Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Robert Duvall
Harper Lee, Horton Foote
In my estimation, very few films truly deserve the label of "classic." However, "To Kill a Mockingbird," the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck is, truly, a classic film with a socially relevant script, excellent acting and a remarkable faithfulness to the spirit and heart of the Harper Lee novel of the same name.
In the film, Peck plays Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer who chooses to defend a Black man in the deep South who is accused of raping a white woman. As seen through the eyes of six-year-old Scout, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a unique film that balances the innocence of a time period with the harsh realities of race and discrimination.
Peck, who captured the Oscar for his performance here, is simply marvelous in a role that requires him to balance a deep sense of compassion, social justice and staunch defender. In a career of many wonderful roles, this role is, in my opinion, Peck's shining moment on screen.
Yet, the supporting cast that surrounds him is just as solid and wonderful throughout the film including a remarkable cast of young actors and actresses. Most notably, Mary Badham is a standout and picked up an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Scout (at the time of her nomination, she was the youngest nominee ever in this category).
Kudos to director Robert Mulligan for his faithfulness to the book, though I must knock off a point or two out of a desire to see a tad more devotion to the relationship between Atticus and the children. The novel develops these relationships quite nicely, while it tends to be a more surface development onscreen.
Yet, truly, this is a minor quibble for a film that is, without a doubt, one of the greatest films of all-time. While it is a bit dated at this point, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was bold and courageous during the early turning points for racial equality in this country. With a powerful script, excellent acting and beautiful production design "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a definitive classic of American Cinema.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic