Friday, August 8, 2014


When most people think of cinema in the '70s, they think of a time of innovation, upheaval, and experimentation. And indeed, it was. But the '70s was also the decade that introduced the first generation of film-weaned filmmakers. The directors, producers, and writers who grew up watching movies.
Wholly uninterested in the experimental exploration of film's potential as an art form or means of creative expression, this new breed of nostalgia-prone, rear-view-fixated filmmakersmany of them former movie critics or film scholarsnot only seemed to have spent the entirety of their formative years in front of movie screens (suggesting, perhaps, a lack of actual, real-life-acquired insights to impart in their work beyond those gleaned, secondhand, from movies); but when granted the opportunity to make films of their own, strove for no ambition loftier than to remake, revisit, and re-imagine the movies that meant so much to them while growing up.

The legacy of such willfully arrested artistic development in today's Hollywood can most certainly be seen in the industry's worrisome over-reliance on remakes and reboots and the almost-surreal global dominance of mega-budget, adolescence-coddling comic book superhero movies. But back in the day of the Auteur Theory, Nouvelle Vague, and the New Hollywood, the regressive filmmaker was primarily dismissed by so-called serious cineastes. Luckily for these filmmakers, they were taken to the bosom of a moviegoing public growing weary of avant-garde filmmaking techniques, artsy pretensions, and non-linear storytelling. Indeed, in the wake of the '70s oil crisis, inflation, Vietnam, and Watergate, many audiences found the notion of escaping into the romanticized idealization of the past to be a very appealing proposition.
Cinema Dreams
In the background of this shot, Bogdanovich pays tribute to one of his favorite directors, John Ford, by featuring a theater marquee advertising Ford's 1935 feature, Steamboat Round the Bend

Some directors, like François Truffaut, paid homage to the filmmakers they admired (Hitchcock, in his case) by reinterpreting that director's style through a modern prism. Others, like Francis Ford Coppola, found fame by applying auteurist theories to classicist filmmaking. Only Peter Bogdanovichactor, film scholar, and criticdrew the ire of Hollywood Renaissance movie cultists (while gaining success as the Golden Boy of the nostalgia craze) by making new "old" movies.
Ryan O'Neal as Moses (Moze) Pray
Tatum O'Neal as Addie Loggins
Madeline Kahn as Miss Trixie Delight (alias, Mademoiselle)
P.J. Johnson as Imogene
Burton Gilliam as Floyd
John Hillerman as Deputy Hardin / Jess Hardin 
Randy Quaid as Leroy
Although Peter Bogdanovich is technically credited with being its director, Paper Moon, like its predecessors The Last Picture Show (1971) and What's Up, Doc? (1972), is a film so heavily influenced by Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Orson Welles, each gentleman, by rights, could share co-director billing. A point Bogdanovich himself would likely make no bones about, for on the DVD commentary, he states, "The movie was very 1935 with '70s actors." And to be sure, what with the film's salty language, racy humor, and a pint-sized, cigarette-smoking heroine so cheeky she'd take the curl out of Shirley Temple's hair; Paper Moon feels very much like some kind of pre-Code Preston Sturges movie shot through with a dose of '70s self-awareness.

Paper Moon, a Depression-era road comedy skillfully and hilariously adapted by Alvin Sargent (The Sterile Cuckoo) from Joe David Brown's 1971 novel Addie Pray, is the story of small-time con man Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal), who meets his match in little Addie Loggins (Ryan's real-life daughter, Tatum O'Neal), an old-beyond-her-8-years, recently-orphaned waif who may or may not be his illegitimate daughter. Entrusted with escorting the child from Kansas to Missouri to stay with relatives, Moze's attempt to first swindle, then unburden himself of the cagey tyke results in the tables being turned on him in a manner ultimately binding the two as reluctant partners in cross-country flim-flams. The quarrelsome duo's misadventures swindling widows, bilking shopkeepers, and taking up with buxom carnival dancer Trixie Delight (Kahn) and her beleaguered maid, Imogene (Johnson), are played out against a bleak Midwestern landscape of barren skies and vast Kansas plains redolent of The Grapes of Wrath.
Paper Moon's grim depiction of the Midwest during The Great  Depression not only served as dark subtext to the film's comedy, but  resonated with '70s audiences contending with gas-rationing and rising inflation

Gloriously shot, cleverly conceived, superbly acted, and consistently laugh-out-loud funny, Paper Moon is a feast of period detail and sharp comedy writing that manages to be sweetly sentimental without veering into the saccharine. And while I find the film to be a little draggy in its third act (perhaps because things take a darker turn), the first two-thirds of Paper Moon is very nearly perfect.

