To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Written by Horton Foote from the novel by Harper Lee
Universal International Pictures/Paluka-Mulligan Productions/Brentwood Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rev. Sykes: Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.

Robert Mulligan made a practically perfect novel into a practically perfect movie.

It is 1930’s small-town Alabama and most everybody is poor but making do.  This includes country lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), a widower, and his children 10-year-old Jem and 6-year-old Scout.  The Depression is not depressing the kids any and they spend much of their time daring each other to conquer their fears.  The prime target is the Radley House, where a mystery man named Boo lives.  He is allegedly a horrible sight who must be chained in the basement.  Scout spends much of her time fighting to be included in the boys’ pranks.

Life changes for the Finch family when Atticus is hired to defend a black sharecropper accused of raping a white woman.  The majority of the townspeople think that lynching is too good for the man.  Complicating matters is the drunkenness and downright evil of the woman’s father, Bob Ewell.  Atticus’s strategy must be to accuse both Ewell’s of lying.  He loses the trial but not the animosity of the Ewells.  Probably all my readers know how this ends but I will go no further.

I read the novel when I was quite young, maybe twelve, and it really made an impression on me.  In previous viewings of the film, Peck seemed far too pompous in his delivery for the image of Atticus I had in my head.  I softened considerably to his performance on this re-watch.  All the other characters came off exactly as I had imagined them. The courtroom scenes are stirring but my favorite parts are the kids acting like kids.  The casting director did a hell of a job finding the child actors.

To Kill a Mockingbird won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actor; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Supporting Actress (Badham); Best Director; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; and Best Music, Score – Substantially original.


5 thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

  1. It’s such a magnificent film. I can see Peck’s performance as coming out as too mannered perhaps, but I think it’s one of the great ones of a truly great career. He’s perhaps too idealized, but I put that down to Scout’s memories more than anything else.

  2. I find that it is always a problem watching a movie after reading the book. Very few movies can match the book and at least the images the book conjured will almost never match those of the movie. It goes better the other way, except you got all the spoilers.
    I never read the book (but probably will eventually), so I had no conflicting images. To my mind Gregory Peck was perfectly cast. As was the children.
    Singularly beautiful movie.

    • Well, Peck reminded Harper Lee so much of her father that she called him “Atticus” so I was way off base in my initial reaction to Peck.

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