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365 Days of Oscar: Melvyn Douglas’ first win

“You don’t care about people, Hud,” Homer tells his son after a long, boozy night that culminates in Lonnie getting into a barroom brawl. Douglas’ velvety voice conveys a wealth of history and a deeply saddened present, and as much as we’d like to push this patriarch aside, we know Homer is right, Hud does only care about himself. Instead of being the raging bull that pushes Hud off to his sordid affairs, Douglas becomes the frail man teetering on his own precarious edge, soon to be pushed off.  His decision to kill the cattle is devastating, but Douglas negotiates this crucial moment with his usual forthright wisdom that killing the cattle becomes a painfully logical conclusion. Watching his cattle buried, longhorn bulls shot, and farmland become barren feels like watching a man attend his own funeral. 

There are no frills to Douglas’s Homer. In his starched yet unshowy performance, Douglas conjures up an entire era and milieu that still feels specific to this one man. Homer is at once gloomy and pragmatic, resolved and humiliated, a cowboy completely at home on his range, even when those dusty winds come rolling through to take him with them. 

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.