PAPER MOON (1973)
One of the very best films, superb by any criteria -along with the earlier "The Last
Picture Show" and the later "Saint Jack" - in the most uneven career of director
Peter Bogdanovich, a person whom cinephiles always wished to be successful.
old newcomer Tatum O'Neal plays the world-smart and street-wise kid who joins
forces with con man Ryan O'Neal (her father in real life) in a series of
adventures and peregrinations through Kansas during the first Franklin Roosevelt years
Clever, amusing, witty, colorful, splendidly performed by Tatum (Oscar), camera by
Lazslo Kovacs. Kansas is a good, ironic choice as Tatum is not only the anti-Shirley
Temple but also the anti-Judy Garland who left Kansas for Oz. (Edwin Jahiel).
Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader
Peter Bogdanovich seems to have chosen John Ford's underrated Will Rogers vehicles of the 30s (Judge
Priest, Steamboat 'Round the Bend) as the models for this Depression comedy; the images (by Laszlo
Kovacs) have a lovely dusty openness--a realistic view of the midwestern flatlands fading into a
romantic memory. Ryan O'Neal is a con man and Tatum O'Neal is the foundling who may or may not be
his daughter. Though their relationship is conventionally drawn, it has a heart that Bogdanovich hasn't
been able to recapture later.
Paper Moon (1973)
"Paper Moon" is an outstanding comedy and drama. Set in the midwest during the
Great Depression, the era comes to life with black and white cinematography,
automobiles, radio shows and popular music.
Addie (Tatum O'Neal) is a ten-year old who is orphaned when her mother dies in a
car crash. Small-time con artist and probable father Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal,
Tatum's real-life father) agrees to take Addie to her only known relatives in another
state. Addie turns out to be an even better con artist than Moses, and the two become
partners. Later, Moses falls for 'dancer' Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn), and gets into
trouble with corrupt sheriff John Hillerman. The acting of Ryan O'Neal has been
criticized throughout his career, but he is perfect in "Paper Moon". When Addie
makes him angry, he fumes silently, just what you would expect from an exasperated
father. His understated happiness and despair during good and bad times is also
appropriate to his character. "Paper Moon" continued the success of director Peter
Bogdanovich, whose recent films were "What's Up Doc" and "The Last Picture
Show". His career would then take a nosedive, and he would not have another hit
until "Mask" in 1985.
Tatum O'Neal gives an excellent performance. Unlike other child actors, she is never
precocious, except when it is appropriate, such as when perpetrating a con. Her
character is sharp well beyond her age, and if it was not cast correctly, it would not be
credible. Tatum makes the role believable. Madeline Kahn and Tatum O'Neal were
both nominated for Best Supporting Actress. O'Neal won, becoming the youngest
person to win a major Academy Award.
PAPER MOON offers
brilliant, bittersweet images and an entertaining story. The O'Neals
are excellent, but Madeline Kahn almost steals the film in a small
turn as a travelling floozy. Bogdanovich's direction is fast,
furious, and full of fun. As with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, the
director opted for black-and-white cinematography (beautifully done
by Kovacs) in a world swimming in color celluloid, to achieve an
historical feel. "I have more affection, more affinity for the past,"
Bogdanovich later stated. "Since I am more interested in it, it comes
easier for me."