Hud: Paul Newman as a Cadillac-Driving Cowboy
Paul Newman as Hud Bannon, arrogant rancher’s son
Texas Panhandle, Summer 1962
Release Date: May 29, 1963
Director: Martin Ritt
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Let’s complete this #CarWeek installment by looking at the third of the “Big Three” Detroit automakers: General Motors, specifically its high-end Cadillac division that has offered luxurious American autos for nearly 120 years.
A few years before Paul Newman caught the racing bug while training for Winning at the end of the decade, the car most associated with his screen image was arguably the pink Cadillac convertible he drove as the eponymous cowboy in Hud.
Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. adapted their script from Larry McMurtry’s 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By, expanding the minor character of Hud Bannon into a swaggering anti-hero who comes into conflict with his more principled father Homer (Melvyn Douglas), particularly when they learn their family cattle may be infected with foot-and-mouth disease. Hud’s shown to have an enterprising—if larcenous—mind by suggesting that they secretly sell the whole lot to ranches around the nation, rather than shooting the potentially infected animals.
Homer: Would that be your way for getting out of a tight… and take a chance on startin’ an epidemic in the entire country?
Hud: This country is run on epidemics, where you been? Epidemic’s a big business: price fixin’, crooked TV shows, income tax finaglin’, souped-up expense accounts. How many honest men you know? You take the saints away from the sinners, you’re lucky to wind up with Abraham Lincoln. Now let’s us put our bread in some of that gravy while it is still hot.
Homer: You’re an unprincipled man, Hud.
Hud: Don’t let that bush ya, I mean, you got enough for both of us.
A pink Cadillac convertible may not be the wheels you’d expect for a cowboy, until you realize Hud Bannon does more bed-hopping than fence-hopping. In particular, it’s the Bannon family housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal) who commands the screen with her sexually charged byplay with the confident and crude cowboy, whether they’re discussing eggs for breakfast or her ex-husband.
Hud: Man like that sounds no better than a heel.
Alma: Aren’t you all?
Hud: Honey, don’t go shootin’ all the dogs ’cause one of ’em’s got fleas.
Alma: I was married to Ed for six years. Only thing he was ever good for was to scratch my back where I couldn’t reach it.
Hud: You still got that itch…?
Alma: Off and on.
Hud: Well… lemme know when it gets to botherin’ ya.
“I’ve done my time with one cold-blooded bastard, I’m not lookin’ for another,” Alma warns Hud when he begins taking his passes too far. “It’s too late, honey, you already found him,” he responds.
Both Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal won Academy Awards for their performances; Neal setting the record with her 22-minute screen time being both the shortest to win a Best Actress Oscar and also the shortest to win in a leading category.
The third win of the film’s seven nominations deservedly went to cinematographer James Wong Howe, who considered Hud to be his finest work. You can see what Howe means through his stunning black-and-white photography of the vast Texas Panhandle landscape and how he captures the members of the Bannon household over the course of that long, hot summer, culminating in Newman enveloped in shadows as he physically attacks the two characters who have shown Hud the most affection, a dark center in a fully lit room.
What’d He Wear?
Appropriate for his profession and lifestyle, Hud exclusively wears snap-front shirts, a Western-associated style reportedly pioneered by Rockmount Ranch Wear founder Jack A. Weil in the early 1900s as the snap closure on the cuffs and placket allowed cowboys’ shirts to break away easily should they get snagged in fencing or the like. (You can find one of Edith Head’s concept sketches for Hud’s costume here.)
In fact, Hud is just snapping up the first of these shirts when he first swaggers on screen, giving the audience a face to match that handsome Cadillac convertible parked outside. The details are typical of Western-style shirts, such as the single-pointed yokes extending over the shoulders onto the chest, echoed by the dramatically pointed flaps that close over the two chest pockets with a mother-of-pearl snap matching those down the front placket and the three on each cuff. The plaid shirting consists of at least three different color shades, grounded in a light color with a balanced but busy multi-plaid in white and a darker color.
