Beauty is Forever: Happy Birthday, Mr. Gregory Peck!

The Hollywood icon would’ve turned 96 years old today. Though he has passed away for almost a decade, I do think his legacy lives on. I feel like I’ve been preparing to pay tribute to Mr. Peck for over a month now, but suddenly when the time comes, I find it ever so daunting a task as I feel like there’s so much to say I don’t know where to start!

Most of you who’ve read my Spellbound post knew I fell head over heels for him in that Hitchcock film. It really was like ‘lightning striking‘ when I first beheld the 6’3″ lanky then-29-year-old man with magnificent cheekbones, melancholy eyes, and THAT deep, rich voice that can be as commanding as it is soothing. Anna @ Defiant Success said in her email to me that the “Gregory Peck bug” didn’t bite you. It pretty much ate you alive. Ahahaha, well I can’t refute that. I mean how else would you explain the plethora of Gregory DVDs all over my basement, ordering multiple sheets of Atticus’ Forever Stamps, AND devote a Tumblr all to just to this one man? :D

But really, can you blame me?

Peck in a promo pic from one of his early theater productions

Few actors possess the kind of charisma, looks and talent that Gregory had. But what makes me respect him more is that he never capitalized on his looks, far from it. After reading his biography by Gary Fishgall, which is such a fascinating read that I kept going back to it repeatedly, I’m struck by such a humble beginning he had, especially his years as a struggling theater actor trying to make it on Broadway. Theater work was really his first love, so much so that when Hollywood beckoned, he wasn’t easily swayed. He even made MGM’s famed producer Louis B. Mayer cry when Peck refused to sign his offer of seven-year contract  — promising the then unknown to be the next Clark Gable — as he wanted to fit in more theater work in between films. He was the first actor of that era who refused to be ‘bought’ by the studio. Clearly he didn’t need such a contract to succeed!

I have even more respect for his intelligence and exemplary work ethic. His preparation for every role was a labor of love, beginning with committing every line to memory, he then ‘assembled the character to the best of [his] ability.’ That dedication shows in every single film he did, and he continually challenged himself with every role in various genres, from drama, thriller to westerns. After reading every available articles on Peck known to man, as well as that biography, it’s clear that he’s a hero on and off screen. All the honors (both acting and humanitarian) and legacy he’s achieved, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson. Truly, a beautiful man inside and out.

Just yesterday I read that President Obama will introduce a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird, both at the White House Family Theater and also on the USA network airing on April 7 as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of that iconic film (per THR). I do think that Atticus Finch — voted by AFI as the greatest hero in American film — is a rare occasion where the actor and the role meets. Just as effortlessly he had fought against anti-semitism in Gentleman’s Agreement, Peck championed for racial equality with such integrity and grace.

“…[Peck] embodied the best in all of us… He gave idealism a good name, made it seem possible in the flawed state of this human condition,” stated this msnbc article titled Gregory Peck, the last noble breed. On the year he died, TIME magazine ran this article citing “…Peck was the sonorous pitchman for movie humanism. He showed how a strong man could also be a gentle man.”

No doubt he earned the respect of not just critics, moviegoers, but also his peers. Liza Minnelli called him “the ultimate movie star.” His co-star in Designing Woman, Lauren Bacall, said it best I think:

“His values and his standards are very high, which is why Bogie respected him so much. You don’t meet many people, much less actors, who have that kind of character.”  (per Films42 tribute post)

His Forever Stamp inauguration was attended by the likes of Sidney Poitier, James Darrin, Morgan Freeman, and hosted by Sharon Stone. It’s Freeman’s story of meeting Peck that made me grin ear to ear, “… he told of sitting in the very same Academy theater, seeing Peck walk up the aisle and jumping from his seat to stop him dead in his tracks as Freeman dropped to knees in front of him and mumbled something about the honor of being in presence of Captain Ahab.” Oh my, would I love to be a fly on the wall at that moment!

What few people know though, that this regal and elegant man has a dry wit and great sense of humor. “He can be funny,” said Peck’s Paradine Case costar Louis Jourdan, “which is fortunate. Otherwise, such perfection would be unbearable.” (per Peck’s Kennedy-Center bio) If you’ve seen Designing Woman, you too would wish he had done more comedic roles. The scene where his ex-girlfriend dumped a plate of ravioli on his lap, his deadpan expression made the scene even more hilarious, especially as he calmly asked the waiter for a pair of pants! “George Burns used to call it the funniest take he ever saw on the screen,” Peck told the msnbc writer.

