gigatos | October 31, 2021
Gregory Peck (born April 5, 1916 in San Diego, died June 12, 2003 in Los Angeles) is an American film and theater actor, social activist and humanitarian. One of the greatest legends in the history of American cinema. A star and icon of the “Golden Era of Hollywood”. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked him 12th in its list of the “greatest actors of all time”. (The 50 Greatest American Screen Legends).
Peck began his stage career performing on Broadway in the early 1940s, among other places. In 1944 he debuted on the big screen with a leading role in the war drama Glory Days. In the early years he created his characteristic type of serious character committed to moral values, characterized by perseverance and intelligence – Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Gentleman”s Agreement (1947) – portraying him most often during his career. A cross-section of his output also included portrayals of characters with more complex personalities, geared toward greater drama and psychological layers (1946, Moby Dick; 1956), or lighter roles in genre-defying films (1957). Working with Henry King and William Wyler, Peck created memorable performances in the westerns Jim Ringo (1950) and White Canyon (1958). For his role of lawyer Atticus Finch in the drama To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) he was honored with the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor, for which he was nominated a total of five times during his career. In addition to acting, Peck was active in film organizations; he served as president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1970. He was also one of the co-founders of the American Film Institute. In 1969 he was awarded by President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Medal of Freedom. In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.
Other well-known films in Peck”s body of work include: The Yearling (1946), The Indictment (1947), Out of the Clear Sky (1949), Guns of Navarona (1961), Cape Fear (1962), How the Wild West Was Conquered (1962), The Omen (1976), and The Boys from Brazil (1978). He appeared in 55 feature films.
Family and youth
Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego, California. His father, Gregory Pearl Peck (1886-1962), born in Rochester, New York, was an apothecary and pharmacist of English-Irish descent. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he opened his only pharmacy in La Jolla. While working there, he earned the nickname “Doc.” He was well-built and contributed as a captain in the local baseball team. He spent his childhood and teenage years on the family farm in Ireland, to which his mother Catherine Ashe (1864-1928) took him less than a year after his birth when his father Samuel Peck (1865-1887) died of diphtheria. Ashe immigrated to America in 1884 at the age of 20. She came from Annascaul, a town on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, where her father John was a farmer. Peck”s mother, Bernice Mae “Bunny” Ayers (two sisters and four brothers. Before coming to La Jolla, she worked as a telephone operator. She had English-Scottish roots. Her father, John Daggett Ayres (1846-1912), was a riverboat captain who traveled the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the 19th century. Her mother Katherine “Kate” Elizabeth Ayres (1853-1942), was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peck”s parents were married on June 4, 1915 at St. Louis Cathedral. The future actor was raised in the Catholic faith. The name Eldred was chosen for him by his mother, who found it in the phone book. On his father”s side he was related to Thomas Ash, a participant in the Easter Rising.
After three years of separation, Peck”s parents divorced on July 30, 1922, and he moved with his mother to St. Louis, where he worked various odd jobs to help her out financially, including cleaning shoes for the local peddlers and selling lemonade to poker players at a boarding school. After returning to California, his mother found employment in San Francisco and then Los Angeles, and for three years Peck lived with his grandmother “Kate” Ayres in a small house at 7453 High Avenue, who raised him and regularly took him to the movies. “We went to the movies two or three times a week. I liked Hoot Gibson and Tom Mix … But the one I remember most was Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera . I got goosebumps and my hair stood up,” he recalled.
He attended La Jolla Elementary School, located at the intersection of Gerard and Marine, which walked him to school. He was visited on Thursdays by his mother and father, who worked the night shift at a pharmacy in San Diego. In the summer, he took his son on trips to Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks and camping and fishing on Catalina Island. According to biographer Gerard Molyneaux, a key role in Peck”s youth was played by Ayers and Uncle Charlie Rannells, who “provided him with a sense of family caring and allowed him to fully enjoy his childhood freedom.”
To give him a more stable environment while growing up, Peck was sent by his parents at age 10 to St. John”s Military Academy, a Catholic boarding school in Los Angeles run by the Irish order of the Sisters of Charity. As he recalled: “Maybe my mother and father decided I had too much fun in La Jolla, or they decided I needed discipline.” At age 13, he was named captain of the cadet corps at the local institution. He looked forward to the end of each month when the students could come home for the weekend.
In 1931 he returned to San Diego, where he lived with his father and attended San Diego High School for three years. After graduating, he enrolled at San Diego State University for one semester, taking his first courses in theater and oratorical arts. He supported the environmental fraternity Epsilon Eta and studied literature and mathematics.
In 1934 he got a job with the Union Oil Company, starting as a janitor and night watchman. Over time, he was promoted to a position as a driver transporting gasoline to the company”s stations in the San Diego area. He earned $125 a month. With the money he saved, he bought his first car – a blue model off-road Ford. With ambitions of becoming a doctor, Peck enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in 1937, but changed his major after a year to English philology. Because of his physical size (1.91 cm tall) he actively participated in the university rowing team. His tuition was 26 dollars a year. Being in a difficult financial situation, he took a job as a kitchen helper for the Gamma Phi Beta student fraternity in exchange for meals.
While studying at Berkeley, Peck was encouraged by an acting coach who saw potential in him for student theater. Hired by the university”s Little Theater director, Edwin Duerr, he performed in five productions during his senior year. In an interview, he admitted that “it was one of the most important experiences of my life. Berkeley woke me up to life and made me human.” He received his bachelor”s degree from the University of California belatedly, not until 1941.
After passing his final exams, he took the train to New York in the early summer of 1939. While there, he officially decided to change his name from Eldred to Gregory. Thanks to a letter of recommendation from his stepfather to a friend, Peck got a job as a solicitor at the New York World”s Fair. He worked from noon to midnight for twelve hours, with half-hour breaks. Fearing for his voice, he quit after a month and decided to look for another job.
On July 24, he learned that he had been accepted into his first year of teaching at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, specializing in the Sanford Meisner method. Since the academic year began on October 3, Peck was forced to find a job providing a steady income. He became a tour guide at Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center. He earned about $54 a week. While studying at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, the future actor suffered a spinal injury while taking dance and movement classes with choreographer Martha Graham. Because of this, he received a category 4-F, which resulted in him being discharged from service and not participating in World War II. Representatives of the 20th Century Fox studio later claimed that the injury came from his college days, when the actor performed on the rowing team. Peck tried to straighten out this information for many years, saying that “apparently Hollywood didn”t consider dance lessons something manly enough.” While attending college, he received a scholarship from the university authorities so that he did not have to pay tuition. He rented a small room on West 54th Street in Manhattan for the sum of $6. Because of his initial lack of assignments, he struggled financially to pay rent, buy food and clothes. He took a job – at $25 a week – modeling for the Montgomery Ward catalog, advertising suits and tennis outfits.
In the summer of 1940, he was selected to work at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, whose manager and owner at the time was Robert Porterfield. He helped by hauling props and lighting equipment by truck for the comedy Button, Button. When one of the actors became ill, Peck acted as a substitute, despite not knowing most of the text. Finding himself in a difficult financial situation, he used a supply of cottage cheese and spinach provided by the theater and acted in fourteen plays during the summer season, including On Earth As It Is, Family Portrait, and Christopher Marlowe”s drama Edward II. On June 30, he was accepted into his final year at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, a high honor since only half of the students from his first semester were asked to return. His scholarship was also renewed.
