The year is 1936. Orphaned Addie Loggins (Tatum O'Neal, in her film debut) is left in the care of unethical traveling Bible salesman Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal, Tatum's dad), who may or may not be her father. En route to Addie's relatives, Moses learns that the 9-year-old is quite a handful: she smokes, cusses, and is almost as devious and manipulative as he is. They join forces as swindlers, working together so well that Addie is averse to breaking up the team — which is one reason that she sabotages the romance between Moses and good-time gal Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn). Later, while attempting to square a $200 debt that Addie claims he owes her, Moses runs afoul of of a bootlegger (John Hillerman) and is nearly beaten to death by the criminal's twin-brother sheriff. Painfully pulling himself together, Moses gets Addie to her relatives, whereupon she adamantly refuses to leave his side. Photographed in black-and-white by Laszlo Kovacs, the film was made largely on location in Kansas and Missouri (an experience colorfully recalled by director Peter Bogdanovich in his 1972 book of essays Pieces of Time). 9-year-old Tatum O'Neal won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, beating out costar Kahn. Paper Moon later became a short-lived TV series, starring Ryan O'Neal lookalike Christopher Connelly and future Oscar winner Jodie Foster.
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Ratings and Reviews
Critics Consensus: Expertly balancing tones, Paper Moon is a deft blend of film nostalgia and finely tuned performances -- especially from Tatum O'Neal, who won an Oscar for her debut.
Tatum O'Neal's smoke- and booze-filled caper.