Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon

Ryan O’Neal with Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon (1973)


Ryan O’Neal as Moses “Moze” Pray, charismatic con artist

Kansas to Missouri, Spring 1936

Film: Paper Moon
Release Date: May 9, 1973
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Costume Designer: Polly Platt (uncredited)


Today is the 50th anniversary of Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich’s artfully nostalgic road comedy that was released May 9, 1973, exactly a month after its Hollywood premiere. Filmed in black-and-white and set during the Great Depression, Paper Moon stars Ryan O’Neal and his real-life daughter Tatum O’Neal in her big-screen debut who turned nine during the film’s production. When 10-year-old Tatum won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon, she set a record as the youngest-ever performer to win a competitive Oscar.

Though the material was based on Joe David Brown’s novel Addie Pray, Bogdanovich was inspired to change the title when he heard the 1933 song “It’s Only a Paper Moon” while compiling the soundtrack. When he suggested Paper Moon as an alternate title, Orson Welles reportedly told him “that title is so good, you shouldn’t even make the picture, you should just release the title!” Luckily for us, Bogdanovich completed the movie, including a scene where Addie had a sourvenir photo taken in a paper moon so that he could validate his choice to Paramount Pictures.

Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

“We’re lookin’ for the child’s kin, thought I saw some resemblance,” a woman tells Moses “Moze” Pray as he stops by a former fling’s roadside funeral in Russell County, Kansas. The mourners are looking for a Good Samaritan to help escort the now-orphaned Addie Loggins to the only known family she has remaining, nearly 300 miles east in St. Joseph, Missouri. Moze takes one glance at the dour pre-teen girl mourning her newly buried mother… and sees more of an opportunity for profit than for empathy.

Addie: How come you’re takin’ me?
Moze: ‘Cause I’m goin’ that way, honey… though I do have to make just one stop before we leave town. Got a little business to take care of.

Always with a mind for grifting, Moze immediately puts Addie to use, extorting the local businessman whose brother caused the accident that killed her mother. With $200 freshly lining his pockets, he moves to offload Addie onto a train to St. Joe… but the scrappy youngster overheard his conversation and demands her share of the money that Moze took from the man after citing her misfortune.

Addie: It ain’t as if you was my pa, that would be different.
Moze: Well, I ain’t your pa, so just get that out of your head! I don’t care what those neighbor-ladies said.
Addie: I look like—
Moze: You don’t look nothin’ like me. You don’t look any more like me than- than you do that Coney Island, eat that damn thing, you hear!
Addie: We got the same jaw!
Moze: Lots of people got the same jaw.
Addie: It’s possible!
Moze: No, no, it ain’t possible.

To fund their journey and Moze’s repayment, the chain-smoking Addie learns the art of the con from Moze as they grift their way through the dusty small towns of Depression-era Kansas in his battered roadster, selling bibles to widows and ripping off cashiers, until the stakes grow higher as they target a sinister moonshiner (John Hillerman). Along the way, their deceptions are halted when Moze falls prey to the seductions of the carnival striptease dancer and champion winky-tinker Miss Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn), whose teenage maid Imogene (P.J. Johnson) conspires with Addie to end the toxic couple’s association.

Through it all, the real-life father and daughter show a remarkable screen chemistry as Moze and Addie bicker their way through Kansas, all the while solidifying a relationship which illustrates that, if they aren’t actually kin, they make dynamic partners in crime.

Moze: You don’t have to worry, I ain’t about to leave some poor little child stranded in the middle of nowhere. I got scruples too, you know? You know what that is, scruples?
Addie: No, I don’t know what it is, but if you got ’em, you sure bet they belong to somebody else.

I’ve loved this movie ever since my parents had the wisdom to introduce me to it when I was in middle school. Even before I had a record player of my own, one of my first eBay purchases I made was to track down an original pressing of the soundtrack on vinyl LP record, consisting of vocal, jazz, and country hits of the early-to-mid 1930s, including the title song “It’s Only a Paper Moon” recorded in 1933 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra with vocalist Peggy Healy.

What’d He Wear?

Now considered one of the best movies of his filmography—and, by some, of all time—Peter Bogdanovich had been initially reluctant to make Paper Moon until he was convinced by his then-wife Polly Platt. An accomplished and talented film professional, Platt was the first female member of the Art Directors Guild. Despite their estrangement by the time production began due to Bogdanovich’s open affair with Cybill Shepherd, Platt agreed to work as a production designer on Paper Moon… on the reasonable condition that Shepherd not visit the set.

