To Kill a Mocking Bird- 50th Anniversary of The Movie
The 50th Anniversary of the classic To Kill a Mocking Bird was celebrated at the White House. President Obama had invited the celebrities connected with the film and arranged a special screening of the film. The celebrities included late Gregory Peck’s wife and Mary Badham Wilt who played the role of Scot.
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On April 5 2012, President Obama hosted a screening of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the White House in commemoration of the film’s 50th anniversary, a timely date that marked the late Gregory Peck’s 96th birthday.
The movie was based on a bestseller of the same name by Harper lee written in 1957 and published in 1960.
The novel was set in a small town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s, during the depression. The place and the time reflected the nation in the grip of poverty and blatant racism.
The novel initially received a mixed response, but the radically charged atmosphere of racism and the civil rights movement peaking in 1960 made it into a bestseller which sold 15million copies.
Harper Lee, the author, did not bask in the fame of the book. Instead, she retreated from public life, refused interviews and declined to write the screenplay of the film. She, like Margaret Michelle of Gone with the Wind fame, never wrote a book thereafter.
The film, starring the handsome Gregory peck as the lawyer, has become one of the classics of Hollywood films. Today, the book is prescribed reading for all students in high school and college in the USA.
The book affirms the basic principle,” All men are created equal.” It also shows there is no perfect man or woman, and no man is all good or bad. Above all, it affirms that no man is above the law.
The film established Gregory Peck as a renowned actor, apart from being handsome, and sent his career skyrocketing.
The story, narrated by Scot, the daughter of Atticus Finch the lawyer, is about a white lawyer Atticus defending a black man Tom Robertson accused of raping a white woman Mayetta Ewell.
Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, proves conclusively that Mayetta was lying. He proves that Mayetta first propositioned to Tom and was caught by her father Bob. Instead of admitting her mistake, and to cover up for her shame and guilt, Mayetta accused Tom of raping her. He even proves the injuries on the accuser’s face were, in fact, inflicted by none other than her father, who called her a whore and beat her.
Despite conclusive evidence, the white jury convicts Tom Robertson. While Tom was in jail, a white mob tries to lynch him, but Atticus stands firm and faces the mob. This shows that heroes are not born but made. In the end, Tom tries to escape and gets shot.
Despite the verdict in their favor, the father and daughter feel wronged. Bob, the father of the accuser, breaks into the judge’s house and finally attacks the two children of Atticus.
In the movie, the speech of Atticus in the court room, his passionate defense of the black man, is one of the most famous scenes in the annals of the film industry and is watched with immense interest even today. Gregory Peck excelled in the role of a single parent struggling in bringing up his two children Scot and Jam and facing the ire of the white community of the town. Scot, the narrator in the book and her brother Jim play active roles in the novel and the film. Boo Radley, who frequently surprises the children with his gifts, also comes across as a fascinating character.
The book and the film show conclusively that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil.
In this video from the White House, President Obama introduces the screening, and guests including AFI CEO Bob Gazelle, Mary Badham Wilt, the actress who played Scout and Veronique Peck, widow of Gregory Peck.