In the early spring of 1941, Peck was spotted by producer David O. Selznick”s representative Kay B. Barrett, who arranged for him to do test shooting at Fox Studios at Tenth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan. He was given two short scenes from the films Young at Heart (1938, directed by Richard Wallace) and This Above All (1942, directed by Anatole Litvak) to play. Selznick expressed a negative opinion in a note to his representative. After attending the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, Peck joined Meisner”s troupe, which featured Jean Muir. He was cast in a small role in the play The Male Animal, playing alongside José Ferrer and Uta Hagen. Although plays featuring him were played for no more than a month, Peck”s performance in the musical Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines appealed to Maynard Morris of Leland Hayward”s office, who became his agent. When he didn”t have the money to pay his rent, he locked his belongings in a locker at Grand Central Terminal and slept on a bench in Central Park.
Peck”s stage career began in the fall of 1941, when he began making regular appearances in New York theaters, including playing a secretary in a Katharine Cornell-produced production of The Doctor”s Dilemma, by Irish playwright and novelist George Bernard Shaw, earning $50 a week. The play premiered on September 8 at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, so that news of the talented actor was pushed back. In 1942, he made his Broadway debut, starring in the plays The Morning Star with Jill Esmond, directed by playwright Emlyn Williams, and John Patrick”s The Willow and I with Edward Pawley. Critics praised Peck”s acting, highlighting his “considerable skill”. Willela Waldorf of the “New York Post” wrote of him that he was “immensely affable” while Burns Mantle of the “Daily News” praised the actor for his “poise, good looks, wonderful voice and convincing sympathy”. At the urging of his agents, Leland Hayward and Maynard Morris, he went to Hollywood to meet with executives there who expressed interest in him.
In 1944, he appeared on the big screen as Vladimir, the charismatic partisan leader, in RKO Pictures” propaganda war drama Glory Days, directed by Jacques Tourneur. As he recalled, from that time he remembered the words of the director repeating: “speak normally Greg”. This referred to when a young actor working in the theater was trained by Guthrie McClintic to speak loudly and accent clearly. Peck partnered Tamara Toumanova, a Russian ballerina, in the lead role. Archer Winsten of the New York Post praised the lead actors, and some critics compared the actor to Gary Cooper.
Peck”s next film was a 1941 screen adaptation of Archibald Joseph Cronin”s novel, The Keys of the Kingdom (directed by John Stahl), telling the story of Scottish priest Francis Chisholm, who arrives in civil war-ridden China. More than 40 actors auditioned for the male lead role. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck decided to give the leading role to Peck after seeing him in Glory Days. The actor signed a contract with the 20th Century Fox studio to earn about $750 per week. Life magazine expressed a positive opinion of the film and Peck”s performance, writing that he “recreates Father Chisholm”s saga of discouragement and faith with beautiful honesty and restraint. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Leading Actor for his portrayal of Father Chisholm. Having gained wider acclaim, Billy Wilder considered engaging him, alongside Alan Ladd, James Cagney and Spencer Tracy, among others, for the lead role of insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) in the crime noir Double Insurance (1944).
A career in Hollywood
After receiving rave reviews for his theatrical performances, Peck was invited by Louis B. Mayer, producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to his office at Culver Studios, where he was offered a seven-year contract to star in four films and receive $750 for the first, $45,000 for the second, $55,000 for the third, and $65,000 for the fourth. The actor refused, fearing the length of the contract. Through Susan Hayward, Mayer, Selznick and Zanuck resumed negotiations. The result was the agreement to sign a contract under which Peck could appear in four films of different studios. Thus, he became the first actor who contractually guaranteed himself the possibility of playing in films without being tied permanently or for an extended period of time to a particular studio. This trend was continued in later years by Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas, among others. As a thank you, Peck contributed financially to the Hayward play A Bell for Adano, which was produced on Broadway and received a favorable reception.
His first production for MGM, in which he co-starred with Academy Award winner Greer Garson, was the melodrama Valley of Decision (directed by Tay Garnett), based on the novel by Marcia Davenport. The plot of the film focused on Irish immigrant Mary Rafferty (Garson), a girl from a poor working-class family who, despite her father”s (Lionel Barrymore) opposition, takes a job as a maid with the Scott family, owners of a steel mill. Initially John Hodiak was considered for the leading male role, but his application was rejected. The positive reception of the film gave rise to the idea of a radio adaptation starring Peck, broadcast on January 14, 1946 on CBS Radio”s Lux Radio Theatre. Paul Scott”s performance earned the actor a Gold Medal Award from Photoplay magazine. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times noted that “Gregory Peck is mildly impressive as the best of the Scott boys.” According to Variety magazine, the actor had “personality and the ability to command and maintain attention in every scene.”
Producer David O. Selznick, who early on ridiculed the actor at a casting call for one of the productions by claiming that he was “not a candidate for a leading man because he”s afraid of his own shadow,” offered Peck the role of Alfred Hitchcock”s Dr. Anthony Edwardes in the psychological noir thriller Charmed, despite the fact that Joseph Cotten and Paul Lukas were initially considered for the leading roles. The actor, taught to use the Stanislavsky method, complained during the production about the lack of any acting guidance from the English director. As a result of frustration and misunderstanding of Hitchcock”s working methodology, he often made mistakes, which made it necessary to record doubles. Despite this, he insisted that the director showed graciousness and kindness. Peck was partnered in the female lead role by Ingrid Bergman, with whom the actor entered into a brief affair. In a 1987 interview with Brad Darrach for People magazine, he admitted: “I was young, she was young. We were almost inseparable for many weeks working on the film. I really loved her, and I think that”s where I should end.”
The film was a commercial success, grossing $7 million at the box-office, becoming Hitchcock”s most profitable production to date. Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times: “Peck”s performance is restrained and refined, appropriate to the superb role of Miss Bergman.” Variety, on the other hand, felt that the actor “handles the suspense scenes with great skill and has one of the best roles on screen.” Peck expressed satisfaction with the film, but remained critical of his own performance.
In 1946, Peck co-starred with Jane Wyman in the MGM studio family film The Yearling (dir. Clarence Brown), playing Ezra “Penny” Baxter, a good-natured ex-soldier and Civil War soldier who surrounds his wife and son with warmth and tenderness (one of the shots was not completed until the 72nd time. Baxter”s performance earned him his first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama and his second consecutive Academy Award nomination. “The Saturday Review noted “the delightful acting of Gregory Peck and Claude Jarman Jr.”
That same year, he starred alongside Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Lionel Barrymore and Lillian Gish in the western Duel in the Sun (directed by King Vidor). He played the role of the villain – the cruel and sensual gunfighter Lewton “Lewt” McCanles, which was described by critics as a breakthrough in the actor”s career, the film brought profits of $ 20 million on a budget of 6 million, becoming the biggest box office hit of the first postwar years in the United States. Its success did not translate into a repeat of Gone with the Wind (1939, directed by Victor Fleming), which Selznick, as the acting producer, had hoped for. On February 18, 1947, the trade magazine Look named Peck the most outstanding actor of the previous year.
