In 1930 Hollywood adopted a stern Motion Picture Production Code to replace the one that had become increasingly loose since the demise of the silent era. Joseph L. Breen was made the enforcement czar and granted the power to withhold a seal of approval for any picture that violated the tenets of wholesome filmmaking--foremost of which was that evil not go unpunished lest the "sympathy of the audience... be thrown to the side of crime...or sin." (Section 1.1)

     This firm rule led to the further demise of a generation of screen gangsters--Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, George Raft--who were cut down in a hail of Tommy gun bullets or cheated by the chair of their ill-gotten gains.

     Ultimately, however, even Hollywood recognized that not every villain repents or gets what he (or she) has coming--and the movies, or at least some endings, were forever changed.

     One of the first movies to show a bad guy making good was Hud which Paramount brought to the screen in 1962. The film was based on Horseman, Pass By, a novel by Larry McMurtry, a young writer from Texas fresh out of the Stanford creative writing program.

     McMurtry's tale was about a "wild ass" cowboy named Hud Bannon, a hard drinker and woman chaser who butts heads with his clean living and hard working father, a North West Texas cattle rancher. Father and son are at opposite poles: Pa loves the soil, the parched Texas land. The only interest Hud showed in the ranch was during World War II when he hoped it would get him an agricultural deferment (but Bannon, Sr. nobly insisted his boy serve). After the war when the cattle come down with a disease and have to be destroyed, Pa grudgingly accepts the government agent's verdict and overrules his enterprising son who votes to sell the cattle "to someone stupid enough to buy 'em...."

     By the end of the book, Hud has gotten the ranch from the "old worn-out bastard"-- i.e., Pa--and there is a hint he might leave the crummy cattle business--and go into oil.

     Paramount assigned writing the screenplay to Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., a husband and wife team. They applied the Hollywood touch to some of Hud's rough edges, giving him a flashy Cadillac to drive instead of his old Ford and turning the family's kindly black housekeeper, whom Hud treats brutally, into a prim white woman--played by a proper Broadway actress, Patricia Neal--who is both intrigued and repelled by the young cowpoke. In the novel, Hud explains his prurient interest in the housekeeper by saying, "A man gets to wantin' a little chocolate milk"--a crass line that would hardly do, even by neo-realist Hollywood standards.

     Paul Newman, then a box office draw, played Hud, and his Brandoesque looks and mannerisms suited him for the role. Melvyn Douglas, a one time Hollywood leading man who had played opposite Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939), was cast as Hud's father. A former child actor, Brandon de Wilde, appeared as Lonnie, the earnest nephew who worships his hard living uncle. Martin Ritt directed. He had previously directed Newman in Paris Blues (1961), a film about a bitter expatriate jazz musician. De Wilde was tragically killed in an automobile crash after making only a handful of films. Newman died in 2009.


     Ritt selected as his cinematographer James Wong Howe (1899-1976), a legendary Hollywood cameraman whose credits included Manhattan Melodrama (1934) and Hitchcock's Confidential Agent (1945). Elmer Bernstein wrote the film score.

     Hud earned raves from the daily reviewers and was a success at the box office, though highbrow critics divided over the film's significance as a departure from the standard Hollywood fare. Writing in The New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann found the film "outstanding" and claimed that Ritt had told the story in "telling strokes," capturing the "rawness" of the open Texas land. He believed that Newman's performance "confirms his place in the front rank of American film actors."

     Dwight Macdonald (1906 - 1982), a long time critic of Hollywood and its pretensions, was more skeptical. "The uncompromising realism is mostly in veteran James Wong Howe's photography," he wrote in Esquire, and dismissed the film as "pretty much the old salad, with sincere dressing." Newman's Hud was "his best performance to date, a mild encomium," the critic added, claiming that "his woodenly handsome face is as much his problem as his fortune."

     Newman learned his Texas accent for the movie from Bob Hinkle, a Texas native, who had tutored James Dean for his role as Jett Rink in Giant. A former rodeo performer, Hinkle appeared in a small role in Hud and served as second unit director for a rodeo scene. Bob went on to produce several films and now lives back in Texas with his wife, a former rodeo queen. Here, in an exclusive interview with American Legends, conducted over the telephone, Bob Hinkle recalls the making of Hud.

from Mad  

AL: How did Paramount come to do Hud?


BH: Irving Ravetch, a screenwriter and producer came across Larry McMurtry's novel, Horseman, Pass By. Irving was flying to L.A., and he found the book in one of those airport shops on a stopover in Dallas. He read the description of Hud Bannon and bought the book for fifty cents. When he got off the airplane, he called Marty Ritt and said, "I have Paul's new movie." They met with Newman at Ravetch's house and decided they were going to do it. The three of them were partners in Salem Productions.



At the time, it was unusual to base a film on a despicable character like Hud Bannon.



Hud was not a real likeable guy, sleeping with everybody's wife, arguing with his daddy. Paramount did not want to do the movie in black and white. They said women won't like him. They damn near stopped it. But it was kind of a downbeat picture. It did not lend itself to be in color. It was like a prison picture. Real good prison pictures are in black and white.


AL: How did you become involved in the movie?

