Gregory Peck was one of the most popular leading men in movies from the 1940s to the 1970s. He is 12th on the list of the American Film Institute's greatest screen legends of all time. He also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work with charitable organizations.
He's one of my favorite actors from that era. He had a very distinguished and successful career, particularly in the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Gregory Peck's Biography
Gregory was born and raised in Southern California. He was born in 1916, and was given the first name of Eldred. His second name was Gregory, but he wouldn't be known as that until he began his acting career when he was in his 20s.
His parents divorced while he was still very young. Following the divorce, he was raised by his grandmother until her death when he was a teenager. At that time, he went to live with his father. For reasons that are not clear, he didn't have much of a relationship with his mother.
Following graduation he enrolled in the university at Berkeley, California. He was enrolled in pre-med studies. Money was scarce for the young student, and he took odd jobs to help make ends meet at the time.
An acting coach at the University believed Gregory would be ideal for participating in theater work there. Until this point, he had not considered an acting career. However, he quickly fell in love with acting. While at Berkeley he took part in several plays, and at the same time he continued to work on his Bachelor of Arts degree. Once he successfully completed his English degree, he abandoned the idea of studying medicine and headed to New York to pursue an acting career. Things were difficult at first, but his persistence paid off by the early 1940s.
Years later Peck spoke very fondly of his time at Berkeley. He felt it helped him mature as an adult and that the three years there were well spent. Although the times were tough financially for him, he also enjoyed it very much, and it served as a springboard for his later success.
Gregory Peck's Acting Career
In the late 1930s, Gregory headed east to New York so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a movie actor. Things were very tough at first. He often had to sleep in Central Park, as he could not afford a room anywhere. Once again he took any job he could find while also pursuing his main goal of becoming a successful actor.
He got his first big break with a stage role in a George Bernard Shaw play. Not long after this, he got his first role on Broadway playing the lead role in Morning Star.
By this time, America was involved in the Second World War. He was ineligible for military service due to an injury to his back that occured several years before. As a result, he was in high demand for roles on the stage, and eventually the big screen.
He made his movie debut in 1944, in a film called Days of Glory. This was the beginning of a long and very successful movie career. Many of the films he starred in became classics and are well remembered today.
Some of Gregory Peck's Most Popular Movies
For the most part, Peck played characters who were good people, and often brave and heroic. On the rare occassions that he played a villian, it just didn't seem to work. At least I don't think he was meant to play a villian. He made two socially conscience films that were both well received, To Kill a Mockingbird and Gentleman's Agreement.
In fact, many people consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be one of the top movies of all time. Atticus Finch, the lawyer he played, was named the best movie hero by the American Film Institute. He won the Academy Award for his portrayal, and almost everyone would agree it was well deserved.
This is one movie that can be watched over and over again, and it doesn't lose its impact. It was made in the early 60s, before civil rights legislation was passed.
About a decade earlier, Peck starred with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. The movie made Hepburn a popular star. It also was the beginning of a friendship between the two actors which lasted until Hepburn's death many years later.
Another memorable role he played was in the film Cape Fear. He plays a lawyer whose family is being terrorized bya conficted felon, played by Robert Mitchum. The felon blamed him for his conviction, and after he was released from prison he set out to get even with him.
Year later it was remade with Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro in the leading roles. Both Peck and Mitchum had cameos in this new version. The two movies were almost identical, but the original was still the best in my opinion.
In the early 1990s, Gregory Peck decided to retire from acting. Some actors continue their careers well into their 70s and even beyond, but he wasn't one of them. He enjoyed going on tours and did many speaking engagements, Those opportunities gave him the opportunity to reminsce about his career, and meet many of his fans.
He lived a quiet private life, particularly by Hollywood standards. His first marriage, which took place in 142, ended in divorce several years later. He married his second wife in 1955, and they remained together until his death in 2003. He had four sons and one daughter.
Gregory Peck was one of the great acting legends who had a long and successful career. He was nominated five times for an Academy Award, and won for playing the unforgettable Atticus Finch. He also received three Golden Globe awards.
The Gregory Peck Collection
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