Need proof? Check out this clip of Peck appearing on the Jack Benny show with the host himself and George Burns!


For his birthday festivities, I invited a few of my friends to participate by sharing their posts on Mr. Peck, be it a tribute or reviews of his films. As you can see below, this ever so versatile acting legend covered pretty much any genre and he’s always convincing in every one of them. That’s why I picked him as one of the Then Best Actor of All Time in this relay race blog-a-thon.

So to those of you who have NOT seen any Gregory Peck movies, you no longer have any excuses not to watch at least one or two. We’ve got all kinds of suggestions out the wazoo here! :D

To Kill a Mockingbird

Front Room Cinema (includes interview with Mary Badham)

Inspired Ground
….
The Guns of Navarone

Paula’s Cinema Club

Duel in the Sun

Cinema Romantico

Musings on Duel in the Sun*..

On The Beach

Defiant Success


On The Beach Mini Review*
Birthday Tributes

It Rains… You Get Wet     |  The Focused Filmographer

I Think Therefore I Review    |   Via Margutta 51

A retrospective on Peck & Hitchcock 

I Luv Cinema


Top Five Favorite Scores from Gregory Peck Films

Peck and Hitchcock on the set of The Paradine Case

Beloved Infidel

Via Margutta 51

………………………
The Boys From Brazil


My Film Views

Roman Holiday

Inspired Ground

///
Defiant Success

59 Reasons I Love Roman Holiday*
,,,
Spellbound
../
The Case of Being Spellbound*

Defiant Success



…..
Yellow Sky

I Think Therefore I Review

The Omen

Top 10 Films
Cape Fear
../
Jack Deth’s Guest review
*

Defiant Success

…..
Mirage

Ruth’s guest review @ The Focused Filmographer

Note: The one with the * (asterisk) is a FlixChatter post


I think I will forever be a Gregory Peck fan. You know that old saying ‘they don’t make ‘em like him anymore‘? Well in the case of this one Hollywood icon, it’s not a cliché at all.


Please join me in celebrating this wonderful man by reading one of the posts listed above. What are your thoughts of Mr. Peck and his work? I’d love to hear ‘em in the comments!

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53 thoughts on “Beauty is Forever: Happy Birthday, Mr. Gregory Peck!

  1. You see now why I prefer the leading men of Hollywood’s yesteryear? God, if you go through the same situation with, say, Paul Newman, then the “Old Hollywood bug” took a huge bite out of you. (It sure as hell did for me.)

    • Ahah, well I think I only have energy to have a crush on one man at a time! :) I did see ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ and I’ve got to admit Newman is gorgeous beyond belief. But no, he didn’t hit me the way Gregory did, so it’s not just about the looks.

  2. I feel ashamed to have not seen more of his films, particularly To Kill a Mockingbird. And very nice to hear he was such a legend off screen too. I don’t know how many of all these posts have been your doing Ruth but I keep seeing your name popping up alongside Peck’s today so congratulations… you’ve done the man proud! What a birthday gift!

    • Hi Pete, well you’ve got a lot of recommendations here anytime you want to give Mr. Peck a try. Trust me, you WON’T be disappointed :)

      Yes well I wish one of his kids or maybe his widow would somehow got a hold of this post, just so they know how much Peck was treasured by his fans.

  3. Awesome tribute, Ruth. I loved hearing the praises others had for Gregory. And a big thanks to you, too, for introducing me to him and the dozens of his other films. I, like many others, only knew of To Kill a Mockingbird, so it’s been quite the ride to see him in such excellent, but lesser know films such as David and Bathsheba and Captain Horatio Hornblower. Incredible person, superb actor.

    • And last but not least, all the contributions (links) from your fellow bloggers are fascinating. Thanks, bloggers! I bet I’ll be spending the whole evening checking them all out ;-D

      • Thanks for indulging me in my Gregory fandom, ahah. You’re a pal for putting up w/ my incessant musings and gushing on him. Yes I found a goldmine indeed when I fell for GP, and yes I love him in a bunch of other things besides ‘Mockingbird’ though I totally understand why that one is held in such a high regard to this day.

