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Paper Moon (1973)

PG | | Comedy, 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.


Peter Bogdanovich


Joe David Brown (novel), Alvin Sargent (screenplay)
4,831 ( 90)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ryan O'Neal ... Moses Pray
Tatum O'Neal ... Addie Loggins
Madeline Kahn ... Trixie Delight
John Hillerman ... Deputy Hardin / Jess Hardin
P.J. Johnson ... Imogene
Jessie Lee Fulton ... Miss Ollie
James N. Harrell James N. Harrell ... The Minister (as Jim Harrell)
Lila Waters Lila Waters ... The Minister's Wife
Noble Willingham ... Mr. Robertson
Bob Young Bob Young ... Gas Station Attendant
Jack Saunders Jack Saunders ... Station Master
Jody Wilbur Jody Wilbur ... Cafe Waitress
Liz Ross Liz Ross ... The Widow Morgan - Pearl
Yvonne Harrison Yvonne Harrison ... The Widow Bates - Marie
Ed Reed ... The Lawman - Bates' Home
Learn more

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Set in the midwest of the depression-era, Paper Moon follows Moses Pray and Addie Loggins - one a con artist, the other, the young girl who's the daughter of a woman who's just passed away. The pair meet when 'Mose' stops by the sparsely-attended funeral in Kansas of a woman he once knew (we never see her). In attendance, is the woman's young daughter, Addie, whom Moses agrees to transport to St Joseph, Mo -- for money, of course. Mose - an inveterate hustler, has been working ostensibly as a representative of the Kansas Bible Company - who picks his marks from the obits, and tries to sell - at exorbitant prices - the decedents' spouse the custom bible they'd previously ordered. Wise beyond her years, Addie picks up on Moses' grift, and very quickly, she and Mose become a team. Traveling from town to town, making money in every dishonest way imaginable, and looking for the ultimate score. The colorful characters they meet along the way make the film all the more interesting. One in ... 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 | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster. See more »


As Moze crosses the street in Wilson, KS to pass Addie's $20 birthday bill at the general store, the Wilson city hall building to the left of the store clearly displays a 1938 construction date, despite the general consensus that the film takes place in 1935. 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 By Bogdanovich (2011) See more »


My Mary
(1941) (uncredited)
Written by Jimmie Davis and Stuart Hamblen
Performed by Jimmie Davis
See more »

User Reviews

The Kid Stays In The Picture
27 January 2016 | by slokesSee all my reviews

A sunny charmer with clouds enough to darken the edges of the screen, "Paper Moon" presents us with an entertainment of equal parts wit and sentiment, an underdog story that delivered a real underdog outcome in the form of a historic Oscar win for nine-year- old Tatum O'Neal.

In the time of the Great Depression, a little girl named Addie (Tatum) is left abandoned by the death of her mother, a woman who hung around in bars and left Addie with a big mystery as far as the identity of her father is concerned. At her gravesite, a dodgy stranger named Moses (Ryan O'Neal) happens by to pay his respects, and is immediately recruited by the other mourners, who don't want to be burdened with the girl, with the assignment of delivering Addie to her next-of-kin.

"God works in mysterious ways," one of the mourners says, after Moses reluctantly accepts.

"Don't He now?" Moses replies.

God indeed may have some unfinished business with Moses Pray, a conman who uses the Good Book as his device for fleecing newly-made widows of a few bucks. Watching the O'Neals work their family chemistry for sparks and laughs while Moses, with unexpected help from Addie, works his scams, is great fun. A lingering question is whether Moses and Addie are in fact related; many in the movie point out their similar jawlines, but Moses refuses to accept the idea. Addie is more open to it. Clearly Moses for all his faults fills a hole in her life.

There was a time when Peter Bogdanovich could do no wrong as a director; here he presents us with an assured callback to 1930s- period sensibilities by employing a flat Kansas landscape and scenic design that suggests a combination of Norman Rockwell and Grant Wood, at once homey and vaguely grotesque. The story moves fast, the dialogue is crisp and believable, and the O'Neals' performances of such strong quality as to make you wonder why they so seldom impressed in other roles. The talent is there on the screen.

Tatum was the real surprise here; decades later, long after the flash of her career faded, it's hard not to be as bowled over by what she gives you as all those critics and movie-goers were so long ago. Avoiding the cutesiness of child actors, she plays her character as sharp-tongued and vinegary, with a hint of real beauty beneath the smudges. "Ain't she got a sweet little face, somehow," is the best anyone can manage in the way of compliments, but Addie don't need them. She just wants her 200 dollars, or "two hundra DOLLA" as she keeps putting it to Moses.

The two of them make such a pair I get annoyed when Madeline Kahn joins them for a time as a conniving, cheapjack vixen named Trixie. Unlike the O'Neals, Kahn is an actress I usually enjoy in anything, so why is she so duff to me here? Trixie is a one-note performance that grates on me; I can't wait for the Prays to leave her in their dust.

I did enjoy P. J. Johnson as Trixie's put-upon maid, Imogene. She adds some heart and gives Addie some company for some of the movie's best scenes. So too does a raft of supporting players, most of whom like Kahn must have been waiting for Mel Brooks' call-backs for "Blazing Saddles" at the time of this production.

Mostly, though, this is Tatum's film; it rises or falls with her and, as a result of her spry performance, rises quite impressively. Bogdanovich clearly gambled putting his promising career on her little shoulders; unlike later gambles of his this paid off spectacularly and yields dividends to this day.

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Release Date:

9 May 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Paper Moon See more »


Box Office


$2,500,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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