Following a tight, 3-act structure, Paper Moon, with the introduction of Trixie and Imogene to the narrative in the second act, reaches such a giddy height of comedy incandescence that the film never fully regains its footing once they depart. These characters bring so much variance to the interplay of Moze and Addie that when nothing is there to take its place but a sinister bootlegger and a fistfighting hillbilly, one can almost feel the air leaving the movie. Almost. The O'Neal chemistry is too strong to let the film flounder completely.
The Only Time We See Addie's Mother
(and we understand why Addie is so attached to that cloche hat)
From a storytelling viewpoint, it makes perfect sense for things to take a darker turn once Addie & Moze's overconfidence in their con leads to greed. But both the bootleg swindle and hillbilly car swap sequences play out with the appropriate tension but not much wit, leaving the rest of the filmexcluding the marvelous denouementfeeling somewhat anticlimactic.

If it can be said of Bogdanovich that he is a director who has spent his life forever at the feet of The Masters, then at least he's a student who learned his lessons well. For as with all of his early films, Paper Moon reveals Bogdanovich to be a deft and sensitive storyteller, versatile and fluent in the language of cinema. He understands what he's doing, knows what he's going for, and, despite a film-geek tendency toward stylistic imitation-as-flattery, has an inspired touch when it comes to comedy. Rare among nostalgists, Bogdanovich has a talent for making the familiar feel engagingly fresh.

Paper Moon is one of my favorite comedies, one I've always regretted never having seen at a theater in the presence of an audience. But as I recount in an earlier post on this blog about The Last Picture Show, as a young man, I was less than enthralled by the whole '70s nostalgia craze:

"As an African-American teen inspired by the emerging prominence of Black actors on the screen and excited about the upsurge in positive depictions of African-American life in movies of the 70s; these retro films, with their all-white casts and dreamy idealization of a time in America's past which was, in all probability, a living nightmare for my parents and grandparents, felt like a step in the wrong direction. The antennae of my adolescent cynicism told me that all this rear-view fetishism was just Hollywood's way of maintaining the status quo. A way of reverting back to traditional gender and racial roles, and avoiding the unwieldy game-change presented by the demand for more ethnic diversity onscreen, the evolving role of women in society, and the increased visibility of gays." 

And while I still feel this to be true and witness the same thing happening today in Hollywood's focus on fantasy films populated with mythical creatures, elves, gnomes, wizards, and superbeings of all stripes (anything but those pesky, problematic people of color); the passage of time has literally transformed Paper Moon into what it was always designed to be: an old movie. And old movies I can watch through a prism of the past I'd otherwise find unacceptable, if not reprehensible, in a contemporary film.
If there's a method to Bogdanovich's retro madness, it's that Paper Moon is often at its funniest when it uses our familiarity with '30s movie tropes as the setup for contemporary, very '70s comic reversals. Tatum O'Neal's tough-talking Addie amuses in part because she's so very unlike the kind of little girl every parent wanted their daughter to be in the '30s: Shirley Temple. Trixie's maid, Imogene, may recall the sassy Black maids of '30s comedies, but it's her uproariously open and blatant hostility toward her employer that lays to rest the comforting stereotype of the childlike devoted domestic.

I think it was Bogdanovich who once made the observation that people of a certain age visualize the 1930s in their mind's eye as a black-and-white era because that's the only way they know it; through black-and-white-photos, black-and-white movies. When Paper Moon, with its meticulous recreation of the look and feel of a 1935 movie (which is, importantly, not the same thing as recreating real life in 1935), has its very period-specific characters using language unthinkable in films of the day, the visual and behavioral incongruity is riotously funny.
Ryan's Daughter

As everyone knows, 10-year-old Tatum O'Neal made history by being the youngest person to ever win a competitive Oscar when she won Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon in 1974. And on that score, you'll get no argument from me. I'm really not very fond of kids (either on or off-screen), a predisposition compounded by Hollywood's fascination with precocious kids whose mature behavior I'm supposed to find adorable. But Bogdanovich works a minor miracle with Tatum O'Neal. She actually IS an adorable, precocious child…sweet of face, husky of voice, and inhabited, apparently, by the soul of a 50-year-old grifter.
Paper Moon's great, unsung asset is Ryan O'Neal. Looser and funnier than you're likely to see him in any other film, he is a real charmer with an impressive range of exasperated reactions

Tatum O'Neal is nothing short of a marvel in a role in which she's required to play a range of emotions a seasoned professional would find challenging. And even if the rumors are true that Bogdanovich shaped every gesture, nuance, and line reading (easy enough to believe given the flatness of her subsequent performances in The Bad News Bears and International Velvet), hers is still an amazingly assured and natural performance for one so young (O'Neal was eight when filming began).

