Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor who was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, San Diego, California. His parents divorced when he was five and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother, who took him to the movies every week. At the age of 10 he was sent to a Catholic military school, St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles. Peck had ambitions to be a doctor and gained admission to the University of California, Berkeley, as an English major and pre-medical student. Standing 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), he rowed on the university crew.
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 the NBC television broadcasting company.
In 1947, while many Hollywood figures were being blacklisted for similar activities, Peck signed a letter deploring a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of alleged communists in the film industry.
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 California Governor. If he had, our nation's history would have been completely different. Although he later admitted he had no interest in being a candidate for public office, Peck encouraged one of his sons, Carey Peck, to run for political office.
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, owing to his Irish ancestry, said he might well have taken, saying "[It] would have been a great adventure". The actor's biographer Michael Freedland 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. President Richard Nixon, though, placed Peck on his enemies list owing to his liberal activism.
Peck continued to play major film roles until the late 1980s. His performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He had also been nominated for an Oscar for the same category for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). Other notable films he appeared in include Spellbound (1945) with Ingrid Bergman, Roman Holiday (1953), Moby Dick (1956, and its 1998 miniseries), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Cape Fear (1962, and its 1991 remake), How the West Was Won (1962), The Omen (1976) and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep at home from bronchopneumonia. He was 87 years old. Peck is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles.
Gregory Peck's tomb at Los Angeles Cathedral
photo by Lee Zurligen
His eulogy was read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck's Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
The celebrities who attended his funeral included Lauren Bacall, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Shari Belafonte, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Mike Farrell, Shelley Fabares, Jimmy Smits, Louis Jourdan, Dyan Cannon, Stephanie Zimbalist, Michael York, Angie Dickinson, Larry Gelbart, Michael Jackson, Anjelica Huston, Lionel Richie, Louise Fletcher, Tony Danza, and Piper Laurie.
Miklós Rózsa ~ Spellbound
Ingrid Bergman ~ The shy lion
Awards and honors
Gregory Peck website
A Conversation with Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck (1916-2003)
Spellbound (1945) complete movie (2 hours)
“The emotion is the music and the script is the libretto.”