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Paper Moon (1973)

PG | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 9 May 1973 (USA)
During the Great Depression, a con man finds himself saddled with a young girl who may or may not be his daughter, and the two forge an unlikely partnership.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Top Rated Movies #215 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Deputy Hardin / Jess Hardin
P.J. Johnson ...
Jessie Lee Fulton ...
Miss Ollie
James N. Harrell ...
The Minister (as Jim Harrell)
Lila Waters ...
The Minister's Wife
Mr. Robertson
Bob Young ...
Gas Station Attendant
Jack Saunders ...
Station Master
Jody Wilbur ...
Cafe Waitress
Liz Ross ...
Yvonne Harrison ...
Ed Reed ...
The Lawman (Bates' Home)


Adapted from the novel, "Addie Pray" (1971) by Joe David Brown, PAPER MOON is the story of Moses Pray and Addie Loggins. With scenery reminiscent of "The Grapes of Wrath," the film is set in the depression-era Midwestern region of the United States. As the movie opens, we see a small group of mourners clustered at a graveside. Among the mourners is Addie, the dead woman's small daughter. Moses Pray -- ostensibly of the "Kansas Bible Company" -- approaches the group, as the service concludes, and two of the elderly women remark that the child bears some resemblance to him and asks if he might be related. "If ever a child needed kin, it's now," one lady says. With no knowledge of who her father is, Addie's only haven is her Aunt's home in St. Joseph, Missouri. Having identified himself as a "traveling man spreading the Lord's gospel in these troubled times," "Mose" is prevailed upon to deliver the helpless child to her Aunt since he's going that way, anyway. Addie, wise beyond her years... Written by MARK FLEETWOOD <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


These aren't everyday people and this is no ordinary movie. See more »


Comedy | Crime | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 May 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Luna de papel  »

Box Office


$2,500,000 (estimated)


$30,933,743 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the suggestion of Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich approached eight-year-old Tatum O'Neal to audition for the role although she had no acting experience. Bogdanovich had recently worked with Tatum's father Ryan O'Neal on What's Up, Doc? (1972), and decided to cast them as the leads. See more »


The Goodyear sign overhead the store porch in the later part of the movie displays their modern-letter logo, not the 1930s version. See more »


[first lines]
The Minister: Judge me, oh Lord, for I have lost in mine integrity. I have trusted also in the Lord, therefore I shall not slide. Examine me, oh Lord, and prove me. Try my reins and my heart, for Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes, and I have walked in Thy truth.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to the people in and around Hays, Kansas and St. Joseph, Missouri See more »


Referenced in Anywhere, USA (2008) See more »


Just One More Chance
(1931) (uncredited)
Music by Arthur Johnston
Lyrics by Sam Coslow
Performed by Bing Crosby
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

If You Got It, It Must Have Belonged To Somebody Else
8 January 2016 | by (Sword Of The Protector) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

This is one of the easiest classics to review for you. The entire movie's success is upon this Dyad of O' Neal and his daughter Tatum endearing herself to you. The writing is excellent; it is full of witty humor as Addie continually gets the better of Mo's who doesn't have a prayer keeping up with her mentally. Tatum earned her Oscar, you will be astonished at how someone this young could deliver a performance on this level. Her voice is full of inflection, often just her looks at Mo's makes him wince. My favorite scene is when he thinks he is going to unload her at the train station. A professional con-man selling Bibles to relatives of recently deceased people, that he engraves with their initials, Mo's has no problems with ethical constraints. He tries bribing her with a coney island and orange soda, prattling endlessly, while she looks malevolently back at him. This is the treat of the movie: Addie's precociousness. She may be small physically but she has the mind of a fifty year old woman; she has heard this crap all before. She begins interrupting his palaver with demands for the money he just shook down using her mother's death to squeeze some money out of a guy. Addie's demands for her cut get louder and more belligerent. All through the movie, Addie is convinced Mo's is really her dad but shirking his responsibility. She queries him eternally about their physical similarity which she finds quite suspicious.

Bogdanovich was always a subtly moral filmmaker. His Last Picture Show is one of the greatest classics ever made. Here, watch when Mo's tries to fleece a poor woman with children, Addie will have none of it. Later, when they meet a rich widow, Addie raises the Bible's cost to 100 bucks to Mo's astonishment. The affection between these two takes the entire movie; it develops quite slowly and both are deeply embarrassed about it. Bogdanovich wisely buttresses the middle from being boring by having Mo's run into Kahn, with her attendant servant, who is working at the circus showing off her body. The funniest scene in the movie is when Kahn has taken Addie's seat in the car; Addie simply refuses to budge from a field. Watch for the layers of politeness devolve, after four tries, into a very blunt honest appraisal of herself, her breasts and the power they have over men. Only then does Addie get up and submit. This is the endearing feature of Tatum's performance. She is so world-wise that she has a shield for BS around her. It just bounces off her; it is matched by her cleverness. The chemistry is great but her character carries this movie.

Watch how she sheds the unwanted Kahn who has interloped between her and Mo's. Thinking up a Machiavellian plan, turning her servant against her, Addie unleashes a whirlwind of control upon Mo's. The joy of the movie is the realistic growth of the bond between these two existentially disparate people. The relationship has such verisimilitude. They suffer through many adventures together. Addie's initial contempt for a man who cheats widows selling Bibles to them never really attenuates. She is so wise that she knows this is her father. The title of the movie refers to her having her picture taken, at the fair, without Mo's. She gives it to him as a message when they must part at her distant relative's house. The picture awakens within him his responsibility; he knows what the picture of her on the paper moon is missing: her father. Mo's grows throughout the movie morally and existentially, until, only at the very end, is he mature and loving enough to be her father.

She knows he is her father; her wisdom is in helping him accept his responsibility towards her. The journey to unity takes the whole movie. It has great acting, funny dialog with Addie always carefully steering Mo's to be the person he dreads at the opening. Tatum shows you the brilliant actress she always was. Her lack of success was due more to bad choices (Little Darlings) than her lack of ability. She brings him to her, we last see them as they shall always be: Together. A Great Movie. Q.E.D.

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