Now, with all that being said, I do have to lodge my one complaint: there is no way in hell Addie Pray is a supporting role. It's a lead. The entire film rests on her shoulders, and she appears in more scenes than anyone else in the film. It's patently absurd that Tatum O'Neal was entered in the Best Supporting Actress category.
Of course, my rant is based on my ironclad certainty that, taking absolutely nothing from O'Neal's great performance, it was Madeline Kahn who deserved that award. As good as Paper Moon is, my A+ rating would drop to a B-minus without Kahn's Trixie Delight. She's that good.
I'm sure someone somewhere must have tallied the length of Madeline Kahn's screen time in Paper Moon. She's not onscreen all that long, but every momentfrom her memorably jiggly entrance, past her umpteenth speech extolling the virtues of bone structure, all the way to her magnificent scene on that hilltopis sheer brilliance. That hilltop scene is one of the finest onscreen moments in Kahn's entire career. I love when an actor can make you laugh while at the same time touching upon something vulnerable and sad behind the facade.

The off-kilter charm of Paper Moon is in it essentially being a romantic comedy. An uneasy love story between a father and daughter who may or may not be biologically related ("It's pothible!"). That Addie doesn't really see herself as a little girl and Moze not seeing himself as anything closely resembling a father, makes for several amusingly awkward scenes where the querulous duo is forced to play-act the roles of loving father and daughter in order to perpetrate a swindle. Scenes made all the more touching by all the other times we see them reluctant to yield to even the slightest display of affection for one another. 
Waitress - "How we doin', Angel Pie? We gonna have a little dessert after we finish up our hot dog?"
Addie - (never taking her eyes off Moze) "I dunno."
Waitress - "What d'ya say, Daddy? Whyn'y we get precious here a little dessert if she eats her dog?"
Moze - (slowly and through gritted teeth) "Her name ain't precious."
Two days and 36 takes (!) produced this exceptional continuous shot sequence

Over the years, Peter Bogdanovich's unrealized potential as a director and the dysfunctional family circus that has become the O'Neals has lent a bittersweet air of nostalgia to Paper Moon that's wholly unintentional and unrelated to the film's roots in 1930s wistfulness. For years it had been hinted that Bogdanovich's success was significantly reliant upon his wife, production, and costume designer, Polly Platt. Paper Moon marks their last collaboration (they divorced after Peter fell in love with Cybill Shepherd during the making of The Last Picture Show) and, perhaps tellingly, the end of Bogdanovich's success streak. As a longtime admirer (if not idolater) of Orson Welles, it couldn't have been lost on Bogdanovich the degree to which his drop in popularity mirrored Welles' own tarnished Golden Boy career decline.
By way of talk shows, memoirs, and tabloid headlines, Ryan and Tatum O'Neal have practically built a cottage industry around airing the dirty laundry of their familial discord. Watching Paper Moon these days, one can't help but respond to the almost documentary aspects of Moze and Addie's push-pull relationship. This is especially true of scenes depicting Addie's possessiveness toward Moze and jealousy of any female attention directed towards him (Addie's relationship with Trixie is like being given front-row seats to how the whole Tatum O'Neal/Farrah Fawcett thing played out).

When I watch the classic TV show, I Love Lucy, it often crosses my mind that I'm watching a wish-fulfillment version of the real-life marriage of Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz. In light of the painful reality we've come to know about the relationship of the O'Neals, Moze and Addie have become, for me, the idealized image of Ryan and Tatum.

