Addie Pray Day set for Friday, April 17

Addie Pray Day in Demopolis on Friday, April 17, returns a classic comic novel that inspired the  hit film Paper Moon with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal to its original Alabama settings including Marengo County with theatrical performances and a free showing of the 1973 Oscar-winning movie. Addie Pray by Birmingham native Joe David Brown was transplanted to Kansas for the film by its director Peter Bogdanovich.  Speakers in Demopolis on April 17 include native writer William (Billy) Cobb, recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and author of the acclaimed novel A Walk Through Fire.

Addie Pray will not be in Kansas anymore. The young fictional heroine of Joe David Brown’s 1971 novel, Addie Pray, opens the book by recalling, “They say my mama, Miss Essie Mae Loggins,  was the wildest girl in Marengo County, Alabama.” In the 1930s, Essie Mae dies in an automobile accident late one night as she returns from a scandalous party on the Black Warrior River.  Afterwards, the orphaned Addie meets “Long Boy” Pray who may be her father, and the two embark on a joint career of con-games in Alabama of the Depression.

Paper Moon, the popular 1973 film version of Addie Pray, replaced all the book’s Alabama settings with Kansas, the choice of director Peter Bogdanovich. Performing in the film with her father  Ryan O’Neal,  Tatum O’ Neal at age 10  won an Oscar for her performance as Addie,  the precocious Marengo County youngster also played by Jodie Foster in a 1974 television series inspired by the movie.

For “Addie Pray Day” in Demopolis on April 17, the Demopolis Public Library, the Marengo County Historical Society, the Tiger Arts Guild at Demopolis High School, and the Southern Literary Trail return Joe David Brown’s Alabama story of Addie to her home county for  a day of free events. “Addie Pray Day” is presented as a feature program for “The Way We Worked,” the traveling Smithsonian Exhibit at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum in downtown Demopolis. On display at the Museum into May 2015, the exhibit features careers and lives of America’s working people during the 20th Century including the Depression era.

The free events of Friday, April 17, will begin at noon at the Demopolis Public Library in Downtown Demopolis on Washington Street where Dr. Bert Hitchcock leads a discussion on Addie Pray. A native of Demopolis, Dr. Hitchcock is a retired professor of American Literature at Auburn University who has been honored for his accomplishments and academic service to the state by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Addie Pray author Joe David Brown began his writing career at The Birmingham Post and received a Purple Heart for his bravery as a paratrooper in World War II.   Brown died in 1976.   During the final years of his career, he wrote for Time-Life publications in New York City.

On the evening of Friday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Demopolis High School Auditorium, Dr. Hitchcock will introduce a performance of scenes from Brown’s Addie Pray by the Alabama Readers Theatre whose cast includes Don Noble, the host of the popular “Bookmark” program on Alabama Public Television, and William Cobb, a novelist from Demopolis. Hitchcock wrote the Foreword for one of Cobb’s novels, The Hermit King. Cobb uses Demopolis locations in his prize-winning book A Walk Through Fire.

The evening concludes with a showing in the DHS Auditorium of the film Paper Moon at 7:30 p.m.  Admission is free for the Readers Theatre performance and the movie. Popcorn will be provided by the Tiger Arts Guild of Demopolis High School. All events are made possible by grant support from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state agency of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For additional information, call the Demopolis Public Library at 334-289-1595.