In 1947, Peck decided to accept the lead role of New York journalist Philip Schuyler Green in the social drama A Gentleman”s Agreement (directed by Elia Kazan), despite the objections of Morris, who felt that the actor would “jeopardize his career.” Kazan”s film, which was an adaptation of a book penned by Laura Z. Hobson, dealt with anti-Semitism in corporate America. The actor was partnered by Dorothy McGuire and John Garfield. During the production, there were often differences between Peck and the director regarding the vision of the main character”s character. Kazan advocated a more choleric temperament, in which the journalist would openly express his emotions. In one scene, he wanted the actor to hit a wall in frustration, but Peck refused, explaining that it was not his style of acting. Kazan”s film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, brought Peck his third nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and received rave reviews in the press. Hobe Morrison at Variety magazine wrote: “Gregory Peck gives undoubtedly the best performance of his career to date. He is calm, almost noble, increasingly intense and forceful, with just the right suggestion of inner vitality and turbulence.”
Another production was based on the short story The Brief Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway, an adventure drama The Macomber Affair (directed by Zoltan Korda), where he was partnered by Joan Bennett and Robert Preston. The actor accepted the role because of the aforementioned short story, which he liked and thought was an interesting story. He suggested that producer Caseyov Robinson hire Korda, who had made pictures in the late 1930s and early 1940s that were full of action sequences and exotic locations, such as Kala Nag (1937), Four Feathers (1939) and The Jungle Book (1942). “Variety” wrote: “Peck delivers a lucid sketch of the white hunter, a role in the strange variations of his usual work.
The actor”s third film, made in 1947, was the crime drama The Bill of Indictment, directed by Hitchcock. It told the story of a young lawyer (Peck) who undertakes the defense of Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli) accused of murdering her husband, believing her innocence. The film also starred Ann Todd, Charles Laughton and Louis Jourdan, making his screen debut. Hitchcock”s picture was not a box office success, earning mixed reviews in the press; critics accused it of, among other things, “the futility of a static performance.” Bosley Crowther wrote that Peck, in the role of a young London lawyer, was “impressively passionate.” “Time” weekly pointed out that “despite the immeasurable hard work of becoming English, he remains astonishingly lucid and the talented actor was able, despite the imperfections of the script, to bring out a convincing character in this barrister.” “Variety” emphasized that his “artistic stature puts him in a good position among extremely tough competition.” Despite the favorable reviews, the actor was not satisfied with the film. The role of Anthony Keane brought him the top prize at the Paris Film Festival. He was named best actor by Look magazine and was among the top ten highest grossing movie stars.
In 1947, with financial support from David O. Selznick, Peck formed the professional La Jolla Playhouse Theatre with Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, based in the auditorium of La Jolla High School, of which he was a graduate. For the first five years of operation, he contributed primarily as a producer.
In 1948, the actor starred in the western The Road to Yellow Sky (directed by William A. Wellman), where he was partnered on set by Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark. According to Gary Fishgall, Wellman”s film was “a cross between an old-fashioned shooter and a morality tale à la Treasure of the Sierra Madre . During the making of one scene, Peck fell from his horse, resulting in a broken ankle in three places.
Peck”s portrayal of U.S. bombardier brigadier general Frank Savage in the war drama From a Clear Sky (directed by Henry King), earned him a New York Film Critics Association Award and his fourth Academy Award nomination. Among those initially considered for the lead role of the brigadier general was Clark Gable, who served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. John Wayne turned down the offer to play Savage. Peck also rejected the script at first, claiming it was too similar to the film Decision on Command (1948, directed by Sam Wood). He changed his mind, impressed by King”s directorial work, recognizing his empathy for the film”s subject matter and because of the attractiveness of the cast. Peck”s collaboration with the director resulted in five future films made together, creating one of the more respected and influential duos for the development of the western genre.
Good financial results of Keys of the Kingdom, Road to Yellow Sky and Out of the Clear Sky made the actor decide to extend his contract with Fox for the next three productions. The new contract included an increase in Peck”s per-film salary from $45,000 to $100,000, which Fishgall said was more in line with the actor”s box-office position. The contract formally began on September 21, 1950.
Jim Ringo (dir. Henry King) premiered at the Roxy Theatre on June 23, 1950, described by critics as “the first psychological Western” that ushered in a new era of more complex characters and moral ambiguity. King”s film told the story of gunfighter Jimmy Ringo (Peck), who returns to his hometown at the end of his heyday to find stability. He wants to meet his long-lost son (B.G. Norman) and his mother (Helen Westcott), hoping to win her affection. The film was not a box office success when it was released, grossing less than $2 million and ranking further down the box-office, but years later it became a classic in its genre, with Fishgall considering it one of the best westerns ever made. Bosley Crowther expressed a flattering opinion, writing: “thanks to Peck”s fine acting, the concept of sadness and isolation of a man with a grim name is understood”. The actor himself valued the creation of Jimmy Ringo the most in his work. Roles in westerns Duel in the Sun, Road to Yellow Sky and Jim Ringo made Peck called “cowboy star of the year”.
In 1951, Peck starred in the adventure film Captain Hornblower (directed by Raoul Walsh), playing the title role of a fictional Royal Navy officer from the Napoleonic Wars, Horatio Hornblower. He was partnered by Virginia Mayo, although the actor”s personal choice was Margaret Leighton. The premiere was held on September 13. According to one critic for The New York Times, compared to C.S. Forester”s literary original, Peck”s rendition of the Hornblower character was more romanticized.
The positive cooperation with Walsh resulted in his appearance in the adventure drama He Has the Whole World in His Arms, an adaptation of Rex Beach”s 1946 novel. On the set he was partnered by Ann Blyth and Anthony Quinn. Peck described playing together with Quinn as a “friendly rivalry”. Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews, with the actor himself comparing it to “a boy”s adventure story, made with a lot of care, a lot of fun and a lot of humor”.
He returned to westerns while making for Warner Bros. Only the Valiant (dir. Gordon Douglas) with Barbara Payton and Ward Bond in the cast, receiving favorable reviews. “The New York Times” wrote that “with his stature and acting ability, Peck is able to imbue a synthetic character with a degree of conviction so that the viewer is not overwhelmed by the banality of the plot.” According to sources, the actor was said to have had an affair with Payton on the set; N.E. Benson of Confidential magazine wrote that the actress invited Peck to her home and they often met at the actress” trailer. The actor considered Only the Valiant to be the worst film of his career, while noting that it was a “step backwards” after his performance in Jimmy Ringo the year before. He was also unhappy with the costume he had to wear on the set, claiming it was too similar to the one Rod Cameron wore. Also in 1951, he starred alongside Susan Hayward in the historical-religious David and Bethsheba, directed by King, for which he was chosen by Darryl F. Zanuck because of his “biblical facial features.” Peck”s portrayal of King David earned him the German Bambi Award for Best Foreign Actor. “The New Yorker” spoke favorably of Peck”s performance: “His David is strong, concerned and quite believable, a man of deep feelings and equally deep doubt.” Also, “Newsweek” praised the leading roles: “Both Peck and Miss Hayward bring considerable dignity and conviction to their roles.