As I do with Orson Welles, I always associate Peter Bogdanovich with the genius work of his early career and largely overlook his latter contributions. And while I know it to be a departure from the sad reality, I like to imagine Tatum and Ryan O'Neal driving off to an uncertain but happy future together, devoted father and loving daughter, down that long and winding road into the horizon.
Isn't nostalgia all about remembering the past as we would have liked it to be?
And They Lived Happily Ever After

On the DVD commentary, Bogdanovich reveals that it was his friend Orson Welles who came up with the idea to title the film "Paper Moon." Before the property fell into Bogdanovich's hands, the film was still known as "Addie Pray" (the title of the Joe David Brown novel) and conceived as a project for Paul Newman and his daughter Nell, working under the direction of John Huston. 

YouTube clip of Tatum O'Neal winning her Oscar for Paper Moon - HERE

In 1974, Paper Moon was turned into a short-lived TV series starring Jodie Foster (just two years away from her own Oscar nomination in Taxi Driver) and Christopher Connelly, the actor who played Ryan O'Neal's brother in 1964's popular TV soap opera Peyton Place (itself a spin-off of a motion picture). 
 YouTube Clip of the series' opening sequence.

Newspaper ad - Paper Moon had its World Premiere at
the Coronet Theater in New York on Wednesday, May 16, 1973

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2014


  1. Yayy, Ken, I have loved this movie since I was a kid, and have grown to appreciate it even more over the years. As a kid, I had a terrible crush on both Tatum and on Jodie Foster (I had totally forgotten about the TV version of Paper Moon). I am probably the only person to sit through International Velvet seven times in 1976. She's also tops in The Bad News Bears and in Little Darlings, but her performance as Addie is iconic and the chemistry she displays with her dad is priceless.

    As in the classic b&w films of the 1930s, the supporting characters really make this film, particularly Mademoiselle Trixie Delight and Imogene--although I too always cringed at Imogene's indentured servitude, her character's passive-aggressive revenge on her mistress is absolutely brilliant ly portrayed. I also love the con-artist finesse of both Moses and Addie--how he smooth-talks the widows, and how she nets that $20 bill from the dime store.

    Bogdonovich is a favorite of mine for the exact reasons you mentioned...he loves and appreciates and knows movies as much as we do...and pays homage while creating original and unforgettable films himself, like Last Picture Show and my favorite screwball comedy of all time, What's Up, Doc.

    Thanks for the memories of Paper Moon, Ken. I can't wait to give this another viewing in the coming weeks.

  2. Hi Chris!
    No surprise that you love this movie. It really is a film lover's dream. Bogdanovich really sought to keep alive what was best about movies. Too much success too soon has a way of killing talent and I'll always believe three major hits in a row sounded the death knell for his gifts.
    Early Bogdanovich, more than any other 70s filmmaker I can think of, got the best out of his supporting characters. Whenever I revisit the film, it's the supporting roles that really catch my eye.
    Like you, i get a big kick of how the various small-time swindles are done. The small twists and surprises of Addie's character playing wonderfully off of the not-as-slick-as-he-thinks-he-is Moze.

    That's very cute that you had crushes on Tatum and Foster when you were a kid. They certainly were the last breed of somewhat natural child actors. And you really should get some kind of personal Thank You note from Tatum herself for sitting through "International Velvet" so many times. (I forgot about "Little Darlings"...I liked that one).
    And I'd easily say "What's Up, Doc?" is my favorite screwball comedy of all time as well. in fact, writing that sentence has created a desire to see it again soon!
    Great to hear from you again, Chris!

  3. For some reason, I don't think I've seen this movie since I saw it in the theater during the original run, even though I remember liking it a lot.

    I think some of Bogdonovich's early success came from an ability to make "old movies" without having to dance around the production code but not unnecessarily flaunting that fact. Gives the movies an "honest" feel.

    But, he showed with Targets that he could make a contemporary movie, and make it well. Plus, I'm glad he gave Karloff the opportunity for a substantial
    late-career role.

    Madeline Khan was on fire around this time--a very funny player. My sister was her dresser for a while and always refers to her as "lovely," referring more to her personality than her looks.

    1. Yes, I think Bogdanovich's very contemporary spins on the "old" movie is what was behind his earlier successes, and what made crtics so wary of him by the time "Daisy Miller" came out. Left to his own devices and without a cinematic style to imitate, his work looked rather unremarkable.
      I liked "Targets", which, like Spielberg's "Duel" had a naif energy later replaced by polish.
      And that's very nice to hear about Madeline Khan. She certainly was the THE feminine face of comedy in the 70s. Thanks for commenting!

