Paper Moon (1973)

PG | 101-102 mins | Comedy-drama | May 1973

Director:

Peter Bogdanovich

Writer:

Alvin Sargent

Producer:

Peter Bogdanovich

Cinematographer:

Laszlo Kovacs

Editor:

Verna Fields

Production Designer:

Polly Platt
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Addie Pray . According to Filmfacts , the project was originally set to star Paul Newman and his daughter, Nell Potts, and be directed by John Huston. By the time of development, however, direction was taken over by Peter Bogdanovich and starring roles went to Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum, who made her feature film debut in the role of “Addie” and turned ten during production. Pamela Johnson, billed as P. J. Johnson, made her feature film debut in Paper Moon . Her only other screen appearance was in the 1990 Columbia production Texasville , also directed by Bogdanovich.
       The closing onscreen credits include an acknowledgment of various radio personalities heard in the film, including Jack Benny and Jim and Marian Jordon (who performed as "Fibber McGee and Molly"), and also several singers and orchestras whose music was heard throughout the film, including Bing Crosby, Dick Powell, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra and Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Although some reviews list the film's period setting as 1936, a movie marquee within the film lists Steamboat Round the Bend , a 1935 release.
       Paper Moon did not have an original music score. Contributing to the setting, songs, real radio shows and advertisements from the period were provided as ambient sound, heard from car, hotel and business radios in the film. As noted in contemporary sources, Paper Moon was shot on location in Hays, KS and St. Joseph, MO. The film was the first production of The Directors Company, which was jointly owned by Bogdanovich and ... More Less