Platt’s production design duties also extended into uncredited costume design, pulling suits from the Paramount costume archives. According to IMDB, she landed on a seersucker suits for Moses Pray, ultimately discovering a piece of tape inside that indicated it was a period-correct suit that had been previously worn on screen by George Raft. I can’t find any additional sources to verify the story, nor do I know which of Moze’s costumes the story is meant to apply to, as neither of his suits have the puckered fabric characteristic of seersucker, though this could suggest that his suits are a summer-weight cotton.

Bogdanovich and master cinematographer László Kovács effectively crafted a vintage feel by shooting Paper Moon in black and white. Luckily for those interested in the details of its costumes a half-century later, there exists some contemporary color photography from the production that shows the colors of Ryan O’Neal’s costumes as Moze mixes pieces from his road closet.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

The O’Neals in respite between takes while on location in Kansas. Photo by Steve Schapiro.

Mismatched Suit Pieces

Like all con artists of at least moderate success, Moze knows the importance of how he presents himself to make a first impression on potential marks. While many other men of comparable means in Depression-era Kansas are clad in plaid work shirts and denim overalls, Moze strives to maintain the look of a well-to-do—but not too-affluent—professional, though a closer look at his initial wardrobe reveals an incomplete of matching jacket and waistcoat, with either misplaced or damaged trousers swapped out for tonally similar (but ultimately different) trousers that create a more slapdash appearance.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze tries to compile a full three-piece suit effect with mismatched trousers, beginning with these darker chalk-striped trousers worn with matching striped jacket and waistcoat.

The jacket and waistcoat are made from a medium-gray cotton, detailed by pencil stripes that alternate between pale-gray and a darker charcoal. As is still the case today, wool was still the predominant cloth for acceptable business suits during the 1930s, though cotton’s cool-wearing properties would have served Moze during his itinerant life of stress-inducing scams across the Great Plains. Cotton’s proneness to wrinkling would have also served Polly Platt’s likely costume vision of Moze not quite fitting his desired image of a neatly attired businessman.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

With four new tires and a new hood ornament, Mose is ready to roll. Note the stiffly wrinkled texture of his suit, which suggests cotton to me.

The single-breasted suit jacket has a full three-button front, an effective visual balance on Ryan O’Neal’s lean 6’1″ frame. The ventless jacket has notch lapels, a welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and three-button cuffs. The straight shoulders are likely structured with some padding.

The matching single-breasted waistcoat (vest) follows typical 1930s design, with a high-fastening front and congruously short bottom, designed to just cover the top of trousers that rise to the wearer’s natural waist. The six buttons are made from a dark Bakelite plastic, matching those on the jacket, and Moze wears all six fastened, suggesting an unfamiliarity with sartorial decorum as men traditionally wear the lowest waistcoat button undone.

The waistcoat has four welted pockets, and he alternates keeping his pocket watch in either the top or bottom pocket on the left side. He wears the watch on a short chain attached to a diamond-studded horseshoe-shaped fob, though this chain isn’t connected to anything or worn across his waistcoat as was often a practice at the time.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze gauges how much time he needs to kill with Addie before offloading her onto a train… unaware that they’re going to be spending plenty more time together than he expected.

Moze occasionally swaps out the suit’s matching waistcoat for a contrasting vest made of black moleskin, a heavy brushed cotton. If Moze was wearing a matching suit jacket and trousers, this contrasting waistcoat would qualify as an “odd” waistcoat, but here it provides an almost harmonious contrast between the different jacket and trousers.

The black moleskin vest has six black buttons which, again, Moze wears fully fastened. It lacks upper buttons, likely only styled with two lower buttons. The satin-finished back lining is a dark foulard print.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

The contrasting waistcoat with mismatched jacket and trousers makes Moze’s slapdash suit look more intentional (to me, anyway) than when he wears the jacket’s matching waistcoat but still with odd trousers.

We don’t know much about Moze before he met Addie—other than his brief assignation with Addie’s mother—so it’s quite possible that he’s been wearing these clothes for a long time. His suit may have once been a complete three-piece suit, with the trousers long since misplaced or worn out, as the pattern of wearing makes wont to happen to a suit’s trousers before it happens to jacket… especially when the wearer is incapable of properly maintaining it.

