Thursday, May 31, 2007


To Kill A Mockingbird

Released in 1962 and starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch , To Kill A Mockingbird was an immediate hit. Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and only Lawrence of Arabia could deny this movie the honor of Best Picture. More than 40 years later, it is still among the most popular and acclaimed movies of all time. Recently the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch as the greatest film hero in the history of movies.

The movie was based on the novel by Harper Lee, also both an immediate and lasting success. She wedded childhood memories with a courtroom drama that struck a chord as the Civil Rights era was reaching its fruition. For example:

In the town of Monroeville, Alabama, a rich man’s son was caught joyriding in a stolen car. His father persuaded the sheriff not to arrest the boy, but to leave the punishment up to him. He imposed three years of house arrest, but it turned into a life sentence when even after that time the young man found he could no longer face leaving the confines of his house, except at night. He became an object of mystery and fear in the neighborhood. Or so the local story goes.

This was Nelle Harper Lee’s hometown in the 1930s. She left it for college, then law school in her father’s footsteps, though she stopped just shy of completing her degree. Instead she went to New York, where she worked as an airline reservations clerk and accompanied her childhood friend, Truman Capote, as he researched his book about two murderers in Kansas, In Cold Blood. (Catherine Keener plays her in the film Capote, and looks very much like her 1960s photos.)

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