TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
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Six-year-old Scout and her ten-year-old brother Jem live a carefree existence in a small Alabama town with their widowed father, Atticus Finch, a respected attorney. But when Atticus agrees to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman, the children are pulled out of their insulated world. Fellow classmates provoke them at school because of their father's case while Atticus encounters prejudice and unreliable witnesses in the courtroom. During this troubled period, Scout continues to indulge her fascination with Boo Radley, a reclusive neighbor who is said to be mentally deranged and is never seen outdoors. This shadowy character soon comes to play a major part in the lives of the children.
Producer: Alan J. Pakula
Director: Robert Mulligan
Screenplay: Horton Foote
Production Design: Henry Bumstead
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Costume Design: Rosemary Odell
Film Editing: Aaron Stell
Original Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch); Mary Badham (Jean Louise "Scout" Finch), Phillip Alford (Jem Finch), John Megna (Dill Harris), Robert Duvall (Arthur "Boo" Radley).
Why To Kill a Mockingbird is Essential
The film version of Harper Lee's Pulitzer-prize-winning, semi-autobiographical novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) was one of those rare screen adaptations that pleased fans of the book and its author as well. After seeing the film, Lee commented, "I can only say that I am a happy author. They have made my story into a beautiful and moving motion picture. I am very proud and grateful." Set in Lee's hometown, Monroeville, Alabama, To Kill A Mockingbird vividly captures a specific time and place when racial unrest was at its peak in the South. Yet despite its controversial nature (a black man is accused of raping a white woman), the real focus of the story is the relationship between Scout, a tomboyish six-year-old, her older brother, Jem, and their attorney father. Part of the film's huge appeal is seeing the dramatic events unfold through the innocent eyes of childhood.
Gregory Peck was so perfect in the role that Harper Lee turned down offers in later years for television and stage versions of To Kill A Mockingbird, stating "that film was a work of art and there isn't anyone else who could play the part." At the conclusion of the film's shooting, she gave Peck her father's prized pocket watch which the actor used as a good luck charm on Oscar® night when he would be named Best Actor for his work in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Gregory Peck would later comment on his portrayal of Atticus Finch: "I felt I could climb into Atticus's shoes without any play-acting, that I could be him. My own childhood was...not in the true South; it was in Southern California, but it was nevertheless a small town where we ran around barefooted in the summertime and lived in trees and rolled down the street curled up in an old rubber tire."
Just as effective as Gregory Peck but in a much less visible role was Robert Duvall in his film debut as Arthur ¿Boo' Radley, the town pariah. Radley's mysterious reputation and reclusive nature is an object of fascination for the Finch children and their little neighborhood friend, Dill (who, incidentally, is modeled on Harper Lee's childhood playmate and fellow Pulitzer-winner, Truman Capote). It isn't until the climax of To Kill a Mockingbird that Boo Radley emerges from the shadows to become a flesh and blood character.
Considering the critical acclaim that greeted To Kill A Mockingbird upon its release, it was no big surprise when it was nominated for eight Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Mary Badham, the sister of director John Saturday Night Fever, 1977, Badham, as 'Scout'), Best Cinematography (by Russell Harlan), and Best Music Score (by Elmer Bernstein). On the big night, the film won a total of three Oscars®In addition to Peck's award, Horton Foote won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar® (he would later win a second Academy Award® for the Best Original Screenplay for Tender Mercies, 1983) and Alexander Golitzen, Henry Bumstead, and Oliver Emert won the award for Best Art Direction.
by Scott McGee, Kerryn Sherrod & Jeff Stafford