I N   S E A R C H   O F   M A S C U L I N I T Y
P a g e   T h r e e :   T h e   F i n a l   S c e n e   o f   H u d
" I   w o n ' t   b e   b a c k   t h i s   w a y , "   s a y s   L o n n i e   t o   H u d .
A R T I C L E   B Y   A N N   B A R R O W

 
Both Martin Ritt and John Schlesinger point to a method that popular works can use to attack images of their own making—the use of intertextuality. Ritt's use of intertextuality, for example, includes the appropriation of a Western character, Joey Starret from Shane (1953). Brandon de Wilde played Joey Starret: "I love you, Shane" he yelled as the gunfighter rode off at the film's conclusion. In Hud, de Wilde plays Lonnie Bannon, who is forced to choose which banner of masculinity he will follow—that of his grandfather Homer or of his Uncle Hud who fifteen years ago accidentially killed Lonnie's father while driving intoxicated. By the film's end, Lonnie rejects the egoism of Hud, who believes in winner takes all, to follow the path of the honorable, altruistic Homer.
Brandon de Wilde (seated on fence) with Alan Ladd in Shane.
[click photo for larger version]

In the final scene, after he leaves the ranch following Homer's funeral, Lonnie walks with his suitcase in his hand. Hud drives beside him and half-heartedly attempts to convince him to stay, but unlike in Shane, we hear no pleading. After Lonnie walks away, Hud heads for the ranch house and grabs a beer from the fridge. He walks to the screen door, lights a cigarette, and for one fleeting moment his expression reveals his sense of loss, of his connection to family, but then he quickly decides to shrug it off as sentimentality by physically waving it away with a sweep of his hand, and in doing so smiles and turns his back to us. This scene mesmerized me to the extent that I felt compelled to replay it over and over again. For it captures in a few moments all that took place in the inter-personal conflict between Hud and Homer, between Hud and the housekeeper, Alma (Patricia Neal), who in the words of Hud is "the one who got away," and between the traditional cowboy and the capitalistic cowboy that we later see in Joe Buck. In this fleeting moment, as we did throughout the film, we yearn for more of Hud, for further glimpses into the interiority that lies beneath a provocative, captivating, sensuous, impenetrable exteriority.
Hud (Paul Newman) watches Lonnie walk away in the movie's final scene.
[WITH AUDIO CLIP]
[click photo for multiple photos from this scene]

Our desire for Hud as the bad boy to remain rebellious but honorable; hard but soft; sexy but not misogynistic, comes to an end in the film's closing. When he looks after the path of his departing nephew we see the vulnerability that we have glimpsed fleetingly throughout the film, as when he receives a pointed remark from Homer and in the lingering looks for his housekeeper, who has his number (and as such will not dance to his tune, for in her words "one bastard was enough" in her life). The pain behind the fašade comes to the surface frequently, but it is drowned out by witty one-liner comebacks, by booze, and by cheating with married women, which is another way for him to penetrate into another man's landscape. In Hud we identify reluctantly with the ways in which we too drown out and deaden ourselves to our own unresolved, painful issues. We are also struck by Hud's sudden expressions of deep sincerity, of profound insight, and of compassion for himself and others. We are healed by him in these moments, healed from that part of ourselves, and from others who reject the sensitive, beautiful, but fragile parts of our psyche that are not given room to blossom. So we watch breathlessly for one more glimpse into Hud's interiority, and Ritt gives us this final brief look of loss in Hud's eyes, but only for a moment, for with Hud's wave of the hand and a mischievous sneer, we too are brushed aside. For us, Ritt's social audience in search of lost fathers, mothers, lovers, friends, children, and childhoods, there can be only bereavement and barrenness—which results from pursuing capitalistic gain that negates the possibility of figurative, psychological fulfillment within the literal landscape of the American West.

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