Archive for Sunday, November 2, 2003

As ‘Paper Moon’ turns 30, Hays remembers limelight

November 2, 2003


— It's been 30 years since Hays and Hollywood hit head on.

To those who played any part in the creation of "Paper Moon," a movie filmed in Hays and other spots in Ellis, Rush and Russell counties, this anniversary is worthy of a celebration.

From the extras who crowded the carnival grounds for a scene shot in La Crosse to the residents who loaned their vehicles, homes and businesses for the background of other film shots, no one wanted to miss out on last weekend's celebration, said Brenda Meder, one of the organizers of the local event.

The planned festivities included an afternoon vintage car show on the corner lot of James Motor Co., as well as a champagne reception amid a gallery of "Paper Moon" memorabilia at the Hays Arts Council, before the movie showing at the Fox Theatre.

Last Sunday, episodes of the "Paper Moon" television series were planned in marathon style at Hays Public Library.

Mentions of "Paper Moon" have elicited dozens of trips down memory lane, and Meder, the executive director of the Hays Arts Council, said it seems that no matter what role people had in the project -- or how big or small -- they want to relive it.

Some have told her their stories of spending an entire day watching the movie stars, especially newcomer Tatum O'Neal and her father, Ryan O'Neal. The movie turned some everyday items into treasured reminders of Hays' big film day. A woman told Meder she saved a pen that one of the performers gave her.

Local artist Pete Felten assembled an entire scrapbook from the movie. Having Hollywood faces in Hays caused plenty of excitement, and reporters came from across Kansas to report from the scene. Felten kept those newsclippings.

His scrapbook and a few other "Paper Moon" relics are on display at the Hays Public Library.

Filming stretched across almost two months in the fall of 1972, and crowds formed as scenes were filmed.

Meder, a high school student in Victoria at the time, said she remembered being "totally starstruck."

Before "Paper Moon," there had been mentions of Fort Hays and all the heroes of the Wild West who once were in Hays City, but this movie, one that earned Tatum O'Neal an Academy Award for best supporting actress, featured western Kansas prominently on the silver screen.

There were shots at the old Vincent school, the hotel in McCracken that since has been razed as well as the Trego County Courthouse in WaKeeney and the Midland Motel in Wilson.

But the movie's notoriety with Hays and the area didn't stop there. By the time the film was complete and ready to roll, the Fox Theatre was the site of its Midwest premiere. All of the theater's 987 seats were filled for its opening show, and hundreds more of the overflow crowd milled around outside the theater, according to reports from the July 12, 1973, edition of The Hays Daily News.

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