Upon its release in 1962, the movie adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird was both a critical and commercial success. A classic of Hollywood’s Golden Era, the film, based on the novel of the same name by Harper Lee, received widespread acclaim for its powerful portrayal of racial injustice in the Jim Crow South.
To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay. Gregory Peck’s performance in the role of Atticus Finch earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor and cemented his legend in Hollywood history. The movie holds a special place in the hearts of many movie lovers which is why folks took notice when a key memorabilia item from the film went up for auction.
Remembering “To Kill a Mockingbird“
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the racially charged town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s. It follows the Finch family, particularly young Scout and her brother Jem, as their father, lawyer Atticus Finch, defends Tom Robinson, an African American man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
The film explores themes of racial injustice, moral growth, and the loss of innocence. To Kill a Mockingbird is celebrated for its powerful storytelling, compelling characters, and its profound exploration of social and moral issues. It remains a poignant and thought-provoking work that has left an enduring impact on American cinema.
Gregory Peck Landed the Role of Lifetime
Gregory Peck wasn’t producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan’s first choice to play the role of Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer with a high moral compass. James Stewart was originally offered the role, however he declined because he felt that the storyline was too controversial.
Rock Hudson’s name was floated as a possible replacement, but Pakula wanted a lead actor with star power and Hudson was a newcomer to Hollywood then. Gregory Peck himself was deeply moved by Harper Lee’s novel and saw the character as an opportunity to convey important messages about justice and morality. He actively pursued the role, even expressing his interest before the film’s production was officially greenlit.
Gregory Peck, a Cinematic Icon
Gregory Peck was an iconic Hollywood actor celebrated for his distinguished career spanning over five decades. With his rugged good looks, commanding presence, and versatile acting abilities, Peck became one of the most respected and beloved leading men. In addition to his Academy Award-winning role in To Kill a Mockingbird, Peck appeared in other notable films.
Peck portrayed the heroic Captain Ahab in Moby Dick in 1956 and the morally conflicted journalist in Gentleman’s Agreement in 1947. In addition to his Oscar win, Peck received numerous accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He passed away on June 12, 2003, leaving behind an indelible mark on the history of American cinema.
A Piece of Cinematic History
In late February 2023, Gregory Peck’s personalized, leather-bound script for To Kill a Mockingbird, was sold at auction, along with other items from the estate of Gregory and Veronique Peck and other Hollywood memorabilia. The auction caused quite a stir among collectors, especially ones seeking items from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The auction, organized by Heritage Auctions out of Dallas, represented the largest auction of Gregory Peck’s personal property. The personalized script was among the items. Other items included a Horton Foote-penned adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel that included handwritten notes and photographs.
The Script Sold for a Staggering Amount
According to Robert Wilonsky of Heritage Auctions, the sale of Gregory Peck’s To Kill a Mockingbird script was a rousing success. It sold for $84,375. As Wilonsky expected, the bidding went fast. “It took a few minutes,” he said. “There was a pretty significant biddy war over it.”
The winner of the bidding has chosen to remain anonymous. Although the name of the new owner of the script is unknown, Wilonsky confided that the person is a “real collector and lover of Hollywood.” He added, “It’s a really personal, wonderful, loving memento from a really iconic role.”
A Special Signed Copy of the Novel Was Also Auctioned
In addition to Gregory Peck’s personalized script, the actor’s signed copy of a 35th anniversary edition of To Kill a Mockingbird was also sold in the auction. This book was signed by author Harper Lee with the inscription, “To Gregory and Veronique: You have a unique place in my heart. Harper.”
According to Anthony Peck, the son of Gregory and Veronique Peck, “Harper Lee once said the role of Atticus Finch gave Gregory Peck the chance to play himself, because he was that man.” This special signed copy of the novel brought in $35,000 at the auction.
A Massive Auction of Hollywood Memorabilia
The auction didn’t just feature Gregory Peck’s To Kill a Mockingbird script. It included many sought-after Hollywood memorabilia that collectors love. In all, the auction included 250 lots and represented $1,279,000 in sales. It lasted more than six hours.
Of the items belonging to Gregory Peck, there were awards, costumes from some of his biggest movie roles, various Hollywood mementos, and fine art pieces that the couple collected over the years.
Scripts for Many of Gregory Peck’s Films
Several custom-bound, personalized scripts from Peck’s other blockbuster films were sold in the sale. The script for Roman Holiday, which included more than a dozen production photographs and portraits, sold for $25,000. Inside Peck’s script for Spellbound, which went for $17,500, producer David O. Selznick wrote, “For Greg – with gratitude for his superb work in this, our first association. May we have many, many more together! D.O. 1945.”
Peck’s scripts for Gentleman’s Agreement, Captain Horatio Hornblower, Moby Dick, Cape Fear, and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit sold for a combined $66,250. An avid collector even paid $21,875 for Gregory Peck’s passport which was issued to him in 1960.