If the latter happened, Moze has presumably learned his lesson, as we see him go to great lengths to preserve the sanctity of his current trousers; even while inebriated, Moze takes the effort to remove and neatly fold his trousers—then slaps them under the mattress in the cheap motel room where he catches forty winks. (It’s also possible that he was once awakened while the suit’s matching trousers were similarly being self-pressed, and that he had to abandon them when either a wronged woman or a con gone wrong forced him to flee without taking the time to retrieve his pants!)

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

There must be better ways of keeping your trousers pressed while on the road, but at least he’s trying!

Moze alternates between two pairs of gray striped trousers, neither of which are a perfect match for his orphaned gray striped suit jacket and trousers. When we meet Moze, he’s wearing dark gray trousers with a light chalk-stripe. Later, he wears lighter striped-weave trousers with a spaced medium-gray stripe, which we see have side pockets and jetted back pockets.

Both trousers are similarly styled, with double reverse pleats and a generous cut through the legs down to the bottoms, which are finished with turn-ups (cuffs). The belt loops on both pairs of trousers go unused in lieu of vertical-striped suspenders (braces) with white leather hooks that connect to buttons along the inside of the trouser waistband.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Steve Martin’s character from My Blue Heaven would pinpoint this lackadaisical lounging as the reason why Moze may need to replace his trousers so frequently!

Moze typically prefers to wear a plain white cotton shirt, though he occasionally wears shirts with a fancy stripe, a unique tonal pattern, or a field of spots against a white ground. All of his shirts are designed with a shaped semi-spread collar, front placket, and two chest pockets. All of the shirts he wears as part of this outfit have traditional button-fastened barrel cuffs.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Addie and Moze just need to keep on veerin’, that’s all.

Moze makes the most of his limited wardrobe by cycling through at least eight distinctively patterned ties, always keeping his appearance fresh. He begins and ends the adventure in a light-colored tie with an abstract Deco-style design, also rotating through at least two dark polka-dotted ties, a lighter tie with dots arranged in triple sets of “downhill”-directional rows, a medallion-printed tie, and a brown paisley tie.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

With a handful of neckties and a pair of waistcoats, Moze can keep his looks fresh as he and Addie con their way through the countryside.

One of his most unique ties defies a simple description, consisting of a field of spiky red shapes against a slate-colored ground. (While not strictly accurate to the design, I mentally referred to this as Moze’s “caterpillar tie” every time I saw it appear on screen.)

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze is about to realize how useful a sweet (or, at least, sweet-looking) child will be for his career.

Moze can clean his shirts, cycle through ties, and self-press his trousers under his mattress, but there’s little he can do to hide how well-traveled his shoes look during a life lived on the road during the Dust Bowl. The brown leather uppers of his wingtip brogues are quick to show their dusty patina, derby-laced through four sets of eyelets each.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Pedal to the metal.

Moze typically wears dark ribbed cotton socks, including at least one chocolate-brown pair as seen during a color photograph on set. As observed when a drunken Moze partially undresses in his motel room, he routinely wears sock garters, the now-outmoded system of elastic bands around the wearer’s thighs, attached to clips that hold up the socks to prevent them from falling and bunching around ankles.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

While at a country festival, he begins wearing sportier spectator shoes with this suit, but I associate them more with his costume change through the second half of Paper Moon. Which brings me to…

Ryan O’Neal with Tatum O’Neal while making Paper Moon. Photo by Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images.

The Checked Suit

Moze spends the entirety of his “romance” with Trixie Delight wearing a checked suit—likely newly purchased to impress the flamboyant dancer. Thanks to Steve Schapiro’s contemporary photography, we know that this suit follows a similar color scheme as his previous tailoring: a light-gray body patterned in a single-line graph check that alternates between black and white, with the added complexity of a micro two-and-two check framing the white check.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Thanks in part to the darted jacket, this suit offers more of a shape than its predecessor, which would have surely delighted the bone structure-obsessed Miss Delight. Still, it can look a bit misshapen on O’Neal, realistically suggesting that Moze lacked either the funds, time, and/or knowledge to consider having it altered for a more flattering fit.

