber, 2005.
Poznar, Walter. “Hud: The American Dream and the Void.” Literature Film Quarterly. Vol. 21, no. 3, 1993, pp. 230-34.
Rebel without a Cause. Directed by Nicholas Ray, Warner Brothers, 1955.
Red River. Directed by Howard Hawks, Monterey Productions, 1948.
Redding, Arthur. “Frontier Mythographies: Savagery and Civilization in Frederick Jackson Turner and John Ford.” Literature/Film Quarterly vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 313-22.
Slavin, Steven L. Economics. 8th ed., McGraw Hill Irwin, 2008.
Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford University Press, 1977.
The Wild One. Directed by László Benedek, Stanley Kramer Pictures Corp., 1953.
Variety. “Hud.” 31 Dec. 1962. variety.com/1962/film/reviews/hud-1200420406/ Accessed 16 Oct. 2020.
* * *
Black-and-white images are screenshots from the film. Color photos were taken by the author.
- Larry McMurtry died March 25, 2021. Screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. testified that after initial screenings many audience members listed Hud as their most admired character (260). Some fans, including rock star John Cougar Mellencamp, named sons after Hud. [↩]
- Bosley Crowther, “Hud Chronicles a Selfish, Snarling Heel: Newman in Title Role of Western in 60’s,” New York Times, May 29, 1963; Variety, December 31, 1962. [↩]
In Claude, Texas, the Armstrong County Museum archives on the making of Hud contain newspaper clippings showing that the Claude High School senior class of 1962 had repainted the Claude water tower to read “VERNAL,” the fictional setting for the film (examined 23 Nov. 2019). (But extras in the movie scene are wearing “C” letter jackets.) A new tower to the south has long since replaced the one shown in the opening credits. In one of those puzzles of false memory, it seems, McMurtry proudly “saw” that the older tower read “THALIA” during the filming of Hud in the late spring of 1962 (Narrow 28). Several years later, “I passed through Claude, and to my surprise the water-tower still said THALIA” (112). [↩]
- This opening creates the continuity illusion that the pickup turns south into town directly off Highway 287. As filmed, it actually turns south from a short, North 1st Street well above Highway 287 onto Washington Street, which becomes Trice Street below what were four railroad tracks in 1962 and are only two tracks today. The pickup drops Lon, then, at the corner of Highway 287 and Trice, across from the courthouse square. [↩]
- Martin Ritt was blacklisted from the television industry in 1952 due to his left-wing reputation. His racially themed films are Edge of the City (1957), Hombre (1967), The Great White Hope (1970), Sounder (1972), and Conrack (1974). [↩]
- The film condenses the cattle slaughter from three pits in the novel to one. A segment of this scene creates the illusion of cattle being shot using humane bungee cords on the “stricken” cows combined with close-ups and fast cutting, similar to the rape scene. Unlike the novel, the film romanticizes the slaughter by having Hud, Lon, and ranch hands participate alongside government agents. [↩]
- The direction of the source lighting is, it seems, a continuity error since both the pickup and the Cadillac had come to a stop facing the opposite ditch in the earlier shot. [↩]
- Melvyn Douglas won for Best Supporting Actor. Ritt, Newman, Ravetch and Frank Jr., and Howe all were nominated. [↩]
- In the latter film, James Dean’s Jim Stark ironically plays the “adult” restorer of patriarchy to his immature parents by coaching his father to tame his shrewish mother. [↩]
- For an insightful book on adaptation, see Larry McMurtry, Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood. Among his screenwriting credits, McMurtry co-wrote with director Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt the film adaptation of his novel The Last Picture Show (1971). He shared an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with Diana Ossana for Brokeback Mountain (2005) from Annie Proulx’s 1997 short story of that name. In Film Flam, McMurtry relates his early frustration at finding mentors to teach him the art of screenwriting. When he first met Ritt and company on location, for example, they “were attempting to turn my slight, innocent first novel Horseman, Pass By into the movie Hud. This they accomplished with no assistance from me. . . . In fact, I quickly realized that my hosts didn’t really want me to read the script” for fear of that this “Author,” not “the timid young man I actually was,” would protest their “mutilating my book” (4-5). On transforming a story from telling to showing, McMurtry writes that what audiences seeking fidelity “hope for is a duplication, perhaps in vivid color, of a literary experience” when in fact “The tastiest apple in the world can’t beat an orange at being an orange. The only way a director could really duplicate their reading experience for them would be to photograph the pages of the favored book and play them in slow motion. Indeed, I’m surprised Andy Warhol hasn’t thought of that” (20). [↩]
- Alma points out to Hud the seeming absurdity of agribusiness’s shipping oranges all the way from Florida: “We grow ’em right here in Texas.” [↩]
- Martin Ritt’s first feature film, Edge of the City (1957), prominently and repeatedly displays a bullfight poster. The bull’s horn foretells the bailing hooks used as weapons in the climatic fight scene on the loading docks. [↩]
- In Hud, Lon twirls a squeaky paperback rack in the dry goods store and thumbs through From Here to Eternity embarrassed that the proprietor remarks, “It’s steamy.” Ritt also prominently displays William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (1960). Ravetch and Frank Jr. said the cattle slaughter scene was indeed meant to resonate with twentieth-century genocides (Baer 264), despite the faulty parallelism. [↩]
- See Jonathan Freedland, “The New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won Over Trump and Silicon Valley,” The Guardian, 10 April 2017, vol. 13, no. 49. Many 1950s and 1960s acolytes of Rand moved into powerful positions in business, government, and media by the 1980s and 1990s, notably Chair of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan 1987-1997. [↩]
- An admirer of Friedrich Hayek’s book The Constitution of Liberty, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined President Ronald Reagan in the U.S. in moving government away from post-World War II economic policies proposed by John Maynard Keynes, a shift from “demand-side” to “supply-side” economics, from Keynesianism to neoliberalism. [↩]
- See Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, Episode 3 “There Is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed” (originally broadcast 31 March, 2002, BBC). [↩]
- Malvina Reynolds wrote the nonconformist song “Little Boxes” in 1962. Pete Seeger’s cover version became a hit in 1963, the year of Hud’s release. [↩]
- Michael Mirasol, “A Man with Inklings of a Soul,” RogerEbert.com, 15 August, 2010, www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-correspondents/a-man-with-inklings-of-a-soul [↩]
- Compare Gabriel Miller, “The Death of the Western Hero: Hud and Hombre.” Miller argues, “The ruthless drive that makes Tom Dunstan [in Howard Hawks’s Red River (1948)] a truly epic founder and invests Hud with a potentially redemptive energy is wholly missing in Homer” (56). Relevant, also, is Arthur Redding, “Frontier Mythographies: Savagery and Civilization in Frederick Jackson Turner and John Ford.” [↩]
- For more perspective on cinematic rebellion, see Kaleem Aftab, “La Haine and the Truly Great Screen Rebels.” By “true” rebels, Aftab does not mean “those that might immediately come to mind when you cast your mind back through cinema history. That is because for a long time cinema hoodwinked audiences into believing rebellion was about asserting one’s independence with a stylish look and lots of attitude” rather than reminding “audiences that rebellion could be about something much more profound – overthrowing systemic injustice and the status quo” (BBC, 10 September 2020). https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200910-the-truly-great-screen-rebels [↩]