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Film

Six Definitive Films: The ultimate beginner's guide to Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck is still remembered as one of the greatest male icons in the history of Hollywood, known for his unforgettable performances in iconic masterpieces like Roman Holiday and To Kill a Mockingbird among many others. Throughout his career, Peck took on a variety of challenges and he kept making appearances until his final years.

Born in California, Peck ventured into theatre and public-speaking during his college years even though his initial plan was to become a doctor and work in medicine. However, his theatrical work drew a lot of attention at UC Berkeley which is when he started considering acting as a serious career path for the future.

Unable to graduate on time, Peck eventually moved to New York City in order to study acting even though he had serious financial constraints and often slept in Central Park. Starting out in the domain of the theatre, Peck proved that he was a unique talent before embarking on a trailblazing trajectory which helped him become a bonafide star.

Gregory Peck’s six definitive films:

Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)

A critical and commercial success directed by master auteur Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound is an adaptation of the interesting 1927 novel written by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer. It stars Gregory Peck alongside other icons like Ingrid Bergman.

Spellbound tells the story of a psychoanalyst whose suspicions are aroused when her hospital’s director is forced into retirement. His replacement is a much younger man named Dr. Anthony Edwardes (played by Peck) but she believes he isn’t who he claims to be.

Yellow Sky (William A. Wellman, 1948)

William A. Wellman’s fantastic 1948 western Yellow Sky is partially based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and tells the story of a gang of outlaws who are on the run. After committing a bank robbery, they decide to hide in a ghost town where they have an interesting encounter.

Peck is brilliant as James ‘Stretch’ Dawson – the leader of the gang who finds himself in a tough spot when his hideout is discovered by a young woman named Mike and her grandfather. A relatively neglected addition to Peck’s filmography, Yellow Sky deserves much more recognition.

The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950)

Another solid western, Henry King’s 1950 work The Gunfighter features Peck as Jimmy Ringo – a reputed gunfighter who is known around the parts as the fastest gunman in the West which is why it is the dream of every gunslinger to best him in a fight.

However, Peck has only one desire – to see the woman he loves even though she wants nothing to do him. Due to his social status and his glorious title as a champion, he is always a perpetual target and is constantly subjected to all kinds of trouble.

Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)

Roman Holiday contains a moving on-screen partnership between Audrey Hepburn and Peck, starring Hepburn as a charming princess who decides to explore Rome on her own. During her journey, she falls in love with a dashing reporter (Peck).

Reflecting on the project, Wyler claimed that he wanted to take a different direction: “I should have done Roman Holiday in colour, but it was too late. In those days colour was not as quickly available as it is today. It was 1952, that’s a long time ago.”

Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962)

One of the great psychological thrillers of the last century, Cape Fear was originally supposed to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock and the film was actually made on the basis of the storyboards that Hitchcock created while he was still attached to the project.

Robert Mitchum is terrifying as Max Cady, an ex-convict who gets out of prison and makes it his life’s mission to track down and terrorise the lawyer (played by Peck) who he thinks is responsible for all the suffering he had to endure over the course of eight years.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)

Probably the most famous role from Peck’s vast and illustrious career, Robert Mulligan’s 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s essential eponymous novel is considered by almost everyone to be a bonafide American classic that everyone should watch.

Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his incredible portrayal of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in Alabama who stands up for the rights of the oppressed. The American Film Institute even voted Peck’s performance as the greatest hero in American cinema history.