    2. Thank you for this lovely piece; I think there's far too little appreciation today for early (pre-Cybil) Bogandovich.

      And I'm fascinated by the wide divergence in Madeline Kahn's reputation. In my experience, what it boils down to is that I've never heard anyone in film or television who worked with her come out with anything but praise - but at the same time I know of no one in the theatre who worked with her who could stand her. I knew, fairly well, some people involved in her stage work, and the best they could manage was a resigned silence and an acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe what they went through was worth it for the resulting performance. One theatre great summed her up to me as "such talent, so spoiled" (which they meant in the mayonnaise-in-the-sun, not the brat, sense of the word). Whatever - we'll always have Miss Trixie and Eunice Burns!

    3. Thanks, Muscato
      I appreciate your shedding light on what I tend to think is really the truth behind a great deal of creative genius and success. Few like to speak ill of the dead or the beloved, but I think anyone who has ever worked even briefly in show business could attest, talking about an experience with a celebrity is like that children's game where everyone tries to describe a simple object, but you discover that no two people sees that object the same.
      As a general rule, I tend to assume that if they a person has achieved a level of excellence and fame in their craft, they've fought some battles along the way. Meaning, they are likely to be both tough and tender depending on the circumstances. I adore Madeline Kahn onscreen, but it wouldn't surprise me that she has a difficult side.
      (I've always wanted to know what really happened with her and Lucille Ball on "Mame"!)
      But what is great about film is that those of us who have never known her can project our fantasies about what she was really like, on the characters she left behind. Eunice and Trixie.

  4. I adore this movie! It really is like a Preston Sturges movie now that I know his work so much better. As usual your insightful and affectionate write-up has got me itching for a re-viewing. Not only that I'm about to go buy a copy of the book! We had a battered copy in my teenage home and remember sneaking reading chapters from it when my mom wasn't around. I don't remember any of the book at all. I still remember all the cons in this movie One time back in the mid 1990s when working as a barista I was nearly the victim of the old $20 switcheroo con. Some sharply dressed, smooth talking man tired to convince me that he paid with a twenty when he gave me a ten dollar bill and I said "No sir, the man in front of you paid with a $20. You gave me a ten." He gave the nastiest look, dropped his smooth talkin' , smilin' ways and stormed out of the store. Never saw him again, BTW. All thanks to PAPER MOON!

    Do watch WHAT'S UP DOC? again and write up a post on that movie. Such a masterpiece of raucous comedy and one of the few movies I know so well that I can quote almost the entire screenplay. Madeline Kahn as Howard's prissy fiancee is perfection. "What have you done with Howard Bannister's rocks?" And I love the bit at the end when Streisand says, "Don't you know that love is never having to say you're sorry?" and bats her eyes burlesquely. Then O'Neal counters, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Priceless!

    1. Hi John
      I hope you write about "Addie Pray" on your blog. I always read about the film ending at the half-way point of the book.
      That's funny about your real-life brush with the $20 con-game. I had an experience in my teens when I actually gave a store proprietor a $20 and got change back for a $10. Although I had not yet seen "Paper Moon" I was sure that when I brought this to his attention he was going to think it was a fraud. Happily, I was believed, but I honestly felt like it was going to turn into a whole big rigmarole. Of course, I saw the film years later and could only assume the store proprietor was unfamiliar with it, or I never would have got my money back.
      I actually rewatch "What's Up, Doc?" last night and once again, laughed at loud at so many parts. That movie is a gem, and as you say, full of so many quotable bits of dialog. None of which you could ever hear if you saw it at the theater in those days. I wrote a piece on "What's up Doc?" a few ears back. So brief when compared to these lengthy essays I write today!

    2. Your post is almost six years old, but still it's too coincidental not to say...I was the victim of a short change artist when I worked as a barista. Except is wasn't "nearly"...I was taken. And it wasn't by telling me that he had given me a twenty when he hadn't. It was the "Oh what did I give you? Take this and give me that instead". But then at that time I had seen "Paper Moon" in the theater when it came out, and twenty five years had passed and I remembered nothing of it.

    3. Ha! I certainly hope you didn't catch any heat for being the victim in that exchange!
      I can't imagine anyone working for any time in job involving a cash register who hasn't come across a variation of what you describe.
      It's so easy to do it unintentionally (like if I give the salesperson a bill and then suddenly realize I have the exact change) you can imagine how well it must work with intentional misdirection and distraction. To know these con games have survived for generations!