In 1952 he starred with Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner in a Technicolor adaptation of Ernest Hemingway”s 1936 novel The Snows of Kilimanjaro (directed by Henry King). Peck played the role of writer Harry Street, who is injured during an African safari. The film premiered in New York City on September 18, 1952 to mixed press reviews. Bosley Crowther described it as “lovely and generally absorbing”. Peck admitted that Gardner”s performance was the most noteworthy. “She did things in The Snows of Kilimanjaro that she couldn”t have presented three years earlier in The Great Sinner.” The film ranked fourth in the U.S. box-office. Eager to avoid being identified with a single genre, the actor turned down an offer from Carl Foreman to play Sheriff William “Will” Kane in the western High Noon (1952, directed by Fred Zinnemann), finding it too similar to the role he had previously created in Jim Ringo. He would later admit that this was the biggest mistake of his career.
In 1953 he starred alongside the debuting British Audrey Hepburn in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday (directed by William Wyler). The director”s first choice for the role of journalist Joe Bradley was Cary Grant. The actor declined, claiming he was too old. Peck was cast in the role of Bradley, although at first he was not convinced by the script, believing that the role of the princess was much more prominent. He changed his mind after a conversation he had with Wyler, who admitted: “I didn”t think you were the type of actor who measured the size of roles”. The filming was made much more difficult by the political unrest in Italy at the time, the high temperatures, the humidity, and the local community, which, being initially negative towards the filming, showed up everywhere with the crew of 10,000, despite the intervention of the local police.
In the scene at the Mouth of Truth, the actor, in consultation with the director, staged a gag in which, after placing his hand in the sculpture”s mouth, he tucked it into his jacket sleeve, pretending to “bite” it. Hepburn”s reaction of horror was genuine. The actress recalled that this was the only shot for which no doubles were recorded. The scene in which the main characters ride through the streets of Rome on a Piaggio Vespa scooter went down in film history. Peck was very impressed with Hepburn”s acting. “Magnificent. An amazing girl, really. She can do anything without any effort.” The actor”s contract ensured that he would get much more than Hepburn and that his name would be placed as the lead. In the middle of shooting, he telephoned agent George Chasin suggesting that Hepburn”s name appear with his, an unusual gesture in Hollywood. As he admitted: “I”m sure she”ll get an Oscar for this role. Her name must be above the title along with mine. It”s no act of kindness on my part – if we do otherwise, we”re just acting stupidly.”
Wyler”s film received rave reviews, with then-Senator John F. Kennedy admitting that it was his favorite film. Peck was nominated for a British Academy Award for Best Foreign Actor. A.H. Weiler in The New York Times noted that “Gregory Peck is a brooding and masculine companion and lover whose eyes resemble his restrained countenance,” while Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review described his performance as “fluid and expert.” During a party staged in London, he met his friend Mel Ferrer from Hepburn. A year later, the couple married.
In the following years, under the agreement amounting to 350 thousand dollars per film, the actor starred in two productions of the British Rank Organisation – a comedy-drama The Penniless Millionaire (directed by Ronald Neame) and a war adventure drama The Purple Earth (directed by Robert Parrish), playing Bill Forrester, a squadron commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. William Zinsser of the New York Herald Tribune was critical of the latter film, highlighting the “slow pace and snazzy story.”
In The Penniless Millionaire, adapted from Mark Twain”s 1893 short story, Peck was the only foreign star in the cast, with filming taking place on the island of Ceylon. He also starred in the Cold War-era spy film Dark Affairs, which was Nunnally Johnson”s directorial debut. Peck liked his role in the latter film because of the “tougher, sharper, more humorous and aggressive kind of character.” He also expressed a favorable opinion of Johnson”s directorial work, while stipulating that he was not a filmmaker of the caliber of Henry King or William Wyler.
In 1956, after renewing his contract with 20th Century Fox, Peck starred in two films – with Jennifer Jones and Fredrick March in the psychological drama The Man in the Grey Suit (dir. Nunnally Johnson), with which he had high hopes, and the adventure film Moby Dick (dir. John Huston), a film adaptation of Herm Herm Melville”s 1851 novel. In the latter, he played the role of Captain Ahab, thus playing a completely different character from his previous image – Captain Ahab, disregarding the danger to the lives of the ship”s crew, was driven by a desire for revenge on the white whale that had bitten off his leg. The crew encountered many difficulties during the making of the film. Unsatisfactory working conditions had a direct impact on Peck”s relationship with the director. The actor admitted that “Huston was not such a great director of actors” and did not help in finding the performance of a given artist. The cast also included Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice and Harry Andrews. The film received a moderate reception, placing ninth in the American box offis. Bosley Crowther referred to it as “one of the greats of our time,” while William Zinsser wrote that “Moby Dick may be the best movie ever made in this country.”
Along with his co-writer on From a Clear Sky, Sy Bartlett, Peck formed Melville Productions in 1956, which entered into a partnership with the United Artists (UA) studio. The first project planned was to be a screen adaptation of the Broadway play Affair of Honor, which focused on the American Revolution. The play was met with a negative reception, as a result of which the production was abandoned. Peck and Wyler wanted to make a screen adaptation of Thieves Market, Edward Anderson”s 1937 novel Thieves Like Us, on which the 1949 crime noir They Live at Night (directed by Nicholas Ray) was based. Due to dissatisfaction with the script, the project was also abandoned.
On January 18, 1957 Peck attended the funeral of Humphrey Bogart, with whom he had a friendly relationship. He visited the ailing actor at home a few days before his death. That same year, he starred alongside Lauren Bacall in the romantic comedy The Fashionable Wife (directed by Vincente Minnelli), speaking warmly of the opportunity to work together: “Betty Bacall is one of my favorite people”. The film received mixed reviews. “The New York Times described it as a “pseudo-sophisticated romance,” while praising the script: “some of the verbal exchanges between Bacall and Peck have a nice little spot of wit.” William Zinsser admitted that it was “a two-hour test of endurance”. A year later, Peck starred in the western Bravados, directed by Henry King, where he was partnered by Joan Collins. The plot of the film told the story of a lone horseman, Jim Douglass, searching for four perpetrators (Albert Salmi, Henry Silva, Lee Van Cleef, Stephen Boyd) of the murder of his wife. Historians have pointed out that despite its flaws, the film was characterized by ruthlessness and diversity.
In 1958, Peck turned his attention to the short stories Ambush at Blanco Canyon by Donald Hamilton, published in The Saturday Evening Post. They were later published in an expanded edition as The Big Country. Both the actor and Wyler expressed a desire to produce them. Peck formed a separate company from Melville – Anthony Productions, which he named after his youngest son. He was also given the opportunity to influence casting, script approval, and because of his experience in cattle ranching, horse selection and livestock rental.