The single-breasted jacket has straight and broad peak lapels, echoing the wide and padded shoulders. The lapels roll to a two-button front, with Moze again showing that just because he has the clothes doesn’t mean he knows how to wear them, often buttoning both buttons—though he rectifies this by the end. Also ventless per 1930s convention, this suit has a welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets that slant rearward, and two-button cuffs.

Ryan O'Neal and Madeline Kahn in Paper Moon (1973)

Trixie and Moze take on the Depression in their own “fine apparel”.

These trousers differ from his earlier pairs by lacking pleats and belt loops, with a cleaner flat front and waistband. The same striped suspenders as before connect to buttons along the inside of the waistband. The trousers also have side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs).

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze hurriedly strikes a pose of nonchalance, flashing the long-rise of his flat-front trousers, held up by his usual suspenders.

Moze also aims to impress in his sporty new black-and-white spectator shoes, also known as “co-respondent shoes” for their rumored association with the co-respondent third parties in English divorce cases. Moze’s plain-toe spectator shoes have white leather pieces on the front and back, connected by black lace panels for the oxford-laced system of white laces through five sets of white-finished eyelets, all welted to black leather soles.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

“Get your things, Addie. We’re leaving.”

Moze evidently picked out a few new shirts to complement the new suit, picking up Trixie from the dismantled carnival in a shirt patterned with pink and periwinkle awning stripes against a white ground. When the menagerie stops for a roadside picnic, Moze wears another fancy-striped white shirt, further notable for its contrasting white collar. Also known as a “Winchester shirt”, this latter style of shirt is a visual callback to decades earlier when men wore stiff white detachable collars, though Moze’s shirt—and, indeed, most Winchester shirts made through the rest of the century—has an attached turndown collar, consistent with the simpler standard of menswear that evolved through the 1920s and ’30s.

These shirts have the same shaped semi-spread collar, front placket, and twin chest pockets as his earlier shirts, though they’re also rigged with more formal double (French) cuffs, fastened with cuff links.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze has his jacket, tie, and cuff links in place while driving, though he pares it down to just his shirt-sleeves—undone and rolled up—for a roadside picnic.

Despite the new suit, shirts, and shoes, Moze still wears many of the same ties as earlier, including the medallion-print tie, the “caterpillar tie”, and the more boldly dotted of his dark polka-dot ties, which presents a dark solid-colored knot when tied. He somewhat chaotically wears this latter dotted tie with a button-cuff shirt patterned with high-contrasting candy stripes.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Waffles, coffee, and clashing patterns.

After Trixie’s perfidy—engineered by Addie and Imogene—Moze continues wearing the suit but dressed down with one of his familiar white two-pocket shirts and the worn-out wingtips from before he met Trixie. He ditches any ties and wears his shirt with the top few buttons undone for an appropriately relaxed vibe at the country motel outside of Hays, Kansas, where he and Addie unwisely decide to swindle a well-connected bootlegger by selling him his own whiskey.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Things aren’t looking so good for Moze and Addie when the bootlegger’s brother turns out to be the sheriff, but the crafty Addie gets them out of custody while Moze’s skill behind the wheel—and his surprising skill at country wrasslin’—gets the duo across the river to St. Joseph, Missouri. Addie despairs when she thinks Moze has a mind to finally return her to her relatives, but her mood lightens when he shares a plan to collaborate on conning a silver miner. Like Johnny Hamp’s Kentucky Serenaders on the radio, Moze keeps his sunnyside up while prepping for the scam, dressing to the nines in his “caterpillar” tie, a pair of checkerboard-patterned socks, and his trusty gold tooth.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the sheriff to track the pair down as they were only 20 miles east from Doniphan County… and being out of his jurisdiction means he has no plans to arrest Moze, but instead to make his remaining time in St. Joe’s as uncomfortable as possible. Addie stakes out the con at the appointed time, only to find the disappointed mark walking away… and a bloodied Moze groaning on a recessed stoop just a few steps away.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Oh, Moze!

Back to Basics

After his clothes (and spirit) were presumably ruined by Sheriff Hardin and his two deputies, Moze reverts to his old wardrobe when taking Addie to her aunt Billie outside of St. Joseph, again clad in the matching gray striped suit jacket and waistcoat, the light gray striped trousers, and the Deco-patterned tie he had been wearing when he first met Addie.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

A few miles outside of St. Joe, Moze meditates over the last few months with Addie between drags of his Lucky Strike in the cockpit of the dilapidated Ford truck he swapped for across the river.

