Paper Moon is a 1973 American crime drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and released by Paramount Pictures. Screenwriter Alvin Sargent adapted the script from the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown. The film, shot in black-and-white, is set in Kansas and Missouri during the Great Depression. It stars the real-life father and daughter pairing of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, as Moze and Addie, who may be father and daughter.
Con man Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal) meets 9-year-old Addie Loggins (Tatum O'Neal) at Addie's mother's graveside service. Because Moses is one of many men who had a relationship with her mother (and because the girl "has his jaw"), there is speculation that he is a relative and possibly Addie's father, which he denies. However, Moses is reluctantly persuaded to deliver the orphaned Addie to her aunt's home in St. Joseph, Missouri.
The pair stop at a local grain mill and Moses convinces the brother of the man who drove his car into a tree, killing Addie's mother, into giving him two hundred dollars for the newly-orphaned Addie. Addie overhears this conversation and, after seeing Moses spend nearly half the money fixing up his used Model A convertible, later demands the money. Moses agrees to travel with Addie until he has raised two hundred dollars to give to her. Addie soon learns how Moses makes his money: he visits recently widowed women, pretending he is a Bible salesman who recently sold an expensive, personalized Bible to the deceased husband. The widows usually pay him the claimed "balance owed" for the bibles inscribed with their names. Addie joins in the scam, pretending she is his daughter, and exhibits a talent for confidence tricks. As time passes, Moses and Addie become a formidable team and seem to forget about Addie joining her aunt.
One night, Addie and "Moze" (as Addie now refers to him) stop at a local carnival, where Moze becomes enthralled with an "exotic dancer" named Miss Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn). Because of her, Moze puts off joining Addie at a photo booth and Addie ends up having her photograph - taken sitting on a crescent moon - by herself. Much to Addie's chagrin, Moze invites "Miss Trixie" - and her downtrodden, 15-year-old black maid, Imogene (P.J. Johnson) - to join him and Addie on their way. Although Addie becomes friends with Imogene, she becomes jealous of how Moze begins to focus more and more of his attention on the gold-digging Miss Trixie. When Addie subsequently discovers that Moze has spent all of their money on a brand new car to impress Miss Trixie, she quickly devises a plan to get rid of her, which includes giving Imogene enough money to get back home to her mother. An elaborate series of maneuvers on Addie's and Imogene's part results in Moze catching Miss Trixie in bed with another man. Devastated, Moze leaves Miss Trixie and Imogene behind.
At a hotel in Kansas, Moze is able to find a bootlegger's store of whiskey, steals some of it, and sells it back to the bootlegger. Unfortunately, the bootlegger's brother is the sheriff, who quickly arrests Moze and Addie. Addie hides their money, steals back the key to their car, and the pair escape, trading their new car for an old, used Model T farm truck after Moze beats ahillbilly in a "wrasslin' match." The pair then makes their way across the state line to Missouri, where the Kansas law can't follow them. The sheriff finds them in Missouri, and unable to arrest Moze, he and his cohorts chase, beat and rob him. Humiliated, Moze drops Addie at her aunt's house in St Joseph.
Back on the road, Moze stops to let his overheating truck cool down and discovers the envelope that Addie left for him in the truck. Inside is the photo of her sitting by herself on the crescent moon at the carnival. As he contemplates the photo, he glances into the rear-view mirror and sees a small figure running toward the stopped truck. It is Addie; she has fled her aunt's house and hopes to rejoin Moze. Angry, Moze tells Addie that he does not want her traveling with him anymore. She matter-of-factly reminds him that he still owes her two hundred dollars, and they drive off together.
- Ryan O'Neal as Moses "Moze" Pray
- Tatum O'Neal as Addie Loggins
- Madeline Kahn as Trixie Delight
- John Hillerman as Deputy Hardin/Jess Hardin
- P.J. Johnson as Imogene
- Burton Gilliam as Floyd
- James N. Harrell as The Minister
- Noble Willingham as Mr. Robertson
- Yvonne Harrison as The Widow Bates (Marie)
- Randy Quaid as Leroy
- Hugh Gillin as 2nd Deputy