Little Con in Paper Moon

XXXI don’t tend to think of Peter Bogdanovich as a great filmmaker. But if a man makes a great film, that probably makes him a great filmmaker, right?

The truth is, I haven’t seen a lot of his films. I had always thought that The Last Picture Show was his first film. Instead, he made two really tantalizing pictures before it: Targets and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. I never especially liked Picture Show. The only thing I remember about it is really liking Cloris Leachman, especially when she slaps Timothy Bottoms—something I’d been wanting to see for years.

The only other Bogdanovich film I’ve seen is the film version of Noises Off, while hardly a great film could not be any better.

In my mind, Bogdanovich’s reputation as a filmmaker depends upon Paper Moon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great deal to say about the film other than that you really ought to see it because it is smart, funny, and real.

One of the most memorable scenes from the movie is this one involving the ten dollar con:

This con is repeated by Addie (the little girl) at the fair.

I’m sure that this con is used to this day. It fools most people, especially if they are sidetracked. It goes like this: the con buys something cheap and pays with a five dollar bill. He adds a one dollar bill to the four just returned to him in change and asks for a five. Thus far, all is above board. But while the mark is still holding the five ones, the con gives her back the five and asks for a ten. He is now up five dollars. Done well, as it is in the film by Ryan O’Neal, it is really compelling.

Interestingly, according to Peter Bogdanovich, Ryan O’Neal never did understand the con. That might explain why he was able to do it so convincingly.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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