Everything Else

Throughout all of his costume changes in Paper Moon, two notable pieces of Moze’s wardrobe remain constant: his white Panama hat and his signet ring.

Moze’s Panama hat features the distinctive “optimo crown”, characterized by the raised ridge across the top of the round crown. The body of the hat is tightly woven from lightweight Toquilla palm, bleached to a bright white and finished with a black grosgrain band.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Worn on the ring finger of his left hand, Moze’s yellow gold signet ring appears to be monogrammed with an etched “M.P.”

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Likely also constant is Moze’s choice of undergarments, specifically his striped cotton boxer shorts and white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt. The latter would have been a relatively new invention at the time of Paper Moon‘s setting through the spring of 1936, though sleeveless undershirts had been worn for decades.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

What to Imbibe

You hungry? You want a Nehi and a Coney Island?

While Addie leaves her soda and hot dog untouched, Moze treats himself to some ice cream and coffee, the latter punctuated by plenty of sugar. Not realizing that her distaste comes from his withholding the $200 he swindled in her name, Moze thinks relish will help her appetite (“a Coney Island ain’t no good without relish”), but she doesn’t relish the addition.

We later see Moze drinking his own Nehi in a hotel room as he considers Addie’s fitness for a professional partnership. This soft drink originated in 1924, available in a range of fruit-flavored varieties from the orange soda that Moze and Addie drink to the grape soda said to be Radar O’Reilly’s favorite on M*A*S*H.

Now a brand of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Nehi continues to exist as a mostly nostalgia-informed sub-brand, though I did have the opportunity ten years ago to enjoy an orange Nehi that I found at a South Carolina gas station.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Addie’s orange Nehi goes mostly untouched as she and Moze spar over $200 in a Kansas greasy-spoon.

If you’re looking for something harder, the official spirit of Paper Moon would be the Three Feathers bonded whiskey that Moze riskily sells back to Jess Hardin from his own supply… though it may perhaps be for the best that Three Feathers has been discontinued for decades, ridding you of the temptation to sell a bootlegger’s own stock back to him.

Named for the Brothers Grimm story of the same name, Three Feathers was a blended American whiskey that debuted in 1882, though production halted when Prohibition went into effect during the 1920s. Around that same time, enterprising businessman Lewis Rosensteil purchased a series of now-defunct distilleries, including Three Feathers. Armed with a license to produce medicinal whiskey, Rosensteil organized the Schenley Products Company, headquartered in the Empire State Building and named after one of his acquisitions in Schenley, Pennsylvania. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Rosensteil rebranded the organization as Schenley Distillers Company, well-positioned to dominate American liquor sales alongside Hiram Walker, National Distillers, and Seagram.

Bottled at the Pennsylvania plant, Three Feathers remained one of Schenley’s top brands from the post-Prohibition era through the 1940s and ’50s, though I believe production quietly ceased not long after Paper Moon was made in the early ’70s.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze and Addie load up their Ford with enough crates of Three Feathers whiskey to make a sweet $625 profit from bootlegger Jess Hardin.

Imbibers hoping for a similar taste may find what they’re looking for in Old Overholt, which shares a similar Pennsylvania heritage that dates to the 19th century and survived Prohibition. The 86-proof straight rye bottling is the best-known Old Overholt variant, but a four-year-old bottled-in-bond 100-proof version introduced in 2017 feels like the most appropriate recommendation.

The Cars

Moses Pray drives three different vehicles (all Fords!) during Paper Moon, each correlating to his financial state during the respective act.

During the first act, when Moze meets Addie and the pair cultivate their “father-daughter” con, he drives a black 1930 Ford Model A roadster. With the windfall $200 he scams from the man whose brother caused the accident that killed Addie’s mother, he treats himself—and the car—to four new tires and a decorative radiator cap. This hood ornament consists of a set of propellers that spin while blown by the wind.

Ford reintroduced the Model A nomenclature in 1927, replacing the venerated Model T as its “everyman” line of standard passenger cars through the 1931 model year. All Model A cars were powered by the “L-head” 3.3-liter four-cylinder engine that provided 40 horsepower, propelling the car to a top speed of around 65 mph. This was mated to a “three-on-the-floor” unsynchronized sliding-mesh three-speed manual transmission, evolved from the simple two-speed planetary transmission in the Model T.

