By David Stevens
One of the all-time great movies was released 40 years ago this week.
“Hud,” starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal, was filmed in Claude, Texas, just east of Amarillo, about two hours from Clovis. The black-and-white Western classic was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three of them.
It told the story of a ranching family whose livelihood was threatened when their cattle were struck by disease. Hud Bannon, played by Newman, wanted to sell the cattle before anyone found out they were sick. But Homer Bannon, Hud’s father played by Douglas, refused to consider the option.
This exchange between the men tells all you need to know about their character:
Homer Bannon: “That’s your solution for getting out of a tight? To pass bad beef on to my neighbors who wouldn’t know what they was getting? Or maybe risk starting an epidemic in the entire country?”
Hud Bannon: “This country is run on epidemics, where you been? Price fixing, crooked TV shows, inflated expense accounts. How many honest men you know? Why you separate the saints from the sinners, you’re lucky to wind up with Abraham Lincoln. Now I want out of this spread what I put into it, and I say let us dip our bread into some of that gravy while it is still hot.”
I thought about “Hud” recently when I read that movie-goers in the United Kingdom recently ranked the 10 best movie lines ever.
The winner was “I’ll be back,” from The Terminator in 1984.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” from Gone with the Wind, and “Get busy living or get busy dying,” from The Shawshank Redemption rounded out the top three in the survey.
They’re all fine lines and I don’t mean to criticize the good people of the UK, but I have to wonder if any of those surveyed has ever seen “Hud,” which did not have a line in the top-10 list.
I don’t know which “Hud” line is most memorable, but at least one of these should rank in the top 10 of everybody’s list:
• Hud Bannon: “You don’t look out for yourself, the only helping hand you’ll ever get is when they lower the box.”
• Homer Bannon: “It don’t take long to kill things, not like it takes to grow.”
• Homer Bannon: “Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire.”
• Hud Bannon: “This world’s so full of crap a man’s gonna get into it sooner or later whether he’s careful or not.”
• Hud Bannon: “Nobody gets out of life alive.”
According to The Internet Movie Database, Newman prepared for his title role in “Hud” by working on a Texas cattle ranch for several weeks, “acquiring genuine calluses and a cowboy’s lope.”
Old-timers at the Amarillo Daily News have said that Newman was a regular in the newspaper office during the filming of the movie. He would sneak out the back door of an Amarillo hotel to escape his throngs of admirers so he could read baseball box scores on The Associated Press wire.
Maybe this kind of trivial knowledge, coupled with family ties to Claude — my grandmother’s brother-in-law used to be sheriff there, housing prisoners in the upstairs of his home — has clouded my objectivity when it comes to “Hud.”
But I can’t think of many movies with more memorable one-liners. And most of them are still relevant after 40 years.
Frankly my dear, nobody gets out of life alive, so we should get busy living — and looking for good, classic movies in the 99-cent section at the video store.
David Stevens is the editor for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be contacted at 1-800-819-9925 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org