BH: I got a call from Paul Newman. He knew I had worked with Jimmy Dean on his Texas accent in Giant. He said, "I'm getting ready to do a picture down in Texas, like Jimmy Dean did," and he wanted me to help coach him. I met them down in Amarillo where they were shooting on location. I worked with Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal, too. She was the most consistent. You didn't have to tell her too many times. Marty didn't want a syrupy Southern accent. He wanted a brisk, crisp accent. You can whine your way through a Southern accent. Drop your g's...goin'. It sounds really phony if you don't get it down. Texans bear down on their r's..farther...mother....



Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. based the story on Larry McMurtry's first novel, Horseman, Pass By.



They just took the character mostly. Larry came down to Amarillo, but they already had the script down. They knew what they were going to do. They didn't have to get his approval. It was Larry's first novel, and he was just glad to get it done.



Was the script revised during the shooting?



The Ravetches were really great people. They later did Hombre with Marty and Newman. Harriet had never been in Texas, and Irving had flown over it. They had some things that Paul wouldn't say in Texas, so I would rewrite some of the dialogue and fit it in. It was written by Jewish people from New York, so that gives you some idea.


AL: How did Martin Ritt work on the set?


Marty had been an actor before. He came off the stage. So he knew how to handle actors. He let Newman get away with a lot of things that George Stevens or John Ford wouldn't have. We rehearsed a week in Texas, went through the entire script. Ritt would shoot a master shot, say a wide angle of a room, then he would go in and do the two shot or a close up. He'd do an insert of whatever their messing with. If Newman was opening a beer, or getting it out of the refrigerator, he'd just cover it. You know, be very thorough. He had a script with him and made sure when they got into the editing room they had plenty of coverage.


AL: Were there a lot of retakes?



Marty knew what he wanted and he knew when he got it. He's not Spielberg who does it forty ways and then has someone tell him what is the best scene. If Marty got it in one take, or a dozen, fine.



James Wong Howe was one of the great Hollywood cinematographers. Can you talk a little about his technique?



He was a genius in black and white. He'd catch the clouds just right. He was particular. He took his time. He liked dolly shots, when you put a camera on a dolly. He would run forty or fifty guys pushing it along. He used a Chapman crane, the ones that go up real high, drop down, and pull back. He was really good at stuff like that.


AL: How well did he and Ritt work together?



Ritt would tell him what he wanted: "I'd like to do this...." And then Howe would say, "Let me put this kind of lens on it, and we'll shoot it from right here...Then I can hold this windmill in the background." Something like that to give it an extra something, instead of a tree or a bush.


AL: Did any scenes prove difficult to shoot?



The hardest scene to shoot was the one where the cattle were destroyed. That took nearly all day. We showed digging the hole with those Caterpillars, we showed filling it. We showed driving the cattle in there. We had some cattle stuff sprayed on them to make them look bad. We had wires put on them with bungee chords. You'd see a guy shoot, and they'd cut and jerk the feet out to make it look like they're shooting them. None of the cattle was hurt. The Humane Society was there. We were real careful.


AL: How much of the movie was shot on location?


BH: We shot two months in Amarillo and four months in Hollywood. They had been looking for locations and choose Amarillo. It was a nice place where there was old ranches. We used the old Goodnight Ranch down there. We shot interiors on the Paramount lot--the kitchen stuff where Patricia was working and cooking, the scene where Brandon was sick in bed.


AL: You wrote one of the movie scenes.


BH: The pig scramble scene at the rodeo where Paul catches the greased pig. I was also the announcer, Frank. Originally, the scene was to be a softball game, but we were running behind. One night Marty came to my room in Amarillo and said, "Is there something we can shoot back in Hollywood?" They needed to cut some stuff and get back. I said, "Let's do a pig scramble." It was more like Texas anyway. Marty said, "Can you write something down?" I got a typewriter from Irving and took it back to my room. I took all of the scene numbers and dialogue that was going on in the stands during the softball game and transferred it to the pig scramble. The next morning Irving said, "My gosh, that's great. I ought to give you part screen credit." Just kind of kidding. When we got ready to shoot it, Marty told me, "Bob, you wrote this, and I want you to direct it. You set it up and call me." He went inside to listen to the Dodger game. When it was ready, he came out and said, "Let's shoot it. It looks good to me." Wonderful guy. Made me feel good. Lots of times directors like to take credit for what somebody else does.


AL: Among the serious critics, Judith Crist and Stanley Kauffmann praised the movie. Dwight Macdonald disagreed with those colleagues who found it "realistic" and "honest." Macdonald was a one time anti-Stalinist leftist who turned to cultural criticism.


BH: I remember there was a couple of people who didn't care for it at the time. The people who buy tickets liked it. That's what matters. What mid-America thinks, not some left wing writer from New York City. Anybody could sit up there and watch movies and tell you what you should have done after the fact, but ask one of them to put one together, that will tell you how good they are. Everyone is a critic.


AL: How was the movie received at Paramount?


BH: Paramount sneak previewed the movie in the San Fernando Valley. It got great reviews. They thought the producers had filled out the cards. They took it to San Diego and got the same reaction. The picture pulled Paramount out of the hole, brought them back into the black.


AL: Did you do any other movies with Martin Ritt?


BH: I never worked with Marty again. I'm not the kind to bug him. Guys will run to a director and beg to get on a movie. I figure if they wanted me, they'd call me.


(The citation from the Production Code is from Murray Schumach's The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, William Monrow, 1964)


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