The working title of the film was Addie Pray . According to Filmfacts , the project was originally set to star Paul Newman and his daughter, Nell Potts, and be directed by John Huston. By the time of development, however, direction was taken over by Peter Bogdanovich and starring roles went to Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum, who made her feature film debut in the role of “Addie” and turned ten during production. Pamela Johnson, billed as P. J. Johnson, made her feature film debut in Paper Moon . Her only other screen appearance was in the 1990 Columbia production Texasville , also directed by Bogdanovich.
       The closing onscreen credits include an acknowledgment of various radio personalities heard in the film, including Jack Benny and Jim and Marian Jordon (who performed as "Fibber McGee and Molly"), and also several singers and orchestras whose music was heard throughout the film, including Bing Crosby, Dick Powell, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra and Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Although some reviews list the film's period setting as 1936, a movie marquee within the film lists Steamboat Round the Bend , a 1935 release.
       Paper Moon did not have an original music score. Contributing to the setting, songs, real radio shows and advertisements from the period were provided as ambient sound, heard from car, hotel and business radios in the film. As noted in contemporary sources, Paper Moon was shot on location in Hays, KS and St. Joseph, MO. The film was the first production of The Directors Company, which was jointly owned by Bogdanovich and directors Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin. Before being dissolved, the company made two additional films, Daisy Miller (1974), which also was directed by Bogdanovich, and The Conversation (1974), directed by Coppola. All three films were released through Paramount, with which The Directors Company had a production agreement.
       According to interviews in a feature on the making of Paper Moon included as added content on the DVD release, Bogdanovich stated that his ex-wife, Polly Platt, the film’s production designer, suggested casting Tatum O’Neal. Bogdanovich also credited Platt with recommending that the story and shooting location be shifted from the book’s setting of the South to the Midwest. Bogdanovich used several actors who had appeared in his previous films, the 1971 Columbia release The Last Picture Show and the 1972 Warner Bros. release What’s Up Doc? , including Ryan O’Neal (“Moses Pray”), Madeline Kahn (“Trixie Delight”), John Hillerman (dual roles of “Jesse Hardin” and “Deputy Hardin”) and Randy Quaid (“Leroy”). Bogdanovich also revealed that his decision to film Paper Moon in black-and-white and use many deep focus shots was influenced by suggestions from Orson Welles. Bogdanovich claimed responsibility for the change of the title from the book’s Addie Pray to Paper Moon , which was taken from the song “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” a change the director indicated that Paramount initially resisted. Although the book’s ending featured “Moze” and Addie joining another con artist in an inheritance swindle, neither screenwriter Alvin Sargent nor Bogdanovich wanted to use that ending. Platt, who had suggested the idea of Addie wearing her mother’s cloche hat and hiding the money in it, proposed returning to the plot device of Moze still owing Addie the $200. As Bogdanovich’s earlier films had ended with the main characters driving off into the horizon, the combination of the outstanding $200 and the distant winding road provided the ideal ending for the pair to continue together.
       Paper Moon differed from the book in other notable ways. The book was set primarily in Alabama, and Moses Pray, who, as in the film, is never ascertained as Addie's father, went by the nickname of "Long Boy." Unlike the film, in which Addie's mother dies when Addie is nine years old, in the novel "Essie Mae Loggins" dies when Addie is six and the story covers several years of her travels with Long Boy. As in the film, Long Boy is one of many of Essie Mae's male friends and the only one concerned about the orphaned Addie. Both the book and movie emphasize Addie's admiration for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The book's entire last third is set in New Orleans and centers on an extended con with several major characters who do not appear in the film. The film's portrayal of bootlegging activities in Kansas is accurate: despite the official end of Prohibition signed into law by Roosevelt in late 1933, Kansas remained a "dry" state until the late 1940s.
       Critical reception of Paper Moon was divided. Many reviewers were delighted with the story’s humorous tone and nostalgic charm. In contrast, other critics found the period setting overly self-conscious and a false, sentimental take on the grim Depression era. Others found the black-and-white photography cold and offsetting, with one review comparing it unfavorably to the use of black-and-white in Welles's films The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil (see entries above and below).
       A Jun 1973 DV article indicated that, despite the film's PG rating, the Dallas Motion PIcture Classification Board deemed the film "not suitable for young persons." Paramount and General Cinema protested the ruling and the case was tried. A jury found that language used by Addie was "patently offensive" and ruled the "not suitable" admonition should remain in all local advertising.
       Both Tatum O’Neal and Kahn received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. O’Neal won the award, becoming the youngest recipient in Academy history. Paper Moon also received nominations for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. As stated by Tatum O'Neal in her autobiography, she had a troubled childhood and has been estranged from her father for much of her adult life. In 1974 ABC-TV produced a series based on Paper Moon , which starred Jodie Foster as Addie and Christopher Connelly as Moze. The series aired for one season. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Apr 1973
p. 4586.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1973
pp. 57-61.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1973.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
13 Jun 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Jun 1973.
---
Motion Picture Herald
14 Apr 1973.
---
New York Times
17 May 1973
p. 53.
Newsweek
28 May 1973.
---
Time
28 May 1973.
---
Variety
18 Apr 1973
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Peter Bogdanovich Production
A Peter Bogdanovich Production;
A Peter Bogdanovich Production; A Saticoy Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop man
Const coord
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost
SOUND
Boom man
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Casting
Transportation capt
Cam car driver
Asst to the prod
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post-prod asst
Records from the collection of
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown (Boston, 1971).
SONGS
"It's Only a Paper Moon," words and music by Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose
"(Keep Your) Sunnyside Up," words and music by Lew Brown and B. G. De Sylva
"Happy Days Are Here Again," words and music by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen
+
SONGS
"It's Only a Paper Moon," words and music by Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose
"(Keep Your) Sunnyside Up," words and music by Lew Brown and B. G. De Sylva
"Happy Days Are Here Again," words and music by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen
"Picture of Me Without You," words and music by Cole Porter
"I Found a Million Dollar Baby (At the Five and Ten Cent Store)," words and music by Mort Dixon, Billy Rose and Harry Warren
"Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee," words and music by Irving Berlin.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Addie Pray
Release Date:
May 1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 May 1973
Production Date:
25 September--early December 1972 in Kansas and Missouri
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Lenses/Prints
Prints and processing by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
101-102
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23558
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1930s, just outside of Gorham, Kansas, jaunty Moses “Moze” Pray arrives at the end of the funeral of Essie Mae Loggins. Disappointed to learn that, despite the similar jaw-line between Moze and Essie Mae’s young nine-year-old daughter Addie, Moze is only a family friend, the minister, his wife and another local resident, Miss Ollie, nevertheless beseech him to take Addie to her only known relatives in St. Joseph, Missouri. A self-described bible salesman, Moze reluctantly agrees to accept the sullen Addie who clutches a battered cardboard Cremo box. Soon after leaving the cemetery, Moze abruptly pulls up to a manufacturing plant office where he presents Addie to the manager, Mr. Robertson, before having her wait outside. Addie overhears Moze threaten to sue Robertson’s brother, who was drunk while driving the car that crashed and killed Essie Mae and left Addie an orphan. Demanding two thousand dollars to keep silent, Moze quickly settles for two hundred and uses a portion of it to buy a better car. Moze then purchases Addie a train ticket to St. Joe and gives her twenty dollars. Before the train arrives, Moze offers to buy Addie a Nehi soda and Coney Island hot dog at a nearby café, where she asks if Moze met her mother in a bar. Startled, Moze says yes and Addie notes that she and Moze look similar and asks if he is her “pa.” Moze firmly denies it and explains that a man and woman meeting in a bar does not always result in a child. Addie replies that if Moze is not her father, he ... +


