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Review
An opinion piece that you describe, praises or criticizes, on the whole or partly, to cultural or entertainment work. It must be written by an expert on the matter

Atticus Finch: A timeless character, 20 years after Gregory Peck’s death

The star of ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ may not have been a great actor, but it’s clear why he was a star — he had that undeniable charm

American actor Gregory Peck (1916 - 2003) in the 1950's
Gregory Peck in a photo from the mid-1950s.Archive Photos (Getty Images)

It’s been 20 years since Gregory Peck passed away, and I’ve been hearing about plans for documentaries and film tributes about the movie fan favorite. My mother adored him, like all mothers. I believe that this affection will endure throughout the generations, captivating hearts for one of the timeless characters he brought to life. The character was Atticus Finch, the protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird. Everyone wishes he had known someone like the southern lawyer who defended an innocent Black man in court when lynchings were still common in the United States. Finch was a widower who protected and taught his children with wisdom, humanity and sensitivity, an incorruptible man fighting a lonely battle. There was no dark side to Atticus Finch, a man who exuded a warm intelligence — just a really good guy.

Harper Lee is the author of the beautiful novel that remembered and reimagined her childhood. She put herself in the book as the adorable and daring Jean Louise Finch, along with her father, Atticus, and a poetic but reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley. Gregory Peck had a long and brilliant acting career, but he will always be known for playing the mythic Atticus Finch.

A scene from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with actors Gregory Peck and Brock Peters.
A scene from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with actors Gregory Peck and Brock Peters.

Was Gregory Peck perfect? Outwardly, he seemed to be. He was impressive on the screen and in real life. I once accompanied a friend to an interview with Peck when Old Gringo came out in 1989. Peck was as professional as he was intelligent in the interview, often offering unconventional answers. He had a look about him — seductive mannerisms and expressive elegance. He dressed beautifully and even smelled good. Maybe it was his cologne, although I suspect it was his natural scent.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a scene from 'Roman Holiday.'
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a scene from 'Roman Holiday.'

Peck sometimes played villains. Maybe it was the movie studio’s idea, or maybe he thought he needed to round out his repertoire. It was a tough sell — this actor effortlessly gave off good vibes. He tried several times to play bad guys — Duel in the Sun and The Boys from Brazil — but I had a hard time seeing evil in him. Nor did I quite believe Peck as the embittered, blasphemous, vengeful and gloomy Captain Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick.

Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in 'Moby Dick.'
Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in 'Moby Dick.'

Peck could play tormented men like the sheriff in the magnificent I Walk the Line, people in dire straits with stormy pasts, or men down on their luck. But I always found something contrived when watching him play bad guys. It was much more comforting to see him happy and in love with the charming Audrey Hepburn in the pleasant romantic comedy, Roman Holiday. I don’t know if Gregory Peck was a great actor, but I know why he was a star — he had that undeniable charm that captivated adoring audiences.

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