W. Kansas town reminisces 50 years after being featured in ‘Paper Moon’

Shooting locations for the 1973 movie included spots Hays, Ellis County, Plainville, McCracken, White Cloud and Gorham in Kansas.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 5:39 PM CDT
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WILSON, Kan. (KWCH) - The town of Wilson is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movie “Paper Moon.” Locations in the Ellsworth County town served as settings for the movie and some locals are in the movie as extras.

This Friday, May 5, the Midland Hotel in Wilson is hosting the 50th anniversary celebration for the movie starring actor Ryan O’Neil and his daughter, actress Tatum O’Neil.

“The Midland is very lucky in that we played a major role in what happened in the film, so we can have that here,” said Wilson Tourism Hub Director Melinda Merrill.

The hotel was used for filming and much more.

“When the filming was being done, Ryan and Tatum had the whole third floor to themselves and the crew stayed on the second floor,” Merrill said.

Half a century after spots in town were used for filming, current and former Wilson residents are reminiscing.

“I grew up on Main Street, so a lot of the scenes were happening right down the block from where we grew up,” Roger Robinson said.

Alice Motsie remembers standing across the street to watch the filming.

“The whole town would go down and watch them film,” she said.

Wilson resident Wilma Olds remembers meeting one of the movie’s stars.

“I got to sit in Ryan O’Neil’s chair, have my picture taken. You know, big deal,” Olds said.

Fifty years later, Olds said she’ll never forget that picture of the memory from that day.

“Oh my gosh. I mean, I was young, and he was good-looking, you know,” she said.

The celebration in Wilson begins Friday evening at the Midland Hotel with an outdoor showing of “Paper Moon.”

“Paper Moon” shooting locations also included spots in Hays and Ellis County, and the small towns of Plainville, McCracken, White Cloud and Gorham in Kansas, as well as St. Joseph, Missouri.