In the mid-1930s, just outside of Gorham, Kansas, jaunty Moses “Moze” Pray arrives at the end of the funeral of Essie Mae Loggins. Disappointed to learn that, despite the similar jaw-line between Moze and Essie Mae’s young nine-year-old daughter Addie, Moze is only a family friend, the minister, his wife and another local resident, Miss Ollie, nevertheless beseech him to take Addie to her only known relatives in St. Joseph, Missouri. A self-described bible salesman, Moze reluctantly agrees to accept the sullen Addie who clutches a battered cardboard Cremo box. Soon after leaving the cemetery, Moze abruptly pulls up to a manufacturing plant office where he presents Addie to the manager, Mr. Robertson, before having her wait outside. Addie overhears Moze threaten to sue Robertson’s brother, who was drunk while driving the car that crashed and killed Essie Mae and left Addie an orphan. Demanding two thousand dollars to keep silent, Moze quickly settles for two hundred and uses a portion of it to buy a better car. Moze then purchases Addie a train ticket to St. Joe and gives her twenty dollars. Before the train arrives, Moze offers to buy Addie a Nehi soda and Coney Island hot dog at a nearby café, where she asks if Moze met her mother in a bar. Startled, Moze says yes and Addie notes that she and Moze look similar and asks if he is her “pa.” Moze firmly denies it and explains that a man and woman meeting in a bar does not always result in a child. Addie replies that if Moze is not her father, he owes her the two hundred dollars. Aghast, Moze argues about Addie’s right to the money, but when he finally declares that he no longer has the entire two hundred dollars, she coolly demands that he get it or she will report him to the police. After returning the train ticket and sending a telegram to Addie’s aunt Billie about the delay of Addie's arrival, Moze sets off with Addie. Later, Moze stops at a house, takes a bible from the back seat and, slipping a gold cap over one tooth, approaches the front door that is answered by an older woman. As Moze identifies himself as a representative of the Kansas Bible Company, Addie finds a newspaper with the woman’s husband’s death announcement circled, and in the car’s back seat, a cheap printing kit. Meanwhile, Moze plays out a scam in which he requests the outstanding payment for a bible supposedly ordered by the dead man. Although Addie is faintly disgusted by Moze’s "business," the next day at another widow’s home, when a visiting off-duty sheriff unexpectedly confronts him, Addie abruptly pretends to be Moze’s daughter asking to go to church. Stunned, Moze is further shocked when Addie declares that there is a twelve-dollar balance, which the sheriff then gladly pays. That evening at the hotel, Moze proposes a business partnership with the suspicious Addie, but insists that she must never price bibles again. Ignoring Addie’s point that they got the higher price, Moze advises her to present herself as a sweet, silent child. Appraising Addie’s baggie overalls, cropped hair and old-fashioned cloche hat, Moze wonders how she might look if she dressed more feminine. Later at a general store, Moze buys Addie a hair ribbon and, while distracting the saleswoman with flattering chatter, cons the woman out of ten dollars. Over the next several days, Moze and Addie conduct successful widow business throughout the region, with Addie managing the quickly mounting funds in the Cremo box. Both irritated and pleased by Addie’s shrewd conning instincts, Moze attempts to assert his control over their business, threatening to take his share of the money and drop Addie at the next train station. Alarmed, Addie nevertheless remains defiant and Moze relents. One night at a hotel Addie takes the Cremo box to the bathroom where she gazes at a picture of her with Essie Mae, coyly posed in the cloche hat and imitates the pose in the mirror. The next morning when a barber mistakes Addie for a boy, she is infuriated and Moze soothes her by buying her a dress after yet another quick con. That evening, in her new dress, Addie wanders through a carnival waiting for Moze to exit the Harem Slave show tent. Exasperated when Moze gets back in line to see the show again, Addie pleads with him to join her at a photographer’s booth so they can have their picture taken together, but he refuses. When Moze returns to the hotel and finds a sullen Addie sitting up in bed smoking, he orders her not to smoke in the car the next day as he has offered a lift to dancer Miss Trixie Delight and her black maid, Imogene. The next morning, Addie is further outraged when Moze tells her to sit in the back of the car with Imogene who confides that at fifteen and the oldest of a large poor family, she joined Trixie after the promise of four dollars a week to be her companion. Ruefully admitting that Trixie has never paid her, Imogene confesses she would run away, but cannot return home empty-handed. When Addie inquires about Trixie, Imogene reveals that Trixie does not dance as much as “put out” for men who are willing to pay. Over the next several days, Addie grows disgusted by Moze’s fawning attentions to Trixie. One afternoon at a picnic, Addie refuses to return to the car until she resume her seat in the front. Ignoring Trixie’s attempts to coerce her through