Brandon De Wilde did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lon "Lonnie" Bannon in Hud.
Brandon De Wilde has a very difficult role in this film as he is the in between. There is the two sides of the film found in the noble man of the old west Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas) and the modern cowboy who cares about no one other than himself Hud Bannon (Paul Newman). They are the two generations above Lon with Homer being Lon's grandfather, and Hud being his uncle, Lon's own father having died some time ago. De Wilde has to stand in the middle as the reactionary party to the struggle as well as represent what exactly will become of the third generation who is influenced by both the first and the second generations above him.
De Wilde has quite a challenge because Lon does not have the convictions of his elders, and therefore he also lacks their passion when it comes into their scenes together. De Wilde has to make Lon several things and nothing exact. This begins with his relationships with his elders and De Wilde is very good in creating a certain chemistry with both Newman and Douglas. With Douglas there is a great deal of respect that De Wilde creates. He always shows him to be looking up to him in the most respectful fashion, there is always a certain tenderness De Wilde portrays. De Wilde always has his head turned and focused with earnestness toward Douglas that properly suggests that Lon's always listens to his grandfather.
With Newman though De Wilde is very different, but still portrays a reverence for Hud as well although of a different sort. De Wilde portrays a greater enthusiasm when Lon is with Hud, not that he is bored with Homer, but he shows a certain energy that comes to life when Lon becomes engrossed into Hud's sort of life. There is a shyness he properly infuses here to in the life in that Lon would rather be an observer of the life at times rather than be right with it. De Wilde shows that Lon looks up to Hud in a different way. He does not have that respect that he has for Homer, but there is a great interest he portrays and he suggests that there is a strong part of him who likes the ideas of the thrills that Hud gets in life.
The way Lon does look up to both men leaves him in awkward position when the two fight over their differing values. Although Douglas and Newman have the speeches in these scenes De Wilde still manages to stand with them in his meeker role. There is a great power in the close up of his face in these scenes and he conveys the conflicting emotions that occur in him. It is not just sadness to see the men he admires in different ways, but as well a certain confusion of what exactly he should. There is a support in his eyes for Homer, yet at the same time there still is that connection with Hud at the same time. De Wilde lends sympathy to both parties and suggests a longing to try to understand the conflict even though he can't quite do it. De Wilde creates a very effective dynamic in his performance showing the way both men influence him.
An interesting thing about this performance though is it does not end the way one would think. One would think he would either go the way of Homer or Hud, but in the end he really does not choose either path. A series of tragic circumstances instead changes Lon and De Wilde portrays this in a very powerful fashion. In the end Lon rejects Hud's ways, but as well does not seem to suggest any of the optimism Homer had either. Instead he is left as a jaded man who is hardened by the experience. It is a striking development particularly because of how well De Wilde earns this change through the way his earnestness slowly devolves as everything thing in his life seems to take a turn for the worse. The last scenes are made truly sad by De Wilde because how honestly he expresses that the final lesson Lon has learned is only to simply face the world with a distaste for what lies in it.
Brandon De Wilde performance stands as the underrated facet of this film as it was the only of the four main characters not to be remembered by the academy. De Wilde though is an essential part of the film as his performance as Lon is in a way what holds the whole film together as well as leads the film to its conclusion in terms of the fight between the old and the new. De Wilde is terrific in every aspect of his performance, because he does not flub up a single relationship. Whether it is the unique fashion that Lon looks up to each of the other men, or his boyish attempted flirtations with their housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal) he adds an extra layer to the film through the complexities he brings to these relationships. He never lets Lon be the simple bland man in the middle instead he finds what is fascinating in being the man between the two worlds, and creates something quite remarkable in showing where this leads Lon in the end.