  5. I still remember the pure pleasure this movie represented when it opened in the midst of so many terrific but bleak New Hollywood pictures. But as you say, Bogdanovich gave what could have been nothing but fluff a real edge through the harsh look of the movie. The nostalgia craze of the early 1970s was interesting because it took in sheer escapism AND really tough views of the past like 'The Day of the Locust.'
    On the matter of the Oscar category, the Academy was just as "flexible" a few years later when it gave George Burns a "supporting actor" prize for his above the title work in "Sunshine Boys."
    I've always admired Susan Sarandon for refusing that gambit when Paramount suggested she be placed in the supporting category for "Atlantic City."

    1. Hi Joe
      I really do regret never having seen this in a theater. i know I would have loved it. Especially, as you point out,as a respite from all those bleak 70s movies that were my thing back then.
      As much as I like John Huston, When i read that "Paper Moon" was originally to have been a feature for Paul Newman and his daughter, Nell, I kind of shudder at the thought. Tatum and Ryan are so fresh in unexpected ways, while Paul Newman seemed to get stricken with a case of the cutes whenever he played smooth-talking con men (which he seemed to do a lot).
      I'd forgotten about that George Burns thing, and I didn't know about Sarandon and "Atlantic City"...just another reason to like her more!
      Given that there was a lot of comment in my post on "Picnic" about Rosalind Russell being nominated in a Best Actress category, seems like an interesting article could be forged from the Academy's very flexible nomination rules over the years.

  6. Hi Ken,

    I just revisited this last month for The Film Experience's Best Supporting Actress Smackdown of the 1974 race. The idea is that a panel of bloggers and others, this month Dana Delaney participated, as well as readers critiqued the performances of the nominated actresses and either agreed with who was originally awarded or based on the votes of all a new winner. Tatum and Madeline Kahn ended up in a tie which is as it should be.

    I agree that Tatum's placement in Supporting Actress is the biggest culprit of category fraud that the academy has ever pulled, she is undeniably the star of this film. The thing is she stood a good chance of winning in lead actress since the voting was so splintered to allow Glenda Jackson to emerge with a win for her pleasant but not award winning work. Although my vote would have gone to Streisand that year Tatum obviously had many supporters.

    What should have happened was that she was awarded one of the special juvenile Oscars they use to give for marked achievement of a younger artist allowing Madeline to pick up her deserved statuette. That's not meant to disparage her work but often even the most talented young players don't have the emotional life experience to explore the depth needed for heavy duty performances. This being her first film and as you said her unremarkable work following plus her own comments that Bogdanovich had a substantial part in shaping her work she deserved acknowledgement for her efforts but not to compete with adults who for the most part created their own interpretations.

    Back to the film, it is a charmer although my latest viewing of it was tinged by my recent reading of Tatum's bio, such an ugly tale, coloring my perception. Bogdanovich gets all the small details right and added in with the performances that is what keeps the film fresh after all these years while many films from that period date horribly.

    Certainly no What's Up Doc?, to me Eunice Burns is the performance Madeline Kahn should have won an Oscar for, and I can't say I have ever loved the movie, even before the slight tainting the backstage brutality of Ryan O'Neal added to it, but it is a solid entertainment.

    1. Hi Joel
      For me, "Paper Moon" kinda got the shaft Oscar nomination-wise,even independent of the whole Tatum-is in-the-wrong-category thing. That the wholly unremarkable "A Touch of Class" got a Best Director nomination and nothing for Bogdanovich seems more a reflection of Hollywood's disenchantment with Bogdanovich in light of the whole (very Citizen Kane) "I'm going to make my mistress a star!" campaign he began waging on Cybill Shepherd's behalf. But to ignore Lazlo Kovack's beautiful cinematography to make way for Jonathan Livingston's Seagull's Coca-Cola ad images...well, it was a crazy year.
      (And yes, I think Tatum might well have even won in the proper category. I love Glenda Jackson, but that was no Oscar-wworthy performance there).
      The ugly reality of Ryan and Tatum's relationship puts the fantasy bubble around "Paper Moon" for me. It's like when dysfunctional families have at least one photo in their album of everyone together smiling and getting along. "Paper Moon" is that one moment in time when the appearance of happiness is there.