“Please, get up offa your lazy butt and get me a clean white shirt… thank you!” Hud demands of Alma while “prettying himself up” for a night out. Returning with an all-white shirt in Hud’s preferred snap-front style, Alma jokes “had a little trouble getting the lipstick out of this one,” before assuring him that “tabs are in the collar.”
Hud doesn’t talk much about his clothing, but he does seem to take certain pride in how he dresses for the occasions that call for “a clean white shirt,” as he later wears this when prepping for the rodeo:
I put on a clean white shirt this morning and I saw me a lawyer.
While most men may consider their ideal “clean white shirt” to be dressier, our Texan cowboy anti-hero stays true to his image by merely pulling on an all-white cotton snap-up shirt with the usual double chest pockets and pointed yokes.
We get a better sense of why Hud takes such pride in his clean white shirts once we see him and the Bannon family hard at the work on the ranch. Though he may not fit his family’s ideal image of the hardworking rancher, Hud still dresses appropriately for the role in jeans and yet another snap-front shirt, this one constructed in a durable blue chambray cotton.
A subtle “W” stitched against the two breast pockets informs us that this shirt was made by Wrangler, the North Carolina brand that was re-christened in the 1940s after its first four decades as the “Blue Bell Overall Company” and quickly proved to be a worthy challenger to Levi’s and Lee for American denim supremacy.
Nearly a half-century after Newman wore his on screen, the Cowboy Cut® chambray shirt remains a mainstay of the Wrangler lineup, available via Amazon and Wrangler.com.
Though worn for more rugged work, the shirt shares many characteristics of Hud’s “going-out” shirts, such as the narrow point collar, the snap-front placket, Western-pointed front and back yokes, and triple-snap cuffs. Only the shape of the pocket flaps differ slightly, with less dramatically points described by Wrangler as intentionally shaped like spades.
Hud pulls on another white snap-front shirt for another night out, this time with the “not-too-natural blonde” Mrs. Peters (former POTM Yvette Vickers). The tapered yokes with fancy embroidery suggest that this isn’t the same shirt he had worn earlier, despite the two pointed-flap pockets and triple-snap cuffs being the same.
For the night of the “pig scramble”, Hud wears a dark cotton sateen snap-front shirt that differs from the others with their diamond-shaped pearl snaps, as opposed to the round snaps of his previously seen shirts. This shirt also has pointed yokes and triple-snap cuffs, though the single-snap flaps on his pockets are less dramatically pointed than the other shirts. If some of the film’s promotional material and poster art are to be believed, the shirting is a solid dark red color.
Though he’s back in his jeans and sleeveless undershirt for the actual scramble, Hud tucks this shirt into his dark “ranch pants”, a pair of flat-front trousers with pointed belt loops, slanted “frogmouth” front pockets, and two back pockets with scalloped single-button flaps. These plain-hemmed bottoms may be part of the two-piece ranch suit he wears during the finale.
A Pair of Lee Jackets
On the Monday morning that the Bannons learn they need to exterminate their cattle, Hud dresses in a dark Lee Storm Rider jacket, initially over a plain white cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt, though he puts on his chambray work shirt by the time the group arms to kill the cows.
Denim jackets had been a mainstay of hard-living westerners since the turn-of-the-century, a tradition solidified when Levi Strauss & Co. introduced the first iteration of its now-famous trucker jackets in 1905. The Kansas-based H.D. Lee Corporation developed its own version and, by mid-century, Wrangler would enter the race to form the “big three” competitors to beat in the world of American denim. Though Levi’s may have had a head start, Lee had pioneered cowboy jackets lined with thick saddle blanket-style wool when the 101LJ was developed in the 1940s, updating the coat when the officially christened Lee 101 Storm Rider was first marketed in the fall of 1953. (As of June 2021, the Storm Rider is still sold.)
After Homer dies, his good-natured grandson Lonnie (Brandon deWilde) tells Hud that he wanted to buy the old man “a brand new blanket-lined jacket”, indicating how valued these venerable jackets were among the ranch set.
In addition to this celebrated lining, the Lee Storm Rider included a tan corduroy collar that added an insulating heft for cowboys hoping to keep warm against storms. Aside from the corduroy collar and blanket lining, the Storm Rider shares the details of the basic Lee Rider, including two flapped pockets aligned just below a horizontal chest yoke and zig-zag stitching around the six rivet buttons up the front.