        Yes, thanks for all my blog friends for participating and making this tribute so festive. What’s a party without pals right? :D

    • Oh you silly, your review is just as awesome, Paula! Thanks for taking part, I’m so honored considering how busy you are. Glad you picked Guns of Navarone, too!

      • Thanks Ruth, you are very kind. I was happy too, it’s one of my faves :) I’ve been trying to leave comments but my WordPress.com login isn’t working & I have no idea how to fix. It keeps telling me I don’t own that identity…any suggestions?

        • Hmmm, I don’t know what could be the problem. I usually have problems like that w/ Blogger’s blogs. Hope it’s just a glitch in your case.

          Again, I LOVE your post, I mean seriously, you’re one of the BEST writers out there!

  4. It’s adorable how you refer to him as “Gregory”. I refer to Bob Dylan as “Bob” many times but that is a different thing :) Great youtube clip with Jack Benny and George Burns too.

    • He..he.. well, to keep calling him Mr. Peck just sounds so formal :) Isn’t that an awesome clip? I just had to include him so people see his goofy side, too.

  5. Wow! You really knocked it out of the park this time, Ruth!

    I’m with Anna. There is no real comparison between Mr. Peck and his contemporaries and what passes for talent today.

    Presence: Either you have it or you don’t. Most don’t. Mr. Peck had it naturally and by the truckload.

    Preparedness: Mr. Peck had a well earned reputation for showing up on time, or earlier. Knowing his lines and what was required of him and others. Yet, could roll with last minute changes or improvisations. Then stay late for scenes
    that required weather and sunlight to get just right.

    Perseverance: Mr. Peck stuck to his guns on many topics. With honor and dignity away from the cameras. And before them. Placing him slightly higher in my personal firmament than Mr. Charlton Heston.

    Securing my Soap Box.
    Carry on.

    • Thank you so much Jack! LOVE what you said about Peck, yes he definitely has the talents and the good sense to use it well. It’s inspiring to me how he took his craft seriously and worked hard to get where he was, but he also had the compassion to do things outside of show biz. So yeah, he’s got the 3Ps: presence, preparedness, and perseverance. LOVE it!

  6. Well done, Ruth! Such a fine and eloquent testament and tribute post to this true star of the screen. And thank you very kindly for inviting me to participate in the birthday fest.

    • Thanks Michael, and I truly appreciate you writing about Peck in all those great Westerns. This tribute just won’t be the same without you, so THANK YOU!

  7. That’s great tribute Ruth, unfortunately I don’t really have much to say about Peck since I only saw two of his films, The Omen and To Kill A Mockingbird. He’s definitely has the look and charisma of a great leading man in movies. That’s something we hardly see anymore in Hollywood films.

    • Hi Ted, I will lend you a few of his films that I think you’ll like. I know you don’t like B&W films but ‘Navarone’ has great quality and tons of action, the other one is Arabesque which is also in color and it’s definitely a fun movie. Yes, like I said, they really don’t make ‘em like him anymore.

  8. After seeing “Spellbound” again a few years ago I realised Hitchcock is also a closet romantic. It shows in so many movies, right in there with his characteristic sardonic wit.

    I finally saw “The Million Pound Note” a few months ago. A light, fun movie and the premise is great. The satirical pokes in the movie at the way stock-markets behave was especially amusing given the current financial situation. Peck is perfect in the role since it required a completely honest, upright kind of guy. Nobody, except maybe Jimmy Stewart, could do that so well.

    • Hi Marcus, oh yeah, Hitchcock definitely has some romantic bones in his body, ahah. North by Northwest is quite romantic too, but I think w/ Spellbound, there’s such a strong chemistry between Greg and Ingrid.

      Oh I love ‘Million Pound Note’! It’s not one of his best work, but it’s definitely a fun movie. Yeah I like Jimmy Stewart too, he’s fantastic in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’

  9. My gosh, great great tribute, to one of my top favorite actors, I’m glad to see you bringing him back, and those of you who have not watched any of his films your missing out on a treat.

    • Oh thank you Funk, that means a lot to me. I seriously didn’t know what to write as I had so many things to say. Yes you’re absolutely right people are missing out for not watching any of his work. That’s how I felt when I first discovered him!

