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Gregory Peck

In Roman Holiday (1953)
Born Eldred Gregory Peck
April 5, 1916(1916-04-05)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Died June 12, 2003 (aged 87)
Torrance, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942–2000
Spouse(s) Greta Kukkonen (1942-1955)
Veronique Passani (1955-2003)

Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916 – June 12, 2003) was an American actor.

One of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1990s. His notable performances include that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won his Academy Award.

President Lyndon Johnson honored Peck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 for his lifetime humanitarian efforts.[1] In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking at #12.

Contents

Early years

Peck was born Eldred Gregory Peck in San Diego, California's seaside community of La Jolla, the son of Missouri-born Bernice Mae "Bunny" Ayres and Gregory Pearl Peck, who was a chemist and pharmacist. Peck's father was of English (paternal) and Irish (maternal) heritage,[2][3] and his mother was of Scots (paternal) and English (maternal) ancestry.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.

Partly because of Peck's stature, the Berkeley acting coach decided Peck would be perfect for university theater work. Peck developed an interest in acting and was recruited by Edwin Duerr, director of the university's Little Theater. He went on to appear in five plays during his senior year. Although his tuition fee was only $26 a year, Peck still struggled to pay, and had to work as a "hasher" (kitchen helper) for the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority in exchange for meals. Peck would later say about Berkeley that, "it was a very special experience for me and three of the greatest years of my life. It woke me up and made me a human being."[8] In 1997, he donated $25,000 to the Berkeley crew in honor of his coach, the renowned Ky Ebright.

Career

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Stage

After graduating from Berkeley with a BA degree in English, Peck dropped the name "Eldred" and headed to New York City to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse with the legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner. He was often broke and sometimes slept in Central Park. He worked at the 1939 World's Fair and as a tour guide for NBC's television broadcasting.

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."[9]

In 1949, Peck founded The La Jolla Playhouse, at his birthplace, along with his friends Mel Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire. This local community theater and landmark (now in a new home at the University of California, San Diego) still thrives today. It has attracted Hollywood film stars on hiatus both as performers and enthusiastic supporters since its inception.

Film

Peck's first film, Days of Glory, was released in 1944. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times, four of which came in his first five years of film acting: for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949).

The Keys of the Kingdom emphasized his stately presence. As the farmer Ezra "Penny" Baxter in The Yearling his good-humored warmth and affection toward the characters playing his son and wife confounded critics who had been insisting he was a lifeless performer. Duel in the Sun (1946) showed his range as an actor in his first "against type" role as a cruel, libidinous gunslinger. Gentleman's Agreement established his power in the "social conscience" genre in a film that took on the deep-seated but subtle anti-Semitism of mid-century corporate America.Twelve O'Clock High was the first of many successful war films in which Peck embodied the brave, effective, yet human fighting man.

Among his other films were Spellbound (1945), The Paradine Case (1947), The Gunfighter (1950), Moby Dick (1956), On the Beach (1959), which brought to life the terrors of global nuclear war, The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Roman Holiday (1953), with Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar-winning role. Peck and Hepburn were close friends until her death; Peck even introduced her to her first husband, Mel Ferrer. Peck once again teamed up with director William Wyler in the epic Western The Big Country (1958), which he co-produced.

Peck won the Academy award with his fifth nomination, playing Atticus Finch, a Depression-era lawyer and widowed father, in a film adaptation of the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Released in 1962 during the height of the US civil rights movement in the South, this movie and his role were Peck's favorites. In 2003, Atticus Finch was named the top film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.

Gregory Peck in the Designing Woman trailer.

He served as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute from 1967 to 1969, Chairman of the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund in 1971, and National Chairman of the American Cancer Society in 1966. He was a member of the National Council on the Arts from 1964 to 1966.

A physically powerful man, he was known to do a majority of his own fight scenes, rarely using body or stunt doubles. In fact, Robert Mitchum, his on-screen opponent in Cape Fear, often said that Peck once accidentally punched him for real during their final fight scene in the movie.

Peck's rare attempts at unsympathetic roles usually failed. He played the renegade son in the Western Duel in the Sun and the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in The Boys from Brazil co-starring Laurence Olivier. Critics could be unkind. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker once labeled Peck "competent but always a little boring." He famously did not get along with Marlon Brando, who described him as "a wooden actor and a pompous individual".

Later work

In the 1980s, Peck moved to television, where he starred in the mini-series The Blue and the Gray, playing Abraham Lincoln. He also starred with Christopher Plummer, Sir John Gielgud, and Barbara Bouchet in the television film The Scarlet and The Black, about a real-life Roman Catholic priest in the Vatican who smuggled Jews and other refugees away from the Nazis during World War II.

At the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam all had roles in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear directed by Martin Scorsese. All three were in the original 1962 version. In the remake, Peck plays Max Cady's lawyer.

His last prominent role also came in 1991 in Other People's Money, a film directed by Norman Jewison based on the stage play of that name. Peck played a business owner trying to save his company against a hostile takeover bid by a Wall Street liquidator played by Danny DeVito.