That night, Hud signifies his dedication to the Kansas denim brand when he pulls on a Lee Westerner cowboy jacket in beige cotton twill, part of the “Lee-Sures” set of matching jacket and jeans that was first marketed at the end of the ’50s and foresaw the rise of the leisure suit two decades later. (Interestingly, the full Lee Westerner jacket and jeans would be worn by Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field… the performance that beat Newman for the Academy Award for Best Actor that same year!)
Only the lighter-colored fabric differentiates the beige Westerner jacket from the standard Lee Rider, as it shares the same “cowboy jacket” cut with two flapped pockets, six rivet buttons with zig-zag stitching, button-tab adjusters on the waist hem, and that telltale black tag with “Lee” embroidered in yellow sewn along the bottom seam of the left pocket flap.
Below the Belt
Not only does he wear their jackets, but Hud’s seemingly favorite pants are also made by Lee, as evident by that small black branded tag and “lazy S” stitching across the back pockets. The most frequently worn of his three pairs of pants, these flat front jeans-style pants are made from a medium-colored twill, likely light brown.
Hud holds up his beloved Lee trousers with a brown tooled leather belt that closes through a large ornate belt buckle that likely draws many a ladies’ eye exactly to the region that Hud wants them to notice first.
When in town or at leisure, Hud wears a pair of dark brown leather cowboy boots. In addition to the traditional “bug and wrinkle” medallion stitching over the vamps, we see the decorative stitching along the shafts when he’s pulling his boots back on over his white tube socks.
Handmade by M.L. Leddy’s of San Angelo, Texas, these calf-high cowboy boots with raised heels and over-the-top pull tabs were auctioned in March 2008 by Guernsey’s New York, who described them as a size 11 in the same auction listing that identified them as made by Leddy.
At work, Hud foregoes his Lee loyalty in favor of dark blue denim Levi’s 501 button-fly jeans, worn with fringed buckskin chaps that buckle at the back of his waistband. He also wears cowboy boots for this type of work, though the uppers are made from a plain tan napped leather.
At work and at play, Hud wears a natural straw cowboy hat in the cutter style. Though the crown isn’t as high as the classic cattleman’s hat, it’s still creased on the top and sides and perforated for plenty of ventilation. A light grosgrain ribbon wraps around the base, encircled by a dark braided leather band.
Hud’s preferred undershirt is the classic white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt. Known as the “A-shirt” (for “athletic shirt”) when it was pioneered in the 1930s, this style of tank top soon gained the pejorative “wife-beater” moniker after a Detroit man wore one for his 1947 mugshot after he, indeed, beat his wife to death. (Source: Dictionary.com)
Before Paul Newman would make watches like the Rolex Daytona famous, he still flashes an attractive timepiece on screen. The round-cased watch has a light-colored dial with non-numeric markers at each hour, strapped to a dark brown leather strap.
The watch was almost certainly Newman’s own (not to be confused with Newman’s Own) as he was photographed wearing one just like it throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s, as seen in several photos posted by my good friend who scribes The Teeritz Agenda.
For the funeral that closes out Hud, our eponymous anti-hero dresses up for the occasion with a suit and tie, though the dark suit remains consistent to his style with its ranch-like detailing. The single-breasted, three-button jacket has two besom pockets rigged high on the chest, both slanting toward the center and positioned above the pointed Western-style yokes. The two hip pockets have pointed flaps that each close with a single button. The notch lapels are finished with sporty swelled edges, and the back echoes the detailing on the front with its single pointed yoke and “action back” shoulder pleats. The sleeves are finished with two vestigial shank buttons that match the three on the front.
Hud wears a skinny dark tie, knotted with a Windsor knot and patterned only with a subtle series of three star-like shapes in the center, similar to the Space Race imagery that adorned everything from cars to clothes in the early ’60s. He holds the tie in place with a plain metal horizontal bar.
What to Imbibe
“You pick up my beer?” Hud asks Alma, who responds: “Two six-packs, that oughta see you ’til tomorrow.”