    2. Ken I meant to mention that I have vague memories of the TV Paper Moon. I had such a thing for Christopher Connelly and thought he was so attractive although at the time I had no idea of the Peyton Place connection with Ryan O'Neal. Jodie Foster was all over episodic television then, I remembered her best as the down the hall neighbor on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, a show I never missed! Bill Bixby-SIGH. From what I can recall of the TV version it was cute but unexceptional. I hadn't seen the original yet so I couldn't compare.

    3. So cool that you had a thing for Chris Connelly! A name sure to be greeted by a lot of blank stares if you bring it up today. I thought he was handsome too, but I think I got him mixed up with Roy Thinness or Frank Converse - two youthful crushes of mine I could not differentiate for the life of me.
      I had no idea Foster was on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, but as you say, there hardly seemed to be a show she didn't pop up on. Alas, I have no memory at all of the Paper Moon TV show beyond the research I did for this post. From that trailer clip, it does look run-of-the-mill.

  7. Hi Ken, This is a classic that I need to revisit. I remember it from way back, but it's been a while since I've had the laugh.

    You were spot on when you wrote, "anything but those pesky, problematic humans," and we know it's because those with the voice would have to deal with tough issues; which means they're going to lose money because you have to show it all.

    I LOVED this article, thank you!

    1. Hi Cathy
      I'm very pleased you liked this post. Thank you!
      And on the topic of the paucity of real people in movies today:
      Of late I've been binge-watching TV shows like "In Treatment", "Enlightened" and a few others, and it really does seem like the only real films are being made on television these days. Motion pictures have turned into the vast wasteland they used to call TV. Now I know why my parents used to walk around shaking their heads in dismay at a TV programming comprised of Gomer Pye, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, and Petticoat Junction. They must have looked at TV then the way I look at movies now.

    2. Cable TV channels (most owned by the networks) are taking chances and telling stories, real people, real instances and some things off center, but worth the ride; doing what only movies used to do. I cannot remember the last movie I paid to see and have even canceled HBO and Showtime, because of the pandering and going the route of the movies.

      So there are some shows that I watch for the pure cupcake escape of nothingness (Big Bang and Castle) other than those, I'm cable original programming, but even with the wonderful shows, I'm starting to watch the edge slowly slip away. I'm turning more to books; a good thing, but I still miss the movies.

    3. I don't have any of the cable movie channels beyond TCM, but when I finally got around to seeing that Liberace film, knowing it couldn't find a motion picture distributor, I was convinced that if I wanted to see movies about people or even challenging subjects, I needed to stop expecting to see it at the movies.
      I haven't been to a movie theater is a ridiculously long time. Live action cartoons don't interest me much.

    4. TCM is my fav, today it's been William Powell and you know that I discovered The Childern's Hour there; perfection. I just can't pay for the garbage that is being called art and the all too predictable films that are determined to be Oscar contenders before they're even released; the whole cycle is a joke.

      A movie joy/pleasure is reading your take on them. I look forward to your next installement

    5. Love it when TCM springs a rarity (like that 70s Jane Fonda film I never saw, Tout Va Bien"). And I concur with your comment about predictable films. Thanks for your compliment, too! I'm glad you found this blog and continue to return.

    6. I agree that TCM can be a treasure trove of rarities and this month with the Summer Under the Stars where 24 hours is devoted each day to a certain performer it's an embarrassment of riches. I caught three Alexis Smith films yesterday that I'd never seen, how great is that! I also watched Tout Va Bien when they showed it on Jane Day. I thought it was a relic of its time, hardly the best follow up to Klute and Yves Montand the dullest actor I've ever seen no matter what language he's attempting to act in.

  8. It used to be--and possibly still is--that studios and agents would manouver actors and actresses into the Oscar category they were most confident their client could win. This generally meant that lesser-known or younger actors/actresses were persuaded to allow themselves to be nominated in the supporting category. Sometimes even something as brief as a cameo (for example, Judy Dench in "Shakespeare in Love") will be considered "supporting" material. I'm sure the adults surrounding her felt that Tatum would have a better chance winning in the supporting category, although her performance is lead all the way.

    I love "Paper Moon" and always group it in my mind with "What's Up, Doc?", "For Pete's Sake", "At Long Last Love", and "Lucky Lady"--if only for chronological nostalgic reasons; in my head, they're all part and parcel of my mid-seventies experience. I'm actually one of ten people I know who liked "At Long Last Love" and I've never met anyone who cared much for "Lucky Lady," but it thought it had its charms.

