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Paper Moon and Kansas Filmmaking

Peter Bogdanowich’s Paper Moon, a black-and-white film adaptation of Joe David brown’s Addie Pray novel, became one of the best movies in the 1970s. It tells about an orphan named Addie Loggins, played by Tatum O’Neal, who was taken care of by a tricky Bible salesman Moses Pray, played by Ryan O’Neal (“Paper Moon”). The two paired as swindlers and got into many troubles with Addies’s many tricks in an attempt to break their team, becoming one of the hilarious and remarkable screen comedies.

Set in the Great Plains region during the Depression era in Kansas, a wide and open background, the setting of the screenplay became the fit location for the two con artists. The movie not only showcased the ability of the pair to swindle during the Depression era but also showed the incredible bond between the father and daughter which has a great appeal to the general audience without inserting violence or sex. Ryan and Tatum O’Neal Bognadovich was a popular director in the 1970s before Paper Moon and he was known for his outstanding storytelling style including The Last Picture and What’s Up Doc.

His directing style has a huge appeal to the larger audience especially the twists and funny antics of Addie and Moses. It also caters to American family values as Bognadovich and the air of con artists succeed in capturing the incredible bond between a father and a daughter (Bllboard p. 60). Although the main characters demonstrate mischief and prank as they make their way to every opportunity showing off their old-fashioned charm and stealth, they were not entirely unlikable.

Paper Moon is divided into three acts, first introducing a nine-year-old smoker Addie Logins played by the young Tatum O’Neal, daughter of Ryan O’Neal and actress Joanna Moore, in her film debut. O’Neal appeared side-by-side his father showing off her acting talent which earned her an Academy Award, making her the youngest winner of Oscar (“Tatum O’Neal”). Addie was an orphan but found a new guardian, Moses Pray. He arrived at the funeral of Addie’s mother while the mourners realized that the two have a great resemblance.

Moses took Addie along as he was passing St. Louis and later realized that he is earning more selling Bibles than he used to be. The second act introduced a new character, Trixie Delight played by Madeleine Kahn, who has a growing romance with Moses. Addie, of course, sees Trixie as a threat and immediately pushed her away. The last part featured Addie and Moses as they cut across along a bootlegger and his sheriff brother. In the end, they were able to arrive in St. Louis and everything was resolved (“Paper Moon”).

One of the movie’s attractions is the production which was shown in the movie trailer as it moved from narration, Ryan and Tatum O’Neal introduction, to showing off of the clapper and behind the scene laughters. Also, Ryan’s relationship with Tatum on-screen added drama and greater promotion creating a family setting. This not only showed both the actors charisma and acting skills but also attracts viewers, especially fathers and daughters, who wish to reunite with each other and bring back the closeness again (Kernan p. 154). This is a great inspiration, great laugh despite the Depression era that the country is experiencing.

Due to the addition of behind-the-scenes, Paper Moon’s audience became more interested in the real things behind filmmaking where the actors, production team, and the director also became actors in some point. The style of presentation, fictional and documentary, gave the audience a feel of stars as ‘authentic’ and as individuals within the ‘rhetoric of authenticity. ’ The film became a blockbuster not only for the excellent script, storytelling, and acting but also for the audience seemingly participation on the production. Kansas Film Indsutry The movie was an adaptation of the novel Addie Pray set in Georgia but it was filmed in Kansas.

Majority of the scams have something to do with cotton mills but since Georgia was full of tall pine trees, it was set in a wider, more open location—Kansas (LoBrutto p. 161). Pollie Platt together with Bogdanovich chose Kansas as the setting to avoid the food lines and huge street signs, to show a tougher life condition, and to justify that stealing is just fine (Ress p. 185). Moses and Addie had been traveling, doing scams, whiled wondering where to get their next meal. Kansas, an area with more open field and huge skies, can make anyone feel small and insignificant.

The barren landscape adds to the stigma of the Depression and increases ‘neediness’ in that area. Kansas has been a popular location attracting artists and filmmakers alike with its vast flat landscape. It is also known for rich with themes of nature and culture, Euro-American and Native populations, political violence, westward expansion, migration, and visual interpretations. The Great Plains have been the background for many films and literary works reflecting the connection between the environment and nature and the people living to this barren landscape.

Many films other than Paper Moon with portions of the plains have become memorable icons attached to Kansas such as Wizard of Oz, Dark Command, Ride with the Devil, and Badlands (Rees p. 175). Kansas is either represented according to its history, political figures, social conflicts, life of the Natives, geographic landmarks, and spatial relationship of the landscape to its inhabitants. Kansas is among the states such New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska which have been highly utilized for filming.

Many directors, including Bognadovich, have come to shoot in Kansas not as mere locations but to tell about its history in different ways from the Indian Wars to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kansas film industry and theatre are promoted and enriched at the same time. Over the decades, Kansas’ rich culture has been highly publicized in films especially its Native Indians that become easily associated to it. The area had been conquered and returned to the locals. All these struggles from politics to romance have been interpreted in numerous films in many ways.

Paper Moon will undeniably not become as appealing as it without the dry, barren, and desolate background of Kansas. In tracing the history of Kansas, film will become a useful tool. American directors and producers have discovered the aesthetic value of the plains adding an artistic element to their films. On the other side, films like Paper Moon, have to promote its culture and history and the struggle of its people through time. As the directors and actors are recognized for their skills, Kansas also became a significant spot for filming and literary works.

Works Cited

“Tatum O’Neal. ” Britannica. 11 June 2009 <http://www.britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/1394682/Tatum-ONeal>. Candy, Vincent. “Paper Moon. ” The New York Times. 11 June 2009 <http://movies. nytimes. com/movie/37203/Paper-Moon/overview> Fleetwood, Mark. “Paper Moon. ” IMDb. 11 June 2009 <http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0070510/plotsummary> Kernan, Lisa. “Coming Attractions. ” University of Texas Press, 2004. LoBrutto, Vincent. “By Design. ” Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992. Rees, Amanda. “The Great Plains Region. ” Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Wheeler, Drew. “Paper Moon Rises Over Bognadovich Paramount Series. ” Billboard, Vol. 107, No. 18. 6 May 1995, p. 60.

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