  10. Ah, such a loving and comprehensive ode. Well done. “He was the first actor of that era who refused to be ‘bought’ by the studio.” That, I think, is my favorite. He was like a rebel but without all of the baggage that so often goes into being rebel.

    This also reminds me I really, really need to see “Designing Woman.”

    • Hi Nick, thanks again for your awesome ‘Duel in the Sun’ review! Yes, Gregory is a ‘rebel’ if you will but he does it in a respectful manner. Seems impossible I know but if anyone could pull it off, it’s him. Even when he was doing theater, people always comment about his ‘honesty’ and lack of pretense the way a lot of actors have. It’s astonishing that someone THAT good looking didn’t have a big ego.

      Oh you’ll enjoy Designing Woman, both Peck and Bacall are so fun to watch.

  11. Hi, all:

    Slightly off topic.

    I would like to take a moment and offer congratulatory Birthday Wishes to Mr. Roger Corman!

    King of the B-Movies. Master of Engineering. Which may help explain why nearly all of his films made money.

    Trend setter before Trend Setting was cool. Talent spotter extraordinaire and unsurpassed maverick and master of getting the most for his invested cinematic bucks.

    Happy 86th, Roger!

  12. Yes, this is how you do a tribute. I’m impressed by the amount of people that joined and the breath of the various articles. I’ve published the other post I promised about Peck as well, I’m sure you are interested to see it Ruth.

    You know this is infectious…I was shopping for DVDs this afternoon and when I saw Roman Holiday (which I would normally not buy as it didn’t look that appealing to me) I decided to give it a chance. Will let you know what I think of it :)

    • Thank you Nostra! Yes I’m delighted that a lot of people joined in, including you with not one but TWO Gregory-related posts, yay!

      That’s awesome that you got ‘Roman Holiday.’ I tell you, a lot of Peck’s movies appeal to both men and women, and that one is included despite it being a rom-com.

  13. Happy birthday, Gregory Peck. I’m grateful because two of my firsts posts of classic review on my blog was reviewing two of his best. And I even didn’t plan to see him, haha. Such a great actor. Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird was a great role and a hero too, you might say. Great tribute, Ruth. Thanks for including me also ;)

    • Thanks for sending me those links Andina. Yes, those are two from his best, though having seen 28 of his films now, I quite like a lot of his underrated ones as well.

  14. Awesome tribute Ruth!! My turn will come next month ;)

    I haven’t seen anything by him yet but I am sure he is that good. Happy birthday GP :)

    • Yes I know, I’ll be retweeting my tribute to CM as well :) I highly recommend watching at least one of GP films Nov, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

    • All right Castor! Well I don’t know what you’ll be in the mood for, but how about The Guns of Navarone? And if you’ve got time this weekend, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ will be aired on USA network, too :D

      • Ok I watched To Kill a Mockingbird on USA on Saturday evening. Not bad at all although I need to revisit it some day because I missed the beginning :D I’ll try the Guns of Navarone next :D

        • Woo hoo Castor, I’m thrilled to hear that! Well, as long as you didn’t miss Atticus’ speech on TKAM I think you’re ok, that’s the best part! :) Let me know what you think about Guns of Navarone, it’s such a different film from TKAM that it’ll show Peck’s versatility as an actor.

  15. Pingback: Movies That Everyone Should See: “To Kill a Mockingbird” | Fogs' Movie Reviews

  16. Sorry it has taken me FOREVER to get to this post.

    Thanks for letting me participate!

    Peck was true class.

    I really loved his story about filming Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn.
    I was able to catch a few of his films on TCM during the birthday marathon.

    • Hey Iba, no thank YOU! I love your angle of Peck & Hitchcock, brilliant. Yeah, there are a lot of fun trivia on RH, especially about the Mouth of Truth scene. So which films did you see on TCM? Did you catch The Purple Plain? I spotlighted that on Saturday, I LOVE that movie.

  17. Wow, what a great tribute, Ruth! You really put together an awesome group of writers for this one. I’m slowly working my way through the posts. :D

    I think you asked me before about what Peck films I have seen, and unfortunately it’s just one — Roman Holiday (great movie!). But I do have To Kill a Mockingbird lined up next in my Netflix queue!

    • Awww, thank you Eric, really appreciate you reading this.

      Well at least you’ve seen one :) I’d love to hear what you think of ‘Mockingbird’ but hopefully you’ll get to see others from his fine resume as well.

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