(director: Peter Bogdanovich; screenwriters: from the novel by Joe David Brown/Alvin Sargent; cinematographer: Laszlo Kovacs; editor: Verna Fields; cast: Ryan O’Neal (Moses Pray), Tatum O’Neal (Addie Loggins), Madeline Kahn (Trixie Delight), John Hillerman (Deputy Hardin), P. J. Johnson (Imogene), Randy Quaid (Leroy), Jessie Lee Fulton (Miss Ollie); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Peter Bogdanovich; Paramount Home Video; 1973)

“Charming Depression-era road movie comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Peter Bogdanovich (“Targets”/”The Last Picture Show “) directs this charming Depression-era road movie comedy. It’s adapted from the novel “Addie Pray” (1971) by Joe David Brown and written by Alvin Sargent. Tatum O’Neal became the youngest ever Oscar winner for her Supporting Actress performance. It’s one of the three best films Bogdanovich directed before his rapid decline, where he became box office poison.

In 1936, the nine-year-old Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal, in her film debut) is left an orphan in rural Kansas and her neighbors suggest that the likable but unethical Bible traveling salesman Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal, Tatum’s dad), her mom’s ex-boyfriend, who was the only stranger attending the funeral and may or may not be her father, take her to St. Joseph, Missouri, to stay with her aunt. Moses soon finds he can’t get rid of her and that she’s no angel, in fact she’s a brat who smokes, cusses, and is a kindred spirit when it comes to flimflam. They team up as con artists who prey on the gullible. Madeline Kahn sparkles in a supporting role as Trixie Delight, a sad-eyed carnival stripper who becomes Moses’ romantic interest.

The black-and-white film (shot on location in Kansas and Missouri) is superbly shot by Laszlo Kovacs, giving it that needed Midwest dustbowl look. It has Ford’s lyrical mannerisms (even shows a shot from his Steamboat ‘Round the Bend) and Hawks’ ear for comedy, two of the directors the former film critic Bogdanovich said he most admired. To its credit, it avoids mush and sentimentality by being so cynical. It also includes music performed by Ozzie Nelson, Hoagy Carmichael, and Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, and snippets from the radio shows of Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly.

REVIEWED ON 10/19/2006 GRADE: B+