Peck retired from active film-making at that point. Like Cary Grant before him, Peck spent the last few years of his life touring the world doing speaking engagements in which he would show clips from his movies, reminisce, and take questions from the audience. He came out of retirement for a 1998 remake of one of his most famous films, Moby Dick, portraying Father Mapple (played by Orson Welles in the 1956 version), with Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab, the role Peck played in the earlier film.

Peck had been offered the role of Grandpa Joe in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but died before he could accept it. David Kelly was then given the part.

Politics

In 1947, while many Hollywood figures were being blacklisted for similar activities, he signed a letter deploring a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of alleged communists in the film industry.

President Richard Nixon placed Peck on his enemies list due to his liberal activism.[10]

A lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, Peck was suggested in 1970 as a possible Democratic candidate to run against Ronald Reagan for the office of Governor of California. Although he later admitted that he had no interest in being a candidate himself for public office, Peck encouraged one of his sons, Carey Peck, to run for political office. Carey was defeated both times he tried for Congress, in 1978 and in 1980, by Republican Congressman Robert K. Dornan, both times by slim margins.

In an interview with the Irish media, Peck revealed that former President Lyndon Johnson had told him that, had he sought re-election in 1968, he intended to offer Peck the post of U.S. ambassador to Ireland — a post Peck, due to his Irish ancestry, said he might well have taken, saying "[I]t would have been a great adventure".[11] Author Michael Freedland, in his biography of Peck, substantiates the report and says that Johnson indicated that his presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Peck would perhaps make up for his inability to confer the ambassadorship.[12]

He was outspoken against the Vietnam War, while remaining supportive of his son, Stephen, who was fighting there. In 1972, Peck produced the film version of Daniel Berrigan's play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine about the prosecution of a group of Vietnam protesters for civil disobedience. Despite his initial reluctance to portray the controversial General Douglas MacArthur on screen, he did so in 1977 and ended up with a great admiration for the man.

In 1987, Peck did the voice over on television commercials opposing President Ronald Reagan's Supreme Court nomination of conservative jurist Robert Bork.[13] Bork's nomination was defeated. Peck was also a vocal supporter of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Personal life

In October 1942, Peck married Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen, with whom he had three sons, Jonathan (b. 1944), Stephen (b. 1946), and Carey Paul (b. 1949). They were divorced on December 30, 1955, but maintained a very good relationship. Jonathan Peck, a television news reporter, committed suicide in 1975. Stephen Peck is active in support of American veterans from the Vietnam war. His first wife is screenwriter Kimi Peck, who co-wrote Little Darlings with Dalene Young. Carey Peck had political ambitions, running for Congress in California in 1980 with the support of his father and family. He narrowly lost to conservative Republican Bob Dornan.

On December 31, 1955, the day after his divorce was finalized, Gregory Peck married Veronique Passani, a Paris news reporter who had interviewed him in 1953 before he went to Italy to film Roman Holiday. He asked her to lunch six months later and they became inseparable. They had a son, Anthony, and a daughter Cecilia Peck. They remained married until Peck died.

Peck had grandchildren from both marriages. Stephen has a stepdaughter and a son from his marriage to artist Francine Matarazzo. His stepdaughter Marisa Matarazzo is a fiction writer and his son Ethan Peck is an actor. Carey has a daughter Marisa from his marriage to Kathy Peck as well as two stepdaughters, Isabelle and Jasmine, and a son Christopher with artist Lita Albuquerque. Anthony has a son, Zack, from his marriage to model Cheryl Tiegs. Cecilia has two children with writer Daniel Voll, son Harper and daughter Ondine.

Peck owned the thoroughbred steeplechase race horse Different Class, which raced in England.[14] The horse was the favorite for the 1968 Grand National but finished third. Peck was close friends with French president Jacques Chirac.[15] Peck was a practicing Roman Catholic, although he disagreed with the Church's positions on abortion and the ordination of women.[16]

Death

Gregory Peck's tomb in Los Angeles

On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep at home from bronchopneumonia, at the age of 87.[17] 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.

Awards

Peck was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning once. He was nominated for The Keys of the Kingdom (1945), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. In 1968, he received the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Peck also received many Golden Globe awards. He won in 1947 for The Yearling, in 1963 for To Kill a Mockingbird, and in 1999 for the TV mini series Moby Dick. He was nominated in 1978 for The Boys from Brazil. He received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1969, and was given the Henrietta Award in 1951 and 1955 for World Film Favorite — Male.

In 1969, Lyndon Johnson honored Peck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 1971, the Screen Actors Guild presented Peck with the SAG Life Achievement Award. In 1989, the American Film Institute gave Peck the AFI Life Achievement Award. He received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema in 1996.

In 1986 Peck was honored alongside actress Gene Tierney with the first Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival Spain for their body of work.

