Tag Archives: Alvin Sargent

A Great Movie You’ve Probably Never Seen, Vol. II

26 Sep
MosesI ain’t about to leave some poor little child stranded in the middle of nowhere. I’ve got scruples too, ya know. You know what that is… scruples?
Addie: No, I don’t know what it is but if you’ve got ’em, it’s a sure bet they belong to somebody else!
In 1972, Warner Bros released What’s Up, Doc? starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. Streisand was already a worldwide star and O’Neal was coming off the huge success of Love Story two years before. Directed by Peter BogdanovichWhat’s Up, Doc? was a smash hit, the #3 box office hit of ’72 behind The Godfather and The Poseidon Adventure. A wonderful homage to the great screwball comedies of the 30’s, the movie also launched the film career of the brilliant Madeline Kahn. In the very first scene, with the words “Howard… Howard Bannister,” Kahn firmly established herself as one of our most extraordinary comedienne/actors. Her wig alone is genius:
click the photo for the clip

click the photo for the clip

As wonderful as is What’s Up, Doc?, even better is Bogdanovich’s next film, a movie that seems to have fallen off many people’s radar. Easily one of the best films of the 70’s (which we’ve previously established is the greatest decade for film) the movie is also one of my personal favorites of all time: Paper Moon.

Based on a novel Addie Pray, Paper Moon was adapted by Alvin Sargent, garnering his first Oscar nomination for the script. (He won the WGA award however.) Sargent went on to win two Academy Awards for adaptations: Julia and Ordinary People. At age 86, Sargent is still writing in Hollywood, having worked on, among other things, the last 4 Spiderman films. That’s one hell of a career.

To play con man Moses Pray, Bogdanovich again hired Ryan O’Neal.  Bogdanovich also rehired Madeline Kahn as ‘Miss Trixie Delight’…  Kahn’s first appearance in Paper Moon is one of my favorite first appearances of all time.  


Kahn is so good in the movie that although her role is small, she was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Finally, in a stroke of genius, Bogdanovich cast Ryan O’Neal’s daughter Tatum as Addie in her first appearance on screen. Tatum O’Neal is so stunningly good she deservedly won the  Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role, still the youngest person ever to win an Oscar. (note the incomparable P. J. Johnson in the background struggling with the suitcases.  This also was her first movie and she is brilliant.)

Exquistely shot in black and white, Paper Moon is one of the most entertaining movies you will ever see. I screen this for people frequently, given that even many cineastes have not seen it. Each time, the room is filled with howls and laughs all the way through. Yet the movie has a rich complexity under the comic surface. It also has a lot of heart without becoming in any way saccharine.

Click below to continue reading and see two clips from Paper Moon:

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