Gregory Peck

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Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck Publicity Photo 1944.jpg
Gregory Peck in 1944
Eldred Gregory Peck

(1916-04-05)April 5, 1916
DiedJune 12, 2003(2003-06-12) (aged 87)
Resting placeCathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materSan Diego State University
University of California, Berkeley
Years active1941–2000
Home townLa Jolla, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Children5, including Cecilia Peck
FamilyEthan Peck (grandson)

Eldred Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916 – June 12, 2003) was an American actor. He was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. Peck received five Academy Award for Best Actor nominations, and won once – for his performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 drama film To Kill a Mockingbird.

Peck also received Oscar nominations for his roles in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). Other notable films in which he appeared include Spellbound (1945), The Gunfighter (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), Moby Dick (1956, and its 1998 mini-series), The Big Country (1958), 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).

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson honored Peck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 for his lifetime humanitarian efforts. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood cinema, ranking him at No. 12.

Early life[edit]

Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in San Diego, California, the son of Bernice Mae "Bunny" (née Ayres; 1894–1992), and Gregory Pearl Peck (1886–1962), a Rochester, New York-born chemist and pharmacist. His father was of English (paternal) and Irish (maternal) heritage,[1][2] and his mother was of English and Scots ancestry.[3] She converted to her husband's religion, Roman Catholicism, when she married Gregory Pearl, and Peck was raised as a Catholic. Through his Irish-born paternal grandmother Catherine Ashe (1864–1926), Peck was related to Thomas Ashe (1885–1917), who participated in the Easter Rising less than three weeks after Peck's birth and died while being force-fed during his hunger strike in 1917.

Peck (right) with his father c. 1930

Peck's parents divorced when he was five, and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother, who took him to the movies every week.[4] At the age of 10, he was sent to a Catholic military school, St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles. While he was a student there, his grandmother died. At 14, he moved back to San Diego to live with his father, attended San Diego High School,[5] and after graduating, he enrolled for one year at San Diego State Teacher's College (now known as San Diego State University). While there, he joined the track team, took his first theatre and public-speaking courses, and pledged the Epsilon Eta fraternity.[6] Peck, however, had ambitions to be a doctor, and the following year, he gained admission to the University of California, Berkeley,[7] as an English major and pre-medical student. Standing 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), he rowed on the university crew. Although his tuition fee was only $26 per year, Peck still struggled to pay, and took a job as a "hasher" (kitchen helper) for the Gamma Phi Beta sorority in exchange for meals.

At Berkeley, his deep, well-modulated voice got him attention and, after participating in a public speaking course, he decided to try acting.[8] He was encouraged by an acting coach who saw in him perfect material for university theatre and he became more and more interested in acting. He was recruited by Edwin Duerr, director of the university's Little Theater, and appeared in five plays during his senior year, including as Starbuck Moby Dick.[8] Peck would later say about Berkeley that "it was a very special experience for me, and three of the greatest years of my life. It woke me up and made me a human being."[9] In 1997, Peck donated $25,000 to the Berkeley rowing crew in honor of his coach, the renowned Ky Ebright.



Peck was ready to graduate from Berkeley, but was not able to graduate along with his friends because he lacked one course. His college friends were concerned for him, and wondered how he'd get along without his degree. "I have all I need from the University", he told them, re-assuringly. Peck dropped the name "Eldred", and headed to New York City to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse[8] with the legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner. He was often broke, and sometimes slept in Central Park.[10] He worked at the 1939 World's Fair as a barker, and as a tour guide for NBC's television broadcasting, including at Rockerfeller Centre, and at Radio City Music Hall.[8] He dabbled in modelling before, in 1940, working in exchange for food, at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia,[8][11] At the Barter Theatre he appeared in five plays, including Family Portrait and On Earth As It Is.[11]

His stage career began in 1941, when he played the secretary in a Katharine Cornell production of George Bernard Shaw's play The Doctor's Dilemma. Unfortunately, the play opened in San Francisco just one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor.[12] He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams' The Morning Star in 1942.[8] His second Broadway performance that year was in The Willow and I with Edward Pawley. Peck's acting abilities were in high demand during World War II because he was exempt from military service, owing to a back injury suffered while receiving dance and movement lessons from Martha Graham as part of his acting training. Twentieth Century Fox claimed he had injured his back while rowing at university, but in Peck's words, "In Hollywood, they didn't think a dance class was macho enough, I guess. I've been trying to straighten out that story for years."[13]

In 1947, Peck co-founded The La Jolla Playhouse, at his birthplace, with Mel Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire.[14] This summer stock company presented productions in the La Jolla High School Auditorium from 1947 until 1964. In 1983, the La Jolla Playhouse re-opened in a new home at the University of California, San Diego, where it still thrives today. It has attracted Hollywood film stars on hiatus, both as performers and enthusiastic supporters, since its inception.