Millions of Model A cars were produced across nearly three dozen body styles, ranging from basic two-door coupes and pickup trucks to deluxe four-door phaetons and wagons. Though one of the more affordable Model A configurations, the convertible roadster—available in standard, Sport, and DeLuxe trim—remains one of the most iconic automobiles of the 1930s for its stylish design, comprised of a two-door body with a rag top, rear-mounted spare tire, and fold-out rumble seat with an upholstered bench for an exposed second row of seating. Also known as a “mother-in-law seat” or a “dicky seat” (in the UK), rumble seats generally fell out of fashion on American cars by the end of the 1930s.

Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze looks over the sixty-odd dollars of work that went into improvements for his well-traveled Model A roadster, presumably a set of four new tires and a spinning hood ornament.

Addie is dismayed to find that, in his continued quest to impress Trixie, Moze has spent a considerable amount of their earnings on a 1936 Ford V8 DeLuxe four-door convertible sedan. Considerably larger than his previous Ford, the V8 DeLuxe incorporates the second row of seating into the passenger compartment—as found in all modern cars—with a separate trunk compartment on the back.

Ford had introduced its popular 3.6-liter 90° “flathead” V8 engine for the Model 18 in 1932, concurrent with the four-cylinder Model B that superseded the Model A. However, the four-cylinder models were rendered all but obsolete in the wake of the V8, popular for its relatively affordable combination of reliability and power, famously celebrated at the time by outlaw Clyde Barrow’s personal letter to Henry Ford.

For the 1935 model year, Ford finally abandoned the low-selling four-cylinder engine and equipped all of its cars and trucks with the 85-horsepower flathead V8. Now designated the Model 48, all body styles and trim lines followed a streamlined, Deco-influenced redesign for ’35.

The 1936 model year generally retained the same design as previous, albeit with continued updates to the grille and wheels. 1936 DeLuxe models were officially designated the Model 68 and could be visually differentiated by a trio of chrome side strips along each front panel between the hood and fender. The four-door DeLuxe convertible featured in Paper Moon would have cost about $750 new in 1936.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze prepares to wrestle a country bumpkin (Randy Quaid!) for the opportunity to trade his own brand-new convertible for a broken-down truck. You just had to be there to understand.

After Moze’s Model 68 convertible is tagged by the vindictive sheriff of Doniphan County, Kansas, he and Addie speed off onto a side road where he encounters a dilapidated Ford Model TT pickup truck, presumably owned by the hillbillies dwelling on the property. With limited time and transportation choices, he examines the truck’s fitness for a potential swap, appreciating that at least the radio seems to be working… even if the driver’s side door and engine don’t.

Invariably black per Henry Ford’s 1909 quip about customer choice, the Model TT was developed in 1917 as the truck-only variation of the Ford Model T. Production officially began for the 1918 model year with nearly 1.5 million trucks manufactured until the Model T and TT was discontinued in May 1927. By that time, the price had decreased from around $600 to around $325.

Unlike the base Model T, the Model TT was powered by a 3.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine as would later be found in the Model A, mated to a three-speed manual transmission that was more effective for the heavy truck to climb hills than the Model T’s two-speed planetary transmission. Unfortunately for Moze, even this special gearing wouldn’t make the Model TT a very effective getaway vehicle, as drivers were advised not to expect the truck to perform at speeds higher than 22 mph.

Ryan O'Neal with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Moze and Addie check out their new set of wheels… and its lacking set of doors.

Perhaps optimistically, Moze dresses the swapped truck with the same spinning-propeller hood ornament that had decorated the bow of his speedier Model A roadster.

I could argue a personal connection to the 1936 Ford model year, as one of the six stainless steel-bodied cars built in collaboration between Ford and the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation of Pittsburgh is on permanent display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, where I was married in October. The distinctive steel two-door sedan can be prominently seen behind me and my wife as we delivered our welcome speech to guests.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

Maybe we got the same jaw, but the same jaw don’t mean the same blood. I know a woman that looks like a bull-frog, but that don’t mean she’s the damn thing’s mother!


  1. Preston Fassel

    One of my all time favorite movies. I’d never thought to try and see what color the outfits really were, so it was an absolute surprise and delight to log on today and see this as the feature!

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