Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series invite you to celebrate the publication of Stephen Farber and Michael McClellan’s new book, Cinema ’62: The Greatest Year at the Movies, with a return to the big screen of one of the cinematic crown jewels from 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird. The film will be shown as a series of one night-only screenings at 7 PM the week of June 7-10 at four Laemmle locations, the Royal, Playhouse, NoHo and Newhall. The authors will introduce all screenings and sign their book, which will be on sale at the events. Acclaimed filmmaker Cecilia Peck, daughter of Gregory Peck, will join the discussion at the Royal screening on June 7.
A box-office smash in its day, To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of the most memorable films in Hollywood history. In 1995 it was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, reserved for films of “historical, cultural, or aesthetic significance.” The film was faithfully adapted by playwright Horton Foote from Harper Lee’s beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about childhood memories in the segregated South of the 1930s. The film version has become so intertwined with the book in the national consciousness that they have blended as “an inescapable part of our cultural DNA.”
Directed by Robert Mulligan and produced by Alan Pakula, the film gave Gregory Peck the iconic role of a lifetime, that of Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer who heroically defends a black man (Brock Peters as Tom Robinson) accused of raping a white woman, invoking the ire of the bigoted white community. Peck’s performance resonated so strongly that when the American Film Institute conducted a poll of all-time screen heroes, his portrayal of Finch was voted number one, ahead of such screen favorites as Han Solo and James Bond. Peck closely identified with the themes of parenting two young children, and those of social and racial justice at the height of the Civil Rights era. He was awarded a very popular Best Actor Oscar in one of the most competitive Oscar races of the twentieth century.
Among the film’s eight total nominations (including Best Picture and Director) is one for Supporting Actress, which went to screen newcomer Mary Badham as Scout, the impressionable six-year-old daughter of Atticus, and it is through her eyes the story unfolds. Her remarkable performance conveys all the wonderment and innocence of childhood imagination, and she is ably joined by Philip Alford as her brother Jem and John Megna as Dill (a surrogate for Lee’s friend Truman Capote). The rest of the stellar cast includes Colin Wilcox, Frank Overton, Rosemary Harris, Estelle Evans, James Anderson, and in the pivotal role of the mentally damaged “Boo” Radley, Robert Duvall in his screen debut.
The transformation of childhood memory into black-and-white screen reality was achieved by the superb craftsmanship of cinematographer Russell Harlan and Oscar winning production design of Alexander Golitzen, Henry Bumstead, and set decoration by Oliver Emert. Elmer Bernstein’s exquisite score also enhances the film’s rich atmosphere and mood. Harper Lee was involved in the film’s preparation and was “very proud and very grateful” for the fidelity of the finished film.
The film received widespread praise, ranging from such varied sources as the mainstream press, presidential adviser and journalist Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Walt Disney, and numerous pop culture publications. Often considered a role model, Atticus Finch is understandably not always seen as an uncomplicated hero. But such reassessments have not diminished the popularity and appeal of To Kill a Mockingbird, which has been elevated to the level of American folklore. Witness the recent PBS poll of millions of viewers who voted it America’s most beloved novel, and Aaron Sorkin’s revisionist stage version that was sold out for the entirety of its two-year, pandemic-shortened Broadway run.