The plot of the film White Canyon depicted the fate of James McKay, a sailor from the east coast of the United States, arriving in the Wild West to his fiancée Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker). Critics insisted that it was the actor”s most heroic role since Captain Hornblower. According to Fishgall, in comparison to Bravados, where Peck”s character was a petulant, revengeful farmer, in White Canyon he represented a different image of a peace-loving sailor. Baker, in her autobiography Baby Doll, was complimentary about working with Peck. “I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Wyler and also had great admiration for his films, but it was Peck who held my attention the most. I couldn”t take my eyes off him. He was so tall, handsome, impeccably dressed, so charming, funny, just the perfect gentleman – he would have turned many a girl”s head.” Shooting took nearly five months. The script was revised several times by various writers, including Robert Wyler, the director”s brother. Peck collaborated on some of the shots with the story”s author Donald Hamilton. White Canyon was favorably received in American and British theaters.
A year later, Peck starred in three productions: the war drama Pork Chop Hill (dir. Lewis Milestone), playing the role of Colonel Joseph G. Clemons, the biographical drama Beloved Infidel (dir. Henry King), creating the character of writer Francis Scott Fitzgerald alongside Deborah Kerr, and in the post-apocalyptic drama The Last Shore (dir. Stanley Kramer), based on the novel by Nevil Shute. The actor accepted the role in the last of the films, mainly because of the awareness of the negative effects of the use of nuclear weapons, which he opposed. He was partnered by Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. At the end of the year, he turned down an offer to play in the musical Let”s Make Love (1960, directed by George Cukor), because, having read the script, he felt that the male role was much diminished in relation to the female one, created by Marilyn Monroe.
In 1961, Peck was cast in the lead role in the war film The Guns of Navarona, directed by J. Lee Thompson, playing Captain Keith Mallory, the commander-in-chief of a group of commandos whose objective was to destroy the powerful guns guarding the passage through the strait between the Greek islands of Navarona and Maidos. The film also starred David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irini Papas, Gia Scala and James Darren. Thompson admitted that there was a “friendly rivalry” between Peck, Quinn and Niven. The actors often played chess in between takes. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, published in 1957, and was shot on the Greek island of Rhodes, Gozo in Malta and Tino in the Ligurian Sea. Peck was unable to master fluent speech in German, so some of the voiceovers were provided by Robert Rietti. During production, he sent notes to Foreman, suggesting changes in lines that gave his character more weight.
The film premiered on April 21 at London”s Odeon Leicester Square in the West End with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in attendance. Guns of Navarre proved to be the highest grossing film of the year in the U.S. box-office with over $8 million and in the actor”s career to date (Peck received a salary of $750,000 and a commission on gross receipts). Thompson”s film won two Golden Globes – for best drama and for best music by Dimitri Tiomkin – and was nominated in six categories for the Academy Awards, winning the statuette for best special effects. Peck was recognized with a Laurel Award nomination. Guns of Navarona received generally enthusiastic press reviews; “The New York Times” noted that “Peck is a lean, laconic Himalayan who accepts his task with great anxiety and becomes a determined leader.” Also, “Variety” noted the main character”s laconicism and authoritativeness in being an officer when it comes to taking charge.
In 1962, he starred in J. Lee Thompson”s psychological noir thriller Cape Fear, adapted from the 1957 novel by John D. MacDonald”s 1957 novel, creating the role of Sam Bowden, a lawyer trying to protect his wife Peggy (Polly Bergen) and teenage daughter Nancy (Lori Martin) from the psychopathic criminal Max Cady (Robert Mitchum). Initially, it was Peck who was offered to play the criminal, but the actor declined, explaining that he did not want to play a villain. Premiered on April 18 in New York, the film was a financial failure, which contributed to the dissolution of Peck”s label, Melville Productions. Cape Fear, with a budget of more than $2.5 million, earned less than $2 million in theaters, placing it further down the U.S. box office chart. Arthur Knight of the Saturday Review praised Mitchum”s performance while emphasizing Peck”s “equally praiseworthy” performance, and the New-York Mirror noted that “Peck and Mitchum, as symbols of good and evil, are utterly delightful.
In the family saga How the Wild West Was Conquered (dir. George Marshall, Henry Hathaway, John Ford) depicting the story of the founding of the Wild West, Peck played the role of professional gambler Cleve Van Valen in a segment on the wagon robbery by the Sheyen. Along with him were Robert Preston, Thelma Ritter, Debbie Reynolds and John Larch. The cast of the film, consisting of related segments, included: Carroll Baker, Henry Fonda, James Stewart John Wayne and Lee J. Cobb. How the Wild West Was Conquered earned a revenue of $50 million, earning the number one spot in the U.S. box-office.
On December 25, 1962, Robert Mulligan”s drama To Kill a Mockingbird, a film adaptation of Harper Lee”s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, was released. Peck was cast in the lead role of Atticus Finch, a lawyer from the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, raising two children alone, who becomes the defense attorney of a black man (Brock Peters) wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Mulligan”s film exposed one of the novel”s two main themes; it told of the difficult beginnings of the struggle against racism in the Deep South. The director was complimentary about Peck”s involvement in the lead role. “When I learned that Gregory Peck was going to play Atticus Finch in the film production of To Kill a Mockingbird, of course I was thrilled; he was a good actor who had made great films.” Mary Badham, who played Peck”s screen daughter, became friends with the actor and kept in touch with him until his death in 2003.
Not only did critics love the film, but audiences as well. Peck was nominated for an Academy Award for the fifth time, competing this time with such actors as Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Marcello Mastroianni and Peter O”Toole. The role of Atticus Finch eventually brought him his first Oscar, which he received from the hands of Sophia Loren. The actor also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance in a Drama and the Italian David di Donatello statuette for Best Foreign Actor. Critics said that Peck”s portrayal of Finch was the best role in the actor”s career. “The New York Journal-American expressed a flattering opinion: “Only a real star confident of his own abilities will undertake a performance in a picture that is ”stolen” by children. Such a star as Gregory Peck, who in To Kill a Mockingbird presents an intelligent display worthy of an Academy Award.” Bosley Crowther wrote: “Gregory Peck goes through an extended melodrama, taking on the defense of a black man in court while delivering a strong and adult lesson in justice and humanity at work.” “Variety” noted that “this is a special role for Peck, requiring him to hide his natural physical attractiveness through civilized restraint and resignation, a rational compromise with the fires of social outrage and humanitarian concern that burn inside the character.”
In 1963, Peck starred with Tony Curtis in the comedy-drama Captain Newman (directed by David Miller), playing psychotherapist Josiah J. Newman. The role earned him his third Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama. A year later, Peck starred in the war drama And Here”s the Blue Horse (directed by Fred Zinnemann) alongside Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif, a loosely based interpretation of the biography of Francisco Sabaté, a participant in the Spanish Civil War. One reviewer admitted to the Daily News that “Peck and Quinn and the other cast members perform their roles with conviction.”
Premiering on May 26, 1965, the neo-noir thriller Mirage (Kathleen Carroll of the Daily News wrote that the plot is “an interesting puzzle that exists in the mind of man.” The film also starred Diane Baker and Walter Matthau, whom Peck suggested for the role of Detective Ted Caselle after seeing him in one of the shows. As he admitted: “I think my main contribution to the film was that I hired Walter Matthau and practically launched him on the big screen.” In 1966, the actor starred in the adventure-spy thriller Arabesque (directed by Stanley Donen) alongside Sophia Loren, which received rave reviews.