Indeed, booze is one of Hud’s few passions and many vices, with Coors Banquet beer being one of his favorites, as he downs cans of the famous Colorado brew while preparing for the pig scramble. At the time, Coors was sold exclusively in the west, creating a mythos that would be celebrated by Burt Reynolds’ high-speed bet in Smokey and the Bandit (1977), and it wouldn’t be until the 1980s that Coors products—including the yellow-bellied “original” Coors Banquet and the new “silver bullet” Coors Light—were marketed across the rest of the United States.
After Hud wins the pig scramble, he treats his 17-year-old nephew Lon to cans of Pearl beer, like the pair of true Texans that they are. The Pearl story dates back to the founding of the San Antonio Brewing Company in 1883, exactly ten years after Adolph Coors first brewed his famous pilsner in Golden, Colorado. Pearl didn’t have Coors’ initial success in weathering the effects of Prohibition, but the impressive management of chief executive Emma Koehler led Pearl through the Depression as it became well-established as the largest brewer in Texas.
“You wanna put a little kick in that?” Hud asks Lon, pouring from a high-proof paper bag to fortify them against the almost-inevitable barroom brawls to follow.
The contents of the paper bag go unseen, but it’s almost certain that Hud was treating his nephew to an extra nip of Jack Daniel’s, the Tennessee whiskey that’s well-established as our protagonist’s liquor of choice and instantly recognizable for the black “old-time Old No. 7 brand” labels affixed to its signature square bottles.
If I find a pink Cadillac, he’ll be around somewhere.
Hud is known around the sleepy town of Claude, Texas, for his flamboyant set of wheels, a 1958 Cadillac Series 62 convertible that we know from Lon’s dialogue is pink. Hud may have found inspiration in the colorful choice of wheels for Elvis Presley, his fellow swaggering Southerner, who had famously owned a series of pink Fleetwoods starting with the years of his initial fame in the mid-’50s.
As Bryan Appleyard wrote for The Spectator:
“Out there in the ranchlands of the Texas Panhandle Newman looks just fine—big hat, jeans, cowboy shirt, and boots—but the car looks all wrong. It is long, low, and wide with an absurd pair of tailfins. Moreover it is pink. Though the film is in black and white, the Caddy’s pinkness is mentioned twice in the dialogue. It should be like everybody else’s vehicle in those parts—a Dodge truck, bouncing over the ruts in the dusty roads. The Caddy doesn’t bounce, it wallows and slithers round corners. It is a terrible car and it is no surprise that, in one of the final scenes, it fails to start. But it’s a seducer’s car and Newman’s character Hud is, above all, a seducer.”
Few cars can evoke romance, elegance, and adventure as instantly as the iconic Cadillac models of the late 1950s, when the opulent details stemming from the imagination of GM chief designer Harley J. Earl had reached their zenith. Cadillac led the way for what would become the automotive signatures of the fabulous fifties, such as coruscating chrome, wraparound windshields, and those trademark tail-fins that were first added in 1948 and grew in size until reaching their razor-sharp extreme when the ’59 Eldorado boasted fins that stood a staggering three and a half feet over the stern.
Though Hud Bannon’s 1958 Series 62 doesn’t quite reach the celebrated heights of the following year’s fin stature, he still picked an eye-catching car that would turn heads for more than just its color. “It has to be said that this model year has some of the biggest and most noticeable such features ever put on a Cadillac,” Andrei Nedelea wrote for Auto Evolution of the 1958 Series 62.
Even though the Series 62 had been developed as an entry-model car, Cadillac’s elegant excesses through the ’50s ensured that it would outdo any other marque’s flagship in terms of lavish luxury. The ’58 model had been redesigned from the previous year, now boasting a wider grille and a quartet of chrome wind splits ahead of each wheel. It also marked the final year for the Eldorado and De Ville trim lines, as these would be spun off into their own models for the following year.
All 1958 Cadillacs were powered by the standard Cadillac OHV V8, mated to GM’s four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission with controlled coupling. Body styles for the Series 62 included two- and four-door hardtops and a two-door convertible which weighed in with a whopping curb weight of 5,030 pounds.