In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[18]

In 2000, Peck was made a Doctor of Letters by the National University of Ireland. He was a founding patron of the University College Dublin School of Film, where he persuaded Martin Scorsese to become an honorary patron. Peck also became chair of the American Cancer Society for a short time.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Gregory Peck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6100 Hollywood Blvd. In November 2005, the star was stolen. It has since been replaced.[19]

Filmography

See also

References

  1. ^ Gregory Peck Medal of Freedom.
  2. ^ Freedland, Michael. Gregory Peck: A Biography. New York: William Morrow and Company. 1980. ISBN 0688036198 p.10
  3. ^ United States Census records for La Jolla, California 1910
  4. ^ United States Census records for St. Louis, Missouri - 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910
  5. ^ Freedland, pp. 12-18
  6. ^ Freedland, pp. 16-19
  7. ^ Fishgall, Barry (2002). Gregory Peck : A Biography. New York City: Simon and Schuster. pp. 36–37. ISBN 068485290X. http://books.google.com/books?id=NJId3XPaeR0C&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=San+Diego+State+University+gregory+peck&source=bl&ots=eDnTPiiRfr&sig=ttqHRhb21XAeRiY8_UiTQSWQPzU&hl=en&ei=LhJxSvzAK-aStgf8gaWBDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=San%20Diego%20State%20University%20gregory%20peck&f=false. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Gregory Peck comes home," Berkeley Magazine, Summer 1996. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Welton Jones. "Gregory Peck," San Diego Union-Tribune, April 5, 1998. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
  10. ^ Corliss, Richard. "The American as Noble Man" - Time Magazine - Monday, June 16, 2003
  11. ^ Haggerty, Bridget. "Gregory Peck's Irish Connections" - IrishCultureAndCustoms.com
  12. ^ Freedland, pp. 197
  13. ^ 1987 Robert Bork TV ad, narrated by Gregory Peck
  14. ^ Pedigree Query
  15. ^ Communiqué de la Présidence, Champs Elysées (French)
  16. ^ Haney, Lynn (2004). Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life. New York City: Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 419. ISBN 0786714735. 
  17. ^ "Gregory Peck Is Dead at 87; Film Roles Had Moral Fiber". New York Times. June 13, 2003. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E07E4D81F39F930A25755C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2009-02-20. "Gregory Peck, whose chiseled, slightly melancholy good looks, resonant baritone and quiet strength made him an unforgettable presence in films like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentleman's Agreement and Twelve O'Clock High, died early yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87." 
  18. ^ Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
  19. ^ "Gregory Peck's Hollywood star is reborn". Nine News (Australian Associated Press). December 1, 2005. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=75337. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 

Further reading

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

You have to dream, you have to have a vision, and you have to set a goal for yourself that might even scare you a little because sometimes that seems far beyond your reach.

Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916June 12, 2003) was a renowned 20th century American actor and activist.

Sourced

  • I think I should have been more ferocious in pursuit of the whale, more cruel to the crew, and I think I'd have a better grasp now of what Melville was talking about. Ahab focused all his energies on avenging himself against the whale, but he was trying to penetrate the mystery of why we are here at all, why there is anything. I wasn't mad enough, not crazy enough, not obsessive enough. I should have done more. ... At the time, I didn't have more in me.
  • I don't think I could stay interested for a couple of months in a character of mean motivation.
    • On usually playing likable characters, as quoted in "Gregory Peck, a Star of Quiet Dignity, Dies at 87" by William Grimes in The New York Times (13 June 2003)
  • If these Mount Everests of the financial world are going to labor and bring forth still more pictures with people being blown to bits with bazookas and automatic assault rifles with no gory detail left unexploited, if they are going to encourage anxious, ambitious actors, directors, writers and producers to continue their assault on the English language by reducing the vocabularies of their characters to half a dozen words, with one colorful but overused Anglo-Saxon verb and one unbeautiful Anglo-Saxon noun covering just about every situation, then I would like to suggest that they stop and think about this: making millions is not the whole ball game, fellows. Pride of workmanship is worth more. Artistry is worth more.
    • Acceptance speech on receiving the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1989, as quoted in "Gregory Peck, a Star of Quiet Dignity, Dies at 87" by William Grimes in The New York Times (13 June 2003)
  • You have to dream, you have to have a vision, and you have to set a goal for yourself that might even scare you a little because sometimes that seems far beyond your reach. Then I think you have to develop a kind of resistance to rejection, and to the disappointments that are sure to come your way.
    • As quoted in The ArtSlut's Guide to Makin' It — As a Visual Artist‎ (2007) by Barb Benson
  • Entertainment is all right, but entertainment with an idea behind it is much more important.
    • On exposing antisemitism in Gentleman's Agreement. Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life by Lynn Haney (2003). page 148. ISBN 0786714735.
  • I hold no brief for Communists, but I believe in and will defend their right to act independently within the law. I question whether members of the committee are interested in defending our form of government or whether they are attempting to suppress political opinion at odds with their own.
    • On the Red Scare and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life by Lynn Haney (2003). page 167. ISBN 0786714735.

External links

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Simple English

Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916June 12, 2003) was an American actor and Movie producer who was born in La Jolla, California. [1]

One of 20th Century Fox's most popular movie stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1990s. His most famous role was that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won his Academy Award.

President Lyndon Johnson awarded Peck the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 for his lifetime humanitarian efforts. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking at number 12.

References

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