flattery, bribery and then anger, Addie is surprised when Trixie abruptly asks her to have patience, admitting that Moze will tire of her soon as she has never been able to sustain long relationships with men. Appreciative of this outpouring of honesty, Addie returns to the back seat. Some days later, after Moze purchases a large new car, a suspicious Addie checks the Cremo box and is horrified to discover that he has spent nearly all of their savings. At the next hotel, Addie meets with Imogene to offer her thirty dollars to get home if she will help her get rid of Trixie. Having noticed that Floyd, the front desk clerk, is interested in Trixie, Addie and Imogene arrange for Trixie to accept what she thinks will be a paid rendezvous with him on a day she believes Moze is away. Addie then sends Moze to Trixie’s room while she is with Floyd and, distraught by her betrayal, Moze tells Addie they are departing immediately. Two months later at an isolated country hotel, Addie, hoping to revive their torpid business, urges the dispirited Moze to inquire about the odd behavior of a man who has had several clandestine meetings behind the hotel. Suspecting the man is a bootlegger, Moze learns he is Jess Hardin, who controls all the illegal liquor in the county with assistance from a mysterious brother. After examining Hardin’s stash of liquor in a barn discovered by Addie, Moze approaches Hardin at the hotel and offers to sell him several crates of whisky from out-of-state. When Hardin cagily agrees to meet Moze later that night, Moze steals several of Hardin’s crates and drives out to the meeting place with Addie, chuckling in anticipation of selling Hardin his own liquor. After the successful transaction, Addie places the $625 in the Cremo box and Moze drives off pleased, only to be pulled over moments later by a police deputy who is Hardin’s twin brother. Hardin takes Moze and Addie to the local jail where he demands the return of his brother’s money. Alarmed when Hardin examines the Cremo box, Moze is mystified when there is no money inside. Addie then clandestinely points to her cloche hatband where Moze sees with horror that she has hidden the money. After Hardin leaves the pair with his deputy Beau, Addie asks to collect her keepsakes and surreptitiously takes the confiscated car key as well. Pretending to need to go to the bathroom with Moze, Addie shows him the key and they bolt. At Addie’s single-minded urging, the mortified Moze speeds away in search of the bridge that will take them out of Kansas and safely into Missouri. After some skillful driving, Moze loses the pursuing deputy in the country back roads. Spotting a rundown farm, Moze stops to ask the numerous hillbilly brothers to swap their dilapidated truck for his flashy convertible. Uninterested until Moze offers to wrestle for the truck, the oldest brother, Leroy, agrees. To Addie’s amazement, Moze quickly dispatches Leroy and they leave in the crumbling, nearly brakeless truck. After rolling across the bridge into Missouri, Addie eyes a sign for the nearby St. Joe apprehensively, but is heartened when Moze anticipates doing business in the area. A few days later, Moze has arranged a bond swindle of a wealthy local man using their total $800 savings. Ordering Addie to meet him and the man on the corner in front of the bank later, Moze sets off briskly only to run into Deputy Hardin and two of his deputies. Later as scheduled, Addie arrives at the corner where she sees Moze’s mark, but after waiting nearly half an hour, Moze does not arrive and the man departs. Looking about anxiously, Addie then hears her name whispered and finds Moze badly beaten nearby. After Moze reveals he swallowed his gold cap and Hardin has taken all their money, Addie responds that she has saved a ten-dollar bill for emergencies. When Moze dismisses that, Addie realizes that he is finally going to take her to Aunt Billie’s and assures him that she will not cry. Pulling up to Addie's aunt and uncle’s inviting little house later, Moze brusquely gets Addie’s bag for her while she leaves an envelope for him in the front seat. Aunt Billie welcomes Addie with surprise and delight, expressing concern about her long delay. While her aunt goes for a drink and a piece of pie, Addie looks around the comfortable, safe living room. Having stopped just down the road for a cigarette, Moze discovers the envelope and opening it, finds a picture taken at the carnival of Addie sitting in a crescent moon swing. After contemplating it for several moments, Moze is about to pull away when, gazing in the side mirror, he sees Addie running over the hill with her bag. Moved and then angered, Moze gets out of the truck to confront the breathless Addie and insists that he will not ride further with her. As a scowl replaces Addie’s hopeful smile, she tersely states that he still owes her two hundred dollars. Outraged, Moze hurls his hat onto the dirt road as, behind him, the brake on the old truck gives out and the truck begins rolling away. When Addie shouts a warning, Moze grabs her bag, and running after the truck, the pair clambers on board and continue down the road together. +

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Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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