On September 29, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Peck to the National Arts Council, the body that oversees government funding for the arts. A year later, he was elected to the board of directors of KCET, a television station based in Los Angeles. On January 2, 1967, he joined the board of care of the charitable Motion Picture & Television Fund, of which he became chairman in 1971. From June 1967, Peck chaired the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), holding that position for three years. He chaired for two years the board of trustees of the American Film Institute (1967-1969), which he co-founded, and served as chief executive of the charitable foundation of the American Cancer Society (1966). He was also a member of the non-profit National Council on the Arts (1964-1966).
In 1969, Peck appeared in three films, again teaming up with Thompson. On May 10, the western MacKenna”s Gold was released, where the actor played the role of a sheriff kidnapped by bandits who knows the way to the Apache treasure. Initially, Peck turned down the lead role, as did Steve McQueen. The cast also includes Omar Sharif and Telly Savalas. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that it is an example of “splendid absurdity.” Peck and Thompson”s last project was the spy film The Most Dangerous Man in the World, telling the story of American scientist John Hathaway. It turned out to be a failure financially and in the eyes of critics, who accused it of “insufficient number of plot twists”, absurdity and boredom. Trapped in Space (dir. John Sturges), a science fiction drama starring Richard Crenna, David Janssen, James Franciscus and Gene Hackman, won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects. Only the last of the productions received favorable press reviews.
The 1970s and 1980s.
The early 1970s saw a decline in interest in the actor”s work. Aware of his position in the box-office, Peck agreed to lower stakes. The films On the Edge (1970, directed by John Frankenheimer), where he created the role of the ambiguously moral sheriff Henry Tawes, and the westerns Shotgun (1971, directed by Henry Hathaway) and Billy Two Hats (1974, directed by Ted Kotcheff), which also translated into poor financial results. The failure of the last two productions forced the actor to take stock of his output and give up acting in westerns. In 1972, he invested 300 thousand dollars and became the main producer of the war drama Trial of the Catonsville Nine (dir. Gordon Davidson), which was an adaptation of a play written in free verse by Jesuit Daniel Berrigan. The picture, directed by Davidson, openly criticized the rule of President Richard Nixon and the American military intervention in Vietnam. It was screened in a handful of arthouse theaters as major studios refused to show it.
The change in status came in 1976, when the actor accepted a role in Richard Donner”s horror film The Omen. According to producer Harvey Bernhard, Peck was from the beginning the main candidate for the role. After reading the script, the actor, despite the small salary ($250,000), agreed to appear in the film, believing it to be “more of a psychological thriller than a horror film.” Peck was guaranteed ten percent of the income. He was partnered on the set by Lee Remick and Harvey Spencer Stephens. The film was about the childhood of Damien Thorn, who is “adopted” by wealthy diplomat Robert Thorn (Peck). The family is unaware that the boy is a descendant of Satan, the biblical Antichrist. Interest in the film prior to its release was high. When The Omen debuted on June 24 in 516 theaters across 316 cities, it earned more than $4 million in its first three days of screenings, setting an opening day record in the more than forty-year history of the 20th Century Fox studio. The film”s total revenue reached $86 million, placing it fifth in the U.S. box-office. The Omen received mostly rave reviews, with Richard Schickel comparing it to Jaws (1975, directed by Steven Spielberg), arguing that it is “an energetic, highly professional thriller in which an improbable tale is made believable by the utter conviction with which it is told.”
In 1977 Peck starred in the biographical war drama General MacArthur (dir. Joseph Sargent), playing the title character of Douglas MacArthur. The actor accepted the role despite not being very happy with the script. In preparation for it, he studied photographs in the national archives and libraries and watched films featuring the general in action. Peck received favorable reviews for his performance. Vincent Canby admitted that “Gregory Peck is exceptionally good. Not only does he look and sound like the General, but he makes the character incredibly appealing, even when he is at his most controversial.” The film grossed over $16 million. This is the fourth time Peck has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama.
In 1978, he starred in the science-fiction thriller The Boys from Brazil, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring alongside Laurence Olivier. The picture was based on Ira Levin”s 1976 novel, and Peck created the role of a villain for the third time in his career, playing Josef Mengele, a German war criminal and doctor. The actor accepted the role because of Olivier, with whom he really wanted to work. The cast also included James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen and Denholm Elliott. The film, like the literary original, depicted fictional events built around the real-life figure of Josef Mengele. Peck was specially characterized for his role. The scene in which the main characters – Lieberman (Olivier) and Mengele (Peck) – argue was recorded over 3-4 days. The reason was Olivier”s failing health at the time. Peck claimed that it was an absurd idea to shoot a fight scene with actors who were already advanced in age. Schaffner”s film (which premiered Oct. 5) ended the year with $7.5 million in revenue. Peck was nominated for a fifth time for a Golden Globe Award for best actor in a dramatic film. The press was complimentary about the actor”s performance. The reviewer of the trade “Films in Review” wrote that “Peck is a revelation. Compounding this is a look that is a cross between a banana republic dictator and a rodent.” The actor himself felt satisfied with his film performance, emphasizing that the role of the villain allowed him to “stretch his range.”
In 1980 Peck starred in the war film Sea Wolves (dir. Andrew V. McLaglen), adapted from the British novel Boarding Party by James Leasor. He played the role of Colonel Lewis Pugh. On the screen he was partnered by Roger Moore, then playing the role of James Bond, and David Niven (with whom Peck starred in Navarona Cannon in 1961). Shooting took place on the west coast of the Indian peninsula of Goa and New Delhi. The film”s budget was $11.5 million. Premiered on June 5, 1981, Sea Wolves was a financial flop in the American box-office.
End of career
At the end of his career, Peck took part in the miniseries In the Name of Honor (1982, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen), produced for the CBS station, playing the role of President Abraham Lincoln. A year later, he played the role of Irish priest Hugh O”Flaherty in the television war drama The Purple and the Black (dir. Jerry London), created in an American-British-Italian co-production. The film told the story of the clergyman who saved nearly 4,000 soldiers and Jews at the Vatican during World War II. According to Fishgall, Peck was “most effective in this endearing role.” He was partnered on screen by Christopher Plummer as Herbert Kappler.
In 1987 he starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in the sports drama Grace and Chuck (directed by Mike Newell) telling the story of a young baseball player Chuck (Joshua Zuehlke) who suspends his career until nuclear weapons are disarmed. As Peck admitted, he found the story intriguing and thus allowed himself to be “lured” in front of the cameras again. On March 9, 1989, he received the AFI Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. The statuette was presented by his longtime friend Audrey Hepburn. That same year, he starred with Jane Fonda in the romantic-adventure Old Gringo (directed by Luis Puenzo), whose plot centered on schoolteacher Harriet Winslow, who arrives in revolution-ridden Mexico to teach the children of a wealthy landowner. With a budget of $25 million, the film earned $2 million in theaters.
