MUSIC N’ MOVIES
The song “Lonely Ol’ Night” (John Mellencamp, 1985) and the film “Hud” (1963). The beautifully photographed, black and white “Hud” starred Paul Newman, Patricia Neal, and Melvyn Douglas, among others. Adapted from the Larry McMurtry novel, Horseman, Pass By, it received 7 Oscar nominations, with Oscar wins for Neal and Douglas. The central conflict is between the painfully honest, principled father, Homer (played by Douglas), and the cheating, narcissistic son, Hud (played by Newman). Homer had long given up on Hud, saying: “You just live with yourself and that makes you not fit to live with.” They live a small town in Texas cattle country where Dr. Pepper rules and art spins to the populace courtesy of the paperback rack at the drugstore.
Mellencamp found inspiration in the following exchange between Hud and his nephew, Lon, who are on their way into town for a night of carousing:
“It’s a lonesome old night, isn’t it?”
“Ain’t they all.”
Other than the housekeeper Alma (played by Neal), Hud can charm any woman into bed. Lon initially is seduced by the cocky, winner Hud, but ultimately sees through and rejects Hud. Lon departs the ranch to make his own way in the world, leaving Hud all alone. By that time, Homer had suffered a heart attack and died (after his precious longhorns had contracted hoof and mouth disease and been exterminated), and Alma had boarded a Trailways bus to an uncertain future with unknown companions.
At least in Mellencamp’s song, the night is custom made for two lonely people. In Hud, no two are left together. Then again, we don’t even know the names of the two people in the song. Maybe that’s why Mellencamp named one of his sons Hud in 1994.