Screengrab: When Ryan Met Tatum

RICHARD LUTZ directs you to the best film on the box this week.

Ttv-watching-oldA great movie for you: Paper Moon starring Paul Newman, his real life daughter Nell and directed by John Huston back in 1972.

Think that’s wrong, do you? Well, in a way that cast list almost happened. But Hollywood being Hollywoodland, the stars threw their toys out of the pram and in came tyro director Peter Bogdanovich, Ryan O’Neal and his real life daughter Tatum, then aged eight.

What followed was a terrific road comedy, shot in Depression-era 1930’s black and white and with a solid supporting cast including the late Madeleine Kahn (a Mel Brooks regular) as floozy Trixie Delight, John Hillerman (Tom Sellick’s boss in Magnum PI) and a young Randy Quaid doing his country bumpkin thing.

Paper Moon (Thurs, 2.20am, Ch4) is about conman bible-seller O’Neal faking his way through a dirt poor Mid-West accompanied by the chippy little kid (Tatum) who just might be his daughter. They scrap, complain, bitch and love each other: kind of like most dads and daughters, I would think.

The script is clean, sharp and knowing. It is Ryan’s best role before he slid into enforced retirement. A pre-teen Tatum went on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (the youngest ever at that point) and 15 years later hitched up with John McEnroe, the big mouthed tennis pro.

Shooting it in black and white brings out the starkness and quiet beauty of places such as Kansas (as opposed to this year’s Nebraska which revealed its ugliness). This technique was recommended by Bogdanovich’s mentor Orson Welles.

Welles chipped in with some other good advice too. When the young director worried about the title, Paper Moon, Welles supposedly responded:”It’s so good you don’t even have to make the picture. Just release the title.” Thankfully, the movie was made. And it is worth either staying up late for on Wednesday night (actually early Thursday) or just hitting that hard drive record button.

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