Ryan and Tatum O’Neal
In Peter Bogdanovich’s Depression-era dramedy, Ryan O’Neal is a con man posing as a Bible salesman, while Tatum is a wily con artist herself, one whose innocent-cherub act complements and enhances his patter. There’s a sense throughout that the nine-year-old girl is both more emotionally honest and smarter than the rakish slickster she’s taken on as a father figure. (Indeed, Tatum became the youngest Oscar-winner in history for the role.)
For his part, he seems to regard her as an annoyance, especially when he’s trying to rev up his romantic life, rather than someone for whom he has fatherly affection, someone he can’t do without. Given what we know now about the long-estranged Ryan and Tatum — whose mutual nadir was probably when he encountered her at a funeral, didn’t recognize her, and hit on her — their twisted relationship in Paper Moon suddenly seems even more believable.
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