Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Remembering Gregory Peck

Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, California. His parents divorced when Gregory was six, and he spent part of his childhood traveling between each of them and his maternal grandmother. He spent the remainder of his childhood at a Roman Catholic military academy in Los Angeles, then matriculated at the University of California at Berkeley. An English major, he had no plans to go into acting until he was accosted by a campus director looking for a tall actor for an adaptation of "Moby Dick". "I don't know why I said yes," he recalled in a 1989 interview. "I guess I was fearless, and it seemed like it might be fun. I wasn't any good, but I ended up doing five plays my last year in college." After graduation, he headed for New York, where he worked odd jobs -- including a barker at the 1939 World's Fair -- and studied with Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams' "Morning Star." A bad back kept Peck out of World War II. He made his film debut in 1944 with "Days of Glory," playing a Russian, and followed that with a Roman Catholic priest in "The Keys to the Kingdom," (1944) Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound" (1945) and "The Yearling" (1946). By that point, he had established himself as a major star. He was one of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars, from the 1940s to the 1960s, and played important roles well into the 1990s. One of his most notable performances was as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird", for which he won an Academy Award. President Lyndon Johnson honored Peck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 for his lifetime humanitarian efforts. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking him at #12. Peck appeared in one Euro-western "Billy Two Hats" (1974). Today we remember Gregory Peck on what would have been his 95th birthday.

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