Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


A PAPER LIFE: Tatum O'Neal. Harper Entertainment 2004.
It may seem ludicrous for an actress whose fame rests on one movie made many years ago to be writing an autobiography, but let us not forget that O'Neal won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in Paper Moon (1973) – she was the youngest person ever to win the coveted statue. Alas, her life since then has been a few minor movie roles, a bad marriage to “bad boy” [or asshole] tennis player John McEnroe, self-indulgent forays into serious drug abuse and rehab, and battles with one parent she depicts as utterly loathsome and physically abusive (Ryan O'Neal) and another who was a self-involved alcoholic and terrible mother (Joanna Moore). The book isn't just a “Daddy Dearest,” however, as the material is always compelling and it has – unlike Mommie Dearest – the ring of truth. Still, any tome as understandably one-sided as this has to be taken with a grain of salt. Undoubtedly her father would have quite a different take on his and his daughter's behavior. In the self-absorbed way of Hollywood, Tatum does not spend much if any time exploring what may have been going on in the minds of her parents during her early years, and was probably too young to understand it anyway. But if only half of this is true, she did have a pretty poor set of parents who seemed to want to do just about anything but raise a child with love, care and proper guidance. On the other hand, no one would know or care about Tatum were it not for her more famous father, which – according to Tatum-- Ryan never stops reminding her. According to the book, Ryan never forgave Tatum for getting the lion's share of the attention – not to mention the Oscar – for Paper Moon. Any wounds between father and daughter – and Tatum claims that there were many physical as well as emotional scars throughout their relationship – are not likely to be healed by this volume. This is hardly the first time a [minor] movie star/movie star's daughter has accused a parent of being a child abuser. Time may tell if O'Neal's accusations are horribly true or more along the fabricated, exaggerated lines of Mommie Dearest. One thing's for certain: for better or worse Ryan O'Neal won't win any fans from A Paper Life.
Verdict: Minor, but more interesting than you might imagine. **1/2.

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