This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday.
Early Thursday evening was characterized with screeching tires.
I was running late for the TCM screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) in Charlotte, N.C., showing in movie theaters all over the United States for one day. I had already planned on trying to see the movie, and then was fortunate enough to win tickets from True Classics blog in a contest.
Now I’m not sure I would categorize it as a favorite classic film like other movies I have written about in the past, but I do really enjoy it.
It had been a long time since I had seen the film, probably since the first time I watched it in Miss Presley’s freshman English class at Eastside High School. Watching a classic film in a high school classroom ruins the experience; kids talking and laughing at the movie, the teacher pausing to discuss literary elements.
There I was on the front row, up close and personal with Gregory Peck. Seeing the film on a movie screen for probably the first time since I was 14 was unreal.
Starring: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, Robert Duval as Boo Radley, James Anderson as Bob Ewell, Mary Badham as Scout, Phillip Alford as Jem
Brief Plot: Set in the 1930s and based off of the 1960s book, the film follows children growing up in Alabama and their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man who has been accused of rape.
Key moments in the film:
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” in my opinion, is a flawless film with several scenes that stick with you:
-Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog.
-Scout’s friend Walter putting syrup on his dinner.
-Rev. Sykes telling Scout, Jem and Dill to stand up after Tom Robinson was found guilty, because their “Father is Passing.”
-Scout running walking through the woods in a ham costume.
-The way Boo Radley presses against the wall when they see him behind the door, and Scout looks at him closely and says, “Hey Boo.”
Children: The children who play Dill, Jem and Scout have great comedic timing and also act with a lot of heart. I think my favorite thing about the children is that they act like regular kids: Running out the door as fast as they can to school, spitting on hinges so they won’t squeak, believing in rumors
Gregory Peck: Of course, the performance that stands out the most is Gregory Peck’s as Atticus Finch. The 1963 Academy Awards are one of those years that you wish every Actor in a Leading Role could have won. There have been times when I think, “Why didn’t Jack Lemmon when the Oscar for ‘Days of Wine and Roses’?” or “Why didn’t Peter O’Toole win for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’?” And then I see that Gregory Peck won for his role in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and see why they didn’t. Peck plays the role with so much heart and integrity. From defending a man who was innocent to saying goodnight to his children, he is believable as a father and citizen.
Obviously, several people remember Peck’s speech in the courtroom. But for me, it’s the little moments that really make the part, such as when he’s talking to Scout about his pocket watch and how she would get her mother’s pearl necklace, struggling with his glasses as he tries to shoot the dog or when he reacts to Bob Ewell spitting in his face.
Supporting Characters: The supporting character’s make the film as well. James Anderson plays a loathsome Bob Ewell, Paul Fix is the epitome of a Southern judge who also seems sympathetic for Tom Robinson and Estelle Evans as Calpurnia shows compassion for the children that she’s cared for since their mother died. But most of all, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson. He isn’t in the movie very much but the scene of him testifying in court about how he supposedly raped Mayella Ewell is perfect.
To Review: The film of “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be considered thin compared to the book, it leaves out a lot of coming of age experiences that Scout and Jim encounter. However, compared to many film adaptations of novels, I think the film highlights important issues while still addressing the racial issues and children growing up in the 1930s South. Seeing it on the big screen was by far my best classic film screening of the three I have attended (the others being “West Side Story” and “Strangers on a Train”). No one was talking around me-no quoting allowed of quotes or singing aloud. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit in a theater packed with other classic film fans. One last thing, I have to admit that I teared up when Scout said, “Hey there, Boo.”
This concludes Day 3 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Have to admit, I got a little behind. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!
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I am so glad you did this one. I love this movie. It must have been so fun to watch it in a theater, with people around that enjoy a good movie. They say it was Gregory Peck’s favorite. I love the way the story unwinds, the world the children live in is created, and seeing things through their eyes we don’t really see things very clearly. Great injustice was name calling, and Boo Radley was a monster that lived in the basement, and their father, Atticus Finch, “Atticus was good at explaining things, but that was all he was good at, we thought.” says Scout. As the story unfolds they are come to see things far differently… about their father, about Boo, about the world they live in. I loved the ending, where the wise Atticus Finch is scrambling to put things together:
“I must be losing my memory. I can’t remember whether Jem is twelve or thirteen. Anyway it’ll have to come before the county court. Of course it’s a clear cut case of self defense. I’ll ahh, well I’ll run down to the office…”
“Mr. Finch do you think Jem stabbed Bob Ewell – is that what you think? Your boy never killed anyone.”
[Atticus and Sheriff Heck Tate look at Boo]
“Bob Ewell fell on his knife – he killed himself. There’s a black man dead for no reason; now the man responsible for it is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. I never heard tell it was against the law for any citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did. But maybe you’ll tell me it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not to hush it up. Well, you know what’ll happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb, including my wife, will be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinking, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a big service and dragging him with his shy ways into the limelight – to me that’s a sin… it’s a sin. And I’m not about to have it on my head. I may not be much Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”
Loved that, and Scout’s final thoughts. Great movie. Thanks for sharing it!
I agree that it’s the “little moments” that Peck uses to really define his character. Your descriptions of them were so vivid, I could remember the scenes exactly even though it’s been a few years since I’ve seen this film.
I too won tickets to Mockingbird, and then got sick with a horrible migraine in the afternoon and couldn’t go! That REALLY made me sick! I love this movie, for all the reasons you describe, and more so because of the incredible music by Elmer Bernstein. I can listen just to the music because of its beauty.
All of the actors you mentioned were really perfect in their parts — one that always affected me tremendously was the girl who played Mayelle Ewing (I can’t remember her name). She was so good that it makes it difficult for me to see her in anything else without remembering the reprehensible Mayelle — that’s not fair, but her performance brought out all the hate, fear, desperate poverty, ugliness of that character — she would have been pitiful, and indeed was, but for the fact that she condemned a wonderful man to death with her lies.
I’ve been able to see other classic films on the big screen, and there’s just nothing like it, is there? A whole different experience. I enjoyed this piece very much!