In 1991, he starred in the comedy-drama Someone Else”s Money (directed by Norman Jewison) with Danny DeVito, which was his last “box office” film, grossing about $25 million. Also in 1991, he appeared on the big screen for the last time, creating an episodic role of a lawyer Lee Heller in the remake of Cape Fear from 1962, directed by Martin Scorsese. The lead roles were played by Robert De Niro (Max Cady) and Nick Nolte (Sam Bowden). The film also starred Martin Balsam and Robert Mitchum, who were in the original version. Initially, Peck was not interested in a minor role, but as he admitted, the persistence of Scorsese and de Niro caused him to change his decision.
In 1993 he co-starred with Lauren Bacall in the television production of Portrait (directed by Arthur Penn), adapted from the Off-Broadway play Painting Churches by Tina Howe. Five years later, Peck made his final screen appearance as Father Mapple in the miniseries Moby Dick (directed by Franc Roddam). This role earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Movie. Caryn James of The New York Times wrote that Peck”s presence was “warm and striking” and his voice is “still incomparably rich.” Despite receiving new offers, the actor decided to end a career that spanned more than 60 years. “Generally speaking, the roles written for someone my age are mostly character roles and they are not very interesting. Grandparents, old uncles. I don”t want to say goodbye like that.” – He assessed.
In 1999 he participated in the PBS television series American Masters, a documentary film Conversations with Gregory Peck (directed by Barbara Kopple), which was a summary of his artistic achievements and the story of his family life. Kopple”s film was selected in competition at the 53rd Cannes IFF.
Death and burial
Gregory Peck died in his sleep on June 12, 2003 at the age of 87 at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles of bronchial pneumonia. By his side until the end was his wife Veronique Peck. As Monroe family spokesman Friedman acknowledged, the actor was “not feeling well.” Nearly three thousand people attended the funeral ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, including immediate family, former spouse Greta Kukkonen and artists: Angie Dickinson, Anjelica Huston, Calista Flockhart, Dyan Cannon, Harrison Ford, Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Smits, Larry Gelbart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Richie, Louis Jourdan, Louise Fletcher, Michael Jackson, Michael York, Mike Farrell, Norman Lear, Piper Laurie, Shari Belafonte, Shelley Fabares, Sidney Poitier, Stephanie Zimbalist and Tony Danza. The ceremony was presided over by Roger Mahony, who acknowledged during his eulogy: “There is compassion in art, humanity in compassion, and generosity and love in humanity. Gregory Peck has reached the highest levels of all these virtues.”
The farewell address was delivered by Brock Peters, recalling the situation when Peck personally invited him to the set of To Kill a Mockingbird. A special video projection accompanied the late actor”s remembrance, showing excerpts from The Keys of the Kingdom, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird and General MacArthur. The then president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Frank Pierson, acknowledged that Peck was “the last of the true aristocrats of old Hollywood.” Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti assessed that he was “a towering figure in the film industry. He did a series of productions that illuminated a wonderful truthfulness of character.” Steven Spielberg noted that “his legacy lies not only in his films, but also in the dignified and moral way he worked and lived.” The actor”s body was laid to rest in the crypt of the mausoleum of Our Lady of Angels Cathedral. Participants in the modest private funeral ceremony were the actor”s loved ones.
Interests, friendships, personality
Peck had been involved in sports since his youth. Because of his physical conditions, he actively participated in university rowing competitions in the 1930s, which he described as “the most grueling sport known to the university.” He swam and coached in eights, among other events. Like most youngsters of the time in La Jolla, a resort located on the Pacific Ocean, Peck was a very good swimmer, diver and crab fisherman. His passions also included building boats and playing golf together with his father. Later, the actor owned thoroughbred horses that regularly competed in races around England, including a third place finish in the 1968 Grand National. In his spare time he was engaged in collecting and gardening. He was interested in American history, especially the period of Abraham Lincoln”s presidency. In 1959, he opened a family vacation home on the Cap Ferrat Peninsula. His co-workers and friends addressed him as “Greg,” which was short for his first name, which he used everywhere except in school settings.
He enjoyed socializing; he had been friends with most of the American presidents since the early 1960s. He had a particularly close relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson, with whom he often spent weekends at a ranch in Texas. He and his wife Veronique attended formal dinners and intimate White House receptions staged by Johnson. He was a close friend of French President Jacques Chirac. He had a longstanding cordial relationship with director Henry King, with whom he collaborated for a decade, making six films. He valued his friendly relationships with actors Audrey Hepburn, David Niven, John Garfield, and violin virtuoso Isaac Stern.
Peck actively supported charitable foundations. In 1968, he was honored with a special Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Award, for helping those struggling with cancer. Receiving the statuette, he admitted: “I”m not a maker of happiness for others. It is embarrassing for me to be classified as a humanitarian. I just participate in activities that I believe in.” He valued his quiet and private life. He avoided publicity surrounding his person. Molyneaux wrote: “Humanitarian in disposition, articulate in his communication, and energetic in the pursuit of his goals, Gregory Peck left a mark on his profession and the arts in America.”
Marriages and children
Peck met his first wife, a Finnish woman named Greta Kukkonen, during a nine-month tour when she was working as a makeup artist for Katharina Cornell and he was making his first attempts at the theater. They were married on October 4, 1942, at the Methodist Church on Park Avenue, which they entered straight from their afternoon walk, not at all prepared for the ceremony. The next day they notified their parents and invited them to dinner. In 1943, they moved to Hollywood. After getting a movie deal and Peck signing on, Kukkonen quit her job and became a homemaker. The couple lived to have three sons, Jonathan (1944-1975) and Carey Paul (b. 1949). In her words, Peck was a “wonderful father”. In the early 1950s, the couple”s relationship began to deteriorate. After one of the quarrels, the actor packed his bags and for a month went to a secluded resort in Apple Valley, where he rented a cottage. On January 13, 1953, Kukkonen announced their separation, remaining on friendly terms.
During his marriage to Kukkonen, while shooting Rome Vacation (1953), Peck interviewed a budding journalist for the French magazine France Soir, Veronique Passani, the daughter of an architect and a Russian artist, in Rome. Six months later, the actor invited her to a race track in Paris. After the competition they went to dinner. The day after the divorce from Kukkonen was finalized, the couple married in Santa Ynez on December 31, 1955. They were married by Judge Arden Jensen of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The wedding ceremonies were held at the ranch of Channing Peake, an artist and friend of Peck”s, in Lompoc. Because of her husband”s work, Passani moved to the United States. She was active as a philanthropist in Greater Los Angeles. Initially, they lived on South Cliffwood Avenue in Brentwood. She and Peck actively supported the American Cancer Society (ACS) in the 1960s, for which they raised $50 million. She also co-founded the Inner City Cultural Center, a theater company made up of various ethnic groups. In the late 1970s, they moved to a new home in Holmby Hills. The couple lived to have two children: son Anthony (born 1956). They remained married until the actor”s death in 2003, surviving together for 48 years.
