I’m studying To Kill a Mockingbird with my 10th graders and we are about to watch the film starring Gregory Peck. I love him. He is a true hero in the film. Here is some background information on Gregory Peck:
Peck was born Eldred Gregory Peck in San Diego, California’s seaside community of La Jolla, the son of Missouri-born Bernice Mae “Bunny” (née Ayres) and Gregory Pearl Peck, who was a chemist and pharmacist. Peck’s father was of English (paternal) and Irish (maternal) heritage, and his mother was of Scots (paternal) and English (maternal) ancestry. Peck’s father was a Catholic and his mother converted upon marrying his father. Peck’s Irish-born paternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, was related to Thomas Ashe, who took part in the Easter Rising fewer than three weeks after Peck’s birth and died while on hunger strike in 1917. Peck’s parents divorced by the time he was six years old and he spent the next few years being raised by his maternal grandmother.
Peck was sent to a Roman Catholic military school, St. John’s Military Academy, in Los Angeles at the age of 10. His grandmother died while he was enrolled there, and his father again took over his upbringing. At 14, Peck attended San Diego High School and lived with his father. When he graduated, he enrolled briefly at San Diego State Teacher’s College, (now known as San Diego State University), joined the track team, took his first theatre and public-speaking courses, and joined the Epsilon Eta fraternity. He stayed for just one academic year, thereafter obtaining admission to his first-choice college, the University of California, Berkeley. For a short time, he took a job driving a truck for an oil company. In 1936, he declared himself a pre-medical student at Berkeley, and majored in English. Since he was 6’3″ and very strong, he also decided to row on the university crew.
His early career started in 1941 by playing the secretary in a Katharine Cornell production of George Bernard Shaw’s play The Doctor’s Dilemma. Unfortunately, the play opened in San Francisco just one week before Pearl Harbor. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams’ The Morning Star in 1942. His second Broadway performance that year was in The Willow and I with Edward Pawley. Peck’s acting abilities were in high demand during World War II, since he was exempt from military service owing to a back injury suffered while receiving dance and movement lessons from Martha Graham as part of his acting training. Twentieth Century Fox claimed he had injured his back while rowing at university, but in Peck’s words, “In Hollywood, they didn’t think a dance class was macho enough, I guess. I’ve been trying to straighten out that story for years.”
On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep at home from bronchopneumonia. His wife Veronique was by his side. Peck is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles, California. His eulogy was read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck’s Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.