Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Century of Gregory Peck

"You have to dream, you have to have a vision, and you have to set a goal for yourself that might even scare you a little because sometimes that seems far beyond your reach. Then I think you have to develop a kind of resistance to rejection and to the disappointments that are sure to come your way."

Gregory Peck (1916–2003)

I've heard it said that, when Gregory Peck won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in "To Kill a Mockingbird," he was rewarded for playing himself. If that is true, it certainly was appropriate. After all, who better to play Gregory Peck ... than Gregory Peck?

Of course, he wasn't playing himself. He was playing a part that had been created in Harper Lee's masterpiece.

I don't know if Lee had Gregory Peck in mind for Atticus Finch when she wrote the book, but I don't think she did. I have always heard that she patterned the character of Atticus after her father — and I have also heard that her first choice for the part had been Rock Hudson.

Nothing against Rock Hudson, but I simply can't imagine him or anyone else improving on Peck's performance.

And it was a role that was perfect for him, one of those rare times when a great character is portrayed by the perfect actor or actress. Peck himself described the experience of portraying Atticus as "like putting on an old suit of clothes — just comfortable."

Today would have been Gregory Peck's 100th birthday. Turner Classic Movies is marking the occasion with a primetime salute, in which some of his greatest performances can be seen. Oh, who am I kidding? Gregory Peck was great in everything he did. Sometimes his performances were better than the material. No such problem in "To Kill a Mockingbird," though.

And you can see for yourself tonight at 9 p.m. (Central) when TCM airs "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"I put everything I had into it — all my feelings and everything I'd learned in 46 years of living, about family life and fathers and children. And my feelings about racial justice and inequality and opportunity."

Gregory Peck on his role as Atticus Finch