Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1973. The Directors Company, Saticoy Productions. Screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Produced by Peter Bogdanovich. Production Design by Polly Platt. Costume Design by Polly Platt. Film Editing by Verna Fields. Academy Awards 1973. Golden Globe Awards 1973.
This excellent Depression-era comedy was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, hot on the heels of his equally successful film The Last Picture Show. Ryan O’Neal plays a travelling salesman who’s actually a con artist; he attends funerals and pretends that the deceased ordered an ‘expensive’ gilded Bible that the remaining relatives are obliged to pay for. When the film begins, he attends a funeral where the deceased has left behind a lonely little girl (Tatum O’Neal) with no family to call her own. The mourners realize that the girl bears a slight resemblance to the Bible-seller, and so force him to take her on the road with him, since she needs family more than anything else. When the little tyke realizes what the man’s business is, she begins to get in the spirit and the two become a seamless unit, robbing midwesterners blind with very little failure. The highlight is a supporting performance by a very loopy Madeline Kahn as a lady love interest and temporary passenger in the O’Neals’ car. Both stars are terrific, with Ryan giving a subdued comedic performance and little Tatum stealing just about every scene she’s in; she even went on to become the youngest winner of an Academy Award in a competitive category, winning Best Supporting Actress (over co-star Kahn) at the age of nine.