Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Only a Paper Moon, Addie Pray!

The Wednesday, September 9th edition of The Marion Times-Standard ran this image and caption of a gentleman from Surrey, England, who was visiting briefly in Marion and the area. Enthralled by the 1973 Hollywood movie, Paper Moon, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and starring the father-daughter team of Ryan and Tatum O’Neil, Madeline Kahn, and Randy Quaid, this Englishman was traveling the country visiting sites depicted in the movie, including Marion!

From The Marion Times-Standard, Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

Now, like many of you, I saw Paper Moon (filmed in black and white) when it first came out and I loved it. But, the movie was set on the Great Plains of Kansas and western Missouri, not in Alabama!

DVD cover for Paper Moon, originally released by Paramount Pictures in 1973.

Turns out, the movie was adapted from the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown of Birmingham, Alabama. The novel is initially set in Alabama, but expands – via the main character’s travels – into Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. Alabama towns reportedly mentioned in this area include Selma, Hamburg, Marion, Brent, and Centreville. Supposedly, a scam scene at a Marion bank is included.

Addie Pray was first published in 1971, was adapted for the movie Paper Moon in 1973, and was reprinted in 2002 as Paper Moon: A Novel.
Narrated by 11 year-old con-artist Addie Pray, an orphan, who travels with scam/confidence man “Long Boy” Moses (he is one of three possible fathers of Addie), the pair strike out across the Deep South during the Depression-era 1930s trying their “luck” in every town, nook and cranny.

”Long Boy” Moses and Addie Pray (Ryan and Tatum O’Neil). (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Tatum O’Neil (actually, only 9 years-old when she played the part of Addie Pray) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974, and she remains the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award. Her father, veteran actor Ryan O’Neil, played the part of “Long Boy” Moses. Miss Trixie Delight was played by Madeline Kahn, and Randy Quaid played Leroy.

Ten years-old in 1974, Tatum O’Neil remains the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Madeline Kahn as Miss Trixie Delight. (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

The author, Joe David Brown, who died in 1976, was born in Birmingam, Alabama. He worked initially for The Birmingam Post, later the New York Daily News, and finally for Time and Life magazines, being stationed in New Delhi, Paris, London, and Moscow. Two of his other books, Stars in My Crown (1947) and Kings Go Forth (1956), were also made into movies.

During World War II, Brown served in the Army Air Corps, and as a member of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, was one of the first Americans to parachute into Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre with palm.

Author Joe David Brown in uniform. (Credit: 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team website)

So, the next time we watch Paper Moon, a classic movie, we’ll know the story behind the story. And, like the song says, “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”