While many Hollywood artists were on the so-called blacklist, Peck signed a letter in 1947 deploring the Anti-American Activities Commission”s investigation of alleged Communist Party sympathizers in America. On November 2, he joined other actors to participate in a radio program, Hollywood Fights Back, objecting to the restriction of free speech by a government investigation into Communist sympathies in Hollywood. In 1948, Myron Coureval Fagan published Treason in Hollywood, in which he called the actor a “Communist sympathizer.” Peck publicly denied it, explaining that he never believed in communism, nor was he a member of a party sympathetic to that system.
The actor was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. In 1948 he supported Harry Truman”s candidacy for the office of President of the United States. In the following years, Peck supported Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy”s assassination in November 1963, he appeared as a narrator in the documentary John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1966). In 1968, after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the actor, along with Charlton Heston, James Stewart, and Kirk Douglas, issued a statement calling for support of President Lyndon B. Johnson”s Gun Control Act of 1968. In 1970, Peck was a potential Democratic candidate to run for governor of California. He later admitted that he had no interest in running for public office. Carey”s son Paul Peck unsuccessfully ran for political office twice in 1978 and 1980. In an interview with Irish media, the actor revealed that Lyndon B. Johnson, should he run for re-election to office in 1968, planned to give him the post of American ambassador to Ireland.
On January 20, 1969, the actor was awarded Johnson”s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. In 1972, President Richard Nixon put Peck on his enemies list because of the actor”s liberal activism. In 1987, along with Burt Lancaster, Lloyd Bridges, and Martin Sheen, he appeared as a narrator in a People for the American Way spot, expressing opposition to President Ronald Reagan”s confirmation of conservative Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court because of his criticism of civil rights. Bork”s nomination was not confirmed by the Senate.
Peck advocated a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons and supported legislation to control access to weapons. In 1979 he participated in the Alliance to Save Energy”s campaign to promote energy efficiency.
In a career that spanned 62 years, Peck appeared in films, radio, television and on stage. He appeared in 55 feature productions and 50 radio broadcasts, where he reprised his film roles, among others.
In 1947 and 1952, he was listed among the top ten highest-grossing American actors. Fourteen films starring him were compiled in the top ten summaries of the year in the American box-office, with David and Bethsheba (1951), The Guns of Navarona (1961) and How the Wild West Was Conquered (1962) reaching the top position. Twenty-five films in which Peck participated were nominated for at least one Academy Award, and twelve of them won at least one statuette. Twenty-six productions featuring the actor, when adjusted for inflation, exceeded $100 million in domestic ticket revenue.
Five of his films: A Gentleman”s Agreement (1947), Out of the Clear Sky (1949), Roman Holiday (1953), How the Wild West Was Conquered, and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) were entered into the National Film Registry.
Gregory Peck is considered one of the greatest actors in the history of American cinema and the “Golden Era of Hollywood” period. John Griggs, author of The Films of Gregory Peck (1984), called him “an exceptional American role model, an archetypal hero”. In his films Peck played a variety of characters, including a priest, a doctor, a journalist, a lawyer and a diplomat. A large part of his output were heroic roles in westerns and war films, in which he played captains, pilots, gunfighters and soldiers. In his early productions he created his characteristic type of serious protagonist committed to moral values, characterized by perseverance and intelligence (1947), as well as presenting a more complex personality of the character, focused on greater drama and psychological layer (1945). He also presented the attitude of a young, naive hero who believes in the triumph of simple values (1947) and a husband and father for whom the safety and peace of the family is the highest priority (1962). Occasionally, he played villains characterized by ruthlessness and a desire for revenge (1950), additionally marked by naiveté and a longing for love (1970). By the early 1960s, he was a hero of a new type – a teacher of life to his children and an advocate of justice (1962). According to author Harper Lee, “Atticus Finch gave him the opportunity to play himself. Critics point out that with his talent, Peck was able to imbue the character he created with unforgettable realism, even with characters as diverse as Captain Ahab (1959), giving them the full range of vengeance, madness, empathy, and intuition. Biographer Gary Fishgall has noted that with the exception of the tragic characters (1959 and Captain Ahab), the heroes he created shared a heroic style.
The actor is considered a style icon and one of the symbols of masculinity in the history of cinema. His image was associated with advertising campaigns and products of Pabst Brewing Company (1948) or Air France (1960), among others. In 1983 he was added to the International Best Dressed List, created in 1940 by Eleanor Lambert. In May 1993, People magazine named Peck one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World”.
On December 15, 1949, along with Anne Baxter, he imprinted his hands and feet and signed in the concrete slab of the sidewalk in the driveway of Grauman”s Chinese Theatre. On February 8, 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Avenue of the Stars, located at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard, for his contributions to the film industry. On September 7, 1977, he was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters from French Minister of Culture Michel d”Ornano for his “significant contribution to the arts.” Franklin & Marshall College, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, awarded Peck an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In 1979, the actor was counted among the stars of the western “Hall of Great Western Performers” at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In February and March 1984, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) paid tribute to his films. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held a retrospective of productions featuring Peck on November 12, 1990. In 1993 he was awarded the Legion of Honor, for “outstanding contributions to culture and the arts,” and two years later he received the Order of Commander of the Legion of Honor from French President Jacques Chirac. On October 28, 1998, Peck was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. On June 16, 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked his name as the 12th “greatest actor of all time.” Four years later, the AFI recognized Atticus Finch, the lead character in To Kill a Mockingbird, as “the greatest character in the history of cinema.”
Gregory Peck is the protagonist of the title track “Tarap tarap” from the 1965 mini-album of the same name by the Polish female vocal group Filipinki. He is also mentioned in Bob Dylan”s composition “Brownsville Girl”, included on the album Knocked Out Loaded (1986).
Peck”s collection is housed at the Academy Film Archive of the United States. The actor himself donated his home movies there in 1999, dozens of personal prints on 16mm and 35mm film stock, including such titles as Captivated, Duel in the Sun, Cape Fear and To Kill a Mockingbird. The collection also includes promotional and production materials from the film White Canyon (1958), which the actor produced. Peck”s press materials, housed at Margaret Herrick in Beverly Hills, complete the collection. In 2000, a biographical television drama The Audrey Hepburn Story (directed by Steve Robman) was made for ABC, in which Gregory Peck was played by Swede Swensson. In April 2011, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a limited series of stamps bearing his likeness in connection with the “Hollywood Legends” edition.
Gregory Peck was repeatedly awarded for his artistic work, contribution to the culture and development of film art and charity work. He was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor, of which he won one statuette, for his performance as lawyer Atticus Finch in the drama To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Of the six Golden Globe nominations he received, he was a three-time winner. For his charitable and humanitarian work, Peck was honored with a special Oscar in 1968, the Jean Hersholt Award, and the Marian Anderson Award (1999). In 1963 he won the David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor.
Peck”s credits also included many prestigious awards, given for lifetime achievement in acting, including: Henrietta Award (1951, 1955), Cecil B. DeMille Award (1968) and AFI Life Achievement Award (1989). In 1989, he was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 42nd Cannes IFF. In 1991, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors. Two years later, at the 43rd IFF in Berlin, he received an Honorary Golden Bear. In 1995 he was awarded an Honorary Cesar, and in 2003 a special David di Donatello.