1958 Cadillac Series 62
Body Style: 2-door convertible
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 365 cubic inch (6.0 L) Cadillac OHV V8 with Carter 4-barrel carburetor
Power: 310 hp (241 kW; 314 PS) @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 405 lb·ft (549 N·m) @ 3100 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed GM Hydra-Matic automatic
Wheelbase: 129.5 inches (3289 mm)
Length: 221.8 inches (5634 mm)
Width: 80 inches (2032 mm)
Height: 59.1 inches (1509 mm)
To read more about the dimensions or performance of the 1958 Cadillac Series 62 convertible, visit Automobile Catalog, which I used to source the above.
Alma: How come you’re always runnin’ your car over my zinnias? I been tryin’ to get those things to come up for two weeks.
Hud: Then don’t plant ’em where I park.
Hud’s reckless pranks would result in the Caddy’s unwanted facelift by the film’s end… still running but unable to hide its obvious cosmetic damage.
“Pretty hard to keep them birds away… had to use the flashlight most of the night,” the Bannons are informed by their field-hands, but the impulsive Hud doesn’t wait and reaches into their Dodge pickup truck for a Winchester rifle. Like he would as Butch Cassidy less than a decade later, Newman rapidly fires each round from the weapon, evidently holding down the trigger as he works the lever similar to how Butch would “fan the hammer” of his single-action revolver.
“Ah, look at them buzzards,” Hud grunts as the birds scatter under the pressure of his rapid fire. “They’ll be back, you couldn’t scare ’em off with artillery!”
“I wish you wouldn’t do that, Hud… they keep the country clean,” his father responds. “Besides, there’s a law against killin’ buzzards.”
While many of the Bannon ranch workers arm themselves with Winchester Model 1892 rifles, Hud and Lon both use the later model Winchester Model 1894.
Designed by John Browning, the Winchester ’94 was the first of this venerable rifle series to chamber a smokeless powder round when the .30-30 centerfire round was developed the following year, though more than a dozen cartridges would ultimately be available, including handgun rounds like .357 Magnum and .45 Colt. Winchester produced more than 7,500,000 of these rifles over more than a century, making it one of the most popular sporting rifles of all time.
How to Get the Look
Though Hud cycles between variations of his long-sleeved snap shirts and jeans, his base outfit when dressing to impress in his small Texas town is a “clean white shirt” with his cowboy-informed kit of a perforated straw hat, tall boots, and a flashy belt buckle.
- White cotton Western-style shirt with pointed yokes, snap-front placket, two chest pockets with pointed single-snap flaps, and triple-snap cuffs
- Light brown twill flat front Lee jeans-style pants with belt loops, curved front pockets, and patch back pockets
- Brown tooled leather belt with large ornate belt buckle
- Dark brown leather cowboy boots with tall stitched shafts, pull tabs, and raised heels
- White tube socks
- Natural straw hat with perforated cutter-style crown and thin braided dark leather band
- Round-cased wristwatch with light-colored dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. You can also read the 1961 source novel Horseman, Pass By, written by late Larry McMurtry.
For fans of Paul Newman, pink Cadillacs, Hud, or all three, I also recommend checking out Thomas Pollart’s excellent mixed media that features an insouciant Newman in costume as Hud—wearing his straw hat, Wrangler shirt, and Levi’s—still in black-and-white but leaning against the tail of his Cadillac, which has been colorized to the brilliant pink that must have shocked his fellow citizens. Pollart’s art can be found in a variety of purchasable formats at Fine Art America.
You don’t look out for yourself, and the only helping hand you’ll ever get is when they lower the box.
The watch looks something like one of my Timex Marlins.
Another great review! I’d love to see you do one on Walton Goggins from John Bronco (2020).
Thanks for the shout-out, BAMF! Watches from movies of the ’50s and ’60s are always hard to pinpoint because every brand (just about) produced a nice plain wristwatch on a leather strap back then.
I hope you and your lady are well.
I have the belt buckle. Took over 20 years to find.
Where’d you purchase it, K.W.? I’d like to get me one!