memories of the ’70s – Paper Moon

Father and daughter lit up the screen in the 1973 film Paper Moon, starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum O’Neal.

Directed by Peter Bogdonavitch, this black and white film set during the American Depression tells the story of Moses Pray and nine year old Addie Loggins, who may or may not be his daughter.

Deciding to take care of Addie, the duo are heading to Missouri to deliver her to her Aunt.

On the road, Addie realizes that Moses is not a Bible saleman, but a con man, who visits recent widows, telling them to pay what is owed for the personalized Bibles that were ordered by their late husbands.

Addie demands her money, and Moses promises to pay her off, but as the two continue to travel and make money, they become a team, not interested in doing anything but keeping the con going.

Moses becomes enamored of a carnival dancer Miss Trixie (Madeleine Kahn), who captures his attention away from young Addie. She schemes and plots to get rid of Miss Trixie by revealing she is unfaithful and helps her downtrodden maid Imogene break free of Miss Trixie.

Meanwhile the duo get arrested in a bootlegging scheme, but Addie’s smarts insures their money is kept hidden from the angry sherriff. The two escape again, but are followed by the angry bootleggers who beat Moses, who as a result takes Addie to her Aunt’s house to be safe. But will she stay put?

Initially this film was to star Paul Newman and his daughter Nell, but they dropped out of the project and Bogdonavich was convinced to hire O’Neal and his daughter, despite Tatum’s lack of acting experience. Reviews were mixed with some critics not liking the sweet story on top of the bleakness of the visually-depicted Depression.

Released in May 1973, Paper Moon was a success, and led to Kahn and Tatum O’Neal to be both nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974, which was won by O’Neal, the youngest actress to ever be nominated and win.

Seeing the film years later, I was impressed by the spunky O’Neal duo – and became a fan of both father and daughter, as they continued their acting careers.

About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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