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The Tomatometer is 60% or higher.
The Tomatometer is 59% or lower.
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It wound up
becoming one of the roles he was most closely identified with, but Paul Newman
almost ended up letting his chance to play pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson pass
him by -- his commitment to another project initially forced him to let the
script go to Bobby Darin, but when Newman suddenly found himself free, The
Hustler's producers quickly handed him the project. Darin's loss ended up
being the film fan's gain, as Newman took Sidney Carroll and Robert Rossen's
screenplay and put it squarely on his shoulders, taking it all the way to an
array of glowing reviews (even TIME Magazine was forced to admit Newman was
"better than usual"), nine Academy Award nominations, and decades of repeat
viewings. Twenty years later, Newman would play Felson again, and take home
the Best Actor award he missed here.
The posters for Hud shouted that Paul Newman was "the man with the
barbed wire soul!" -- which was basically a polite, early '60s way of saying
that the irresponsible lout at the heart of the movie was a creep with few, if
any redeeming qualities. Leave it to Newman, though, to make you care about
Hud Bannon anyway -- even after you learn about the tragedies his actions have
caused, witnessed his casual cruelty, and watched as he squanders every
opportunity to repair the damage, you almost can't help pulling for the guy.
More than just a character study in alcoholic womanizing, Hud was one
of the earliest films to revel in the dark underbelly of the Western, and hint
at the bottomless nihilism that would soon eclipse America's post-WWII
optimism and largely define the next two decades. That it's able to accomplish
all of this is due in no small part to what is, in TV Guide's words, "a huge
performance by Newman."
Paul Newman wasn't always Hollywood royalty -- once upon a time, he was
just another star in the making, struggling to prove he was more than a pretty
face. It wasn't always certain he'd reach that goal, either; for a time in the
'60s, Newman had a hard time finding the right scripts, or taking proper
advantage of the ones he was given. On the surface, 1966's Harper -- a
transparent attempt by Warner Bros. to recapture Bogie-style magic with an
adaptation of Ross Macdonald's novel -- would seem to be a good example of a
picture from Newman's fallow period, but despite its unoriginal ambitions
(which most critics agreed it failed to achieve), Harper turned out to
be an enjoyable latter-day gumshoe flick. Though the New York Times' Bosley
Crowther accused Newman of being "too fresh" and "too ruggedly good-looking"
for the role, it must have agreed with him; Harper went down as one of
two films Newman ever followed up with a sequel, 1975's The Drowning Pool.