    1. Hi Deb
      I think you're right. The Academy always likes to hold itself up as this big paragon of principle, but history shows that there can be a lot of playing around with what is considered lead and supporting roles, and frequently the flexibility is used only to improve a certain actor's chances of winning.
      I laughed at your saying you're one of the ten who liked "At Long Last Love" - I got my partner to watch some of it with me and he liked Madeline Khan a great deal, but was left somewhat flabbergasted by Cybill Shepherd. She reminded him of those girls in high school who get the leads in the school play because thy're pretty, but convince themselves it's because of their talent. their confidence in their meager gifts ultimately embarrasses.
      I remember when "Lucky Lady" opened and everyone was talking about it and i was excited as hell to see it. I missed opening weekend, and then just a few days later I read that the film was pulled and shortened due to poor audience reaction. I never did get to see it in a theater. When I look at it now, my fondest memory is that "flashing" device so many films of the 70s used to give movies that nostalgic haze. It was wonderful to see in movies like "The Day of the Locust " and "The Great Gatsby", but when you see those films in HD now, the blur can be so pronounced.
      By the way, I love that you stick up for underdogs like "For Pete's Sake" etc...they may not be my favorites, but they're all woven into the fabric of my memories of the 70s, too

  9. Really Nice review, the pictures collection is just awesome.

    1. Hi Ayush
      That's awfully nice of you. I'm very pleased you enjoyed it. And the screencaps were's such a beautifully shot film!

  10. I'm so glad you love this movie and I believe your review made me realize why, as funny as it is, it always leaves me feeling a little sad and wistful. It's been a while since I've seen it so I'm paraphrasing here, but when I think of Paper Moon two lines of dialogue immediately come to mind. Imogene: "Tell 'em about the time you got hit over the head with a beer bottle, Miss Trixie." The delivery is great, and I love that all Imogene wants is to embarrass her. And honestly, a beer bottle. How perfect. The other line is during Kahn's hilltop scene you mention. "So why don't you let Miss Trixie sit up front with her big tits?" It's so funny and so heartbreaking. You want to give Miss Trixie whatever she wants--and at the same time you can understand why someone, somewhere had reason to hit her over the head with a beer bottle.

    1. Hi Max
      "You want to give Miss Trixie whatever she wants--and at the same time you can understand why someone, somewhere had reason to hit her over the head with a beer bottle."
      I couldn't have said it more eloquently. You summarize precisely what is brilliant about the way the character is written, and why the level of comic pathos Kahn brought to the role resonates so strongly in spite of her brief screen time. I also like that you remember Imogene's persistent attempts to humiliate Trixie in front of her new suitor. makes me smile just to think of it. Thanks, Max

  11. One of my saddest days was when I sold my DVD of Paper Moon during an unemployment stint. But still, I think Addie herself would have taken the money.

    This will always be a touchstone movie for me from my childhood in the 1970s. I think Polly Platt deserves so much credit for the perfect look of the film. In my eyes, she was a true genius.

    A male friend and I used to call each other Miss Trixie and Imajean, and quote extensively from their dialogue. Madeline Kahn deserved the Oscar for this, but what can you do? She'll always have it in my mind. Seeing all the love for the indelible character of Miss Trixie here just warms my heart.

    1. Awww, having to sell off your "Paper Moon" DVD...I hope you at least allowed yourself to be swindled a bit in the deal.
      And thanks for the Polly Platt shout out. I think even Bogdanovich has gone on record saying that she was an integral part of his success and that much of what he was credited for was actually her work.

  12. According to The Film Experience's excellent article on the Best Supporting Actress race in 1973 ( Tatum's role had 95 minutes of screen time (or 93% of the film's running time) verses Madeline Kahn's 12½ minutes of screen time (or 12% of running time).

    1. Thanks for the link and and for clarifying Madeline Khan's screen time. It's rather jarring to see just HOW much hers was the supporting role to O'Neal's star turn.

  13. In the photo Addie has of her and her mother, who is the actress who plays the mother in that photo?

    1. I've yet to come across anything that reveals the name of the actress in that photo. For a long time it was assumed (and later discredited) to be Tatum O'Neal's real-life mother, actress Joanna Moore. Since then I haven't found a thing that reveals the identity. There's even a short film in YouTube about the photograph, but no information provided. Perhaps some knowledgeable film enthusiast will see this and provide us both with the answer. Thank you.