Peck in Days of Glory (1944)

After three short-lived Broadway Plays, Peck was offered the lead role in the war-romance Days of Glory (1944) directed by Jacques Tourneur.[8] Peck portrayed the leader of Russian guerrillas resisting the Germans in 1941 who stumble across a beautiful Russian dancer, played by Tamara Toumanova, who had been sent to entertain Russian troups, and protect her by letting her join their group.[8][15] The film lost money and is described by one critic as "sincere, but plodding,"[16] but Peck's star power was evident.[8] Hollywood movie producers became very interested in him but he decided to free-lance rather than signing a contract with one studio and over the next few years landed roles in several significant films.[8]

These films were 20th Century Fox's lavish The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and, rapidly, three movies co-starring significant female stars: The Valley of Decision (1945) with Greer Garson at the height of her career having received four straight Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, winning in 1942 for Mrs. Miniver; Spellbound (1945) starring Ingrid Bergman who had just won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight (1944);[8] and The Yearling (1946) with the up-and-coming Jane Wyman who had just appeared in movies with Cary Grant and with Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend for which Milland won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Right from his debut Peck was always a star and almost always a box office success.[17] From 1945 to 1951, Peck was among the most successful Hollywood Stars as [[The Valley of Decision[[ was the highest grossing movie of 1945; Spellbound was the third highest grossing movie of 1946; Duel in the Sun and The Yearling were second and ninth, respectively, for 1947; and, [[Gentlemen's Agreement[[ was eighth for 1948. Then he was back in the top ten in 1950 with Twelve O'Clock High placing tenth that year and, in 1951, David and Bathsheba was the top grossing film of the year.[18][19]

His rapid success was further shown by him being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor four times in the first five years of film career, those being for: The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949).[20]

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) features Peck as a 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest looking back at his epic undertakings during over half a century spent as a determined, self-sacrificing missionary in China.[21][22] The film shows him aging from his 20s to 80 and he is in almost every scene.[8] At the time of release, one reviewer said the movie successfully conveyed the impact of "tolerance, service, faith and godliness" and that Peck's performance was excellent.[21] Peck received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance [20] In recent years, some critics describe the movie as overlong[8] or long but generally good,[23] while others assert that it is simply different from what most of today's viewers are accustomed to - it is "slow-moving, patient, expository, with long scenes of dialogue and character building," but is inspiring with many moving scenes featuring a believable, sincere, dynamic performance from Peck.[24] While Keys of the Kingdom is not viewed by many movie watchers today,[25] in the mid-1940s it catapulted him to stardom.[8][26]

In The Valley of Decision (1944), an extravagant, sprawling romance-drama about intermingling social classes, Peck plays the eldest son of a wealthy steel mill owner in 1870s Pittsburgh who has a romance with one of his family's maids, who is played by Greer Garson.[19][8] Garson's character is the protagonist who tries to smooth relations between her friends and family and Peck's, which get especially tense when the mill workers strike.[27] Garson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[20] A review at the time described the first half of the movie as formulaic and somewhat contrived, but the final section as having authority and depth, while describing Peck's performance as "quietly commanding."[27] In recent years the film has been evaluated as polished[16] and above-average.[28] Some summaries of Peck's career and comprehensive movie review books fail to mention the movie[29][30] and the movie is not viewed much today[31]despite the fact it was a huge hit upon its release.[18]

Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound

Spellbound (1945), the first of two movies Peck did with Alfred Hitchcock, had Peck starring opposite Ingrid Bergman's psycho-analyst as a man who has amnesia and is mistaken as being the new director of the psychiatric facility where Bergman works.[32] The movie was well-received at the time, with one reviewer evaluating it as "a superior and suspenseful melodrama,"[33] and another as a “masterful psychiatric thriller…. with compelling performances from Bergman and Peck."[34] Another critic described it as a "moving love story" and that "the quality of story-telling is extraordinarily fine” complimenting Peck's performance as "restrained and refined" which is "precisely the proper counter" to Bergman's performance.[35] It was nominated for six 1945 Academy Awards including Best Picture,[36] although it was not in the National Board of Review's top ten films of the year.[37] Critical opinion of the Spellbound has declined somewhat over time and is somewhat mixed: some critics argue it is absorbing and unique;[16] other say many aspects of the narrative are unrealistic, including Peck’s rapid return to good mental health,[38][39] and Bergman’s rapid love for Peck;[40][39] others say it is intriguing but dialogue heavy;[32] and, one said that Peck "fails to elicit sympathy in the way he does so often in other films."[41] Another film scribe describes the film as "a fascinating psychological thriller which suffers from the wooden Peck in the lead role."[42]

Released at the tail end of 1945, and starring two of the biggest 30ish stars in Hollywood, Spellbound was a huge box office success which ranked as the third most popular film of 1946.[18][19] It continued the rise of Peck into a star and even a major sex symbol.[43] Selznick noted in a memo that in preview tests of the movie, the women in the audiences had big reactions to the appearance of Peck’s name on the screen and his appearances near the start of the film and that they had to be shushed to quiet down.[44]

Peck's next film was quite a switch, as he played a pristine,[17] kind-hearted father, opposite wife Jane Wyman, whose son finds and insists on raising a 3-day-old fawn in 1870s Florida, in The Yearling (1946).[32] Upon release, one critic evaluated it as a film which "provides a wealth of satisfaction that few films ever attain" as it realizes on the screen the true emotions between a father and a son and of the son for a pet fawn.[45] Other reviewers said it provides "an emotional experience seldom equalled"[46] and is heart-warming with impressive underlying power.[47] Peck's good-humoured and affectionate performance was praised with one critic saying "the film is acted with rare perfection."[48] The Yearling was a box office success and landed six Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, and Peck won the Golden Globe for Best Actor.[49] In recent years, it has been described as "one of the best-made and most-loved family films of its time"[8] and as exquisitely filmed with memorable performances.[16]

Then, for an even larger switch, Peck took a role, his first "against type", as a cruel, amoral cowboy in the extravagant western soap opera Duel in the Sun (1946) opposite Jennifer Jones as the temptress object of Peck's love, anger and uncontainable sexual desire.[50][8] Also starring Joseph Cotton as his righteous brother and fellow competitor for the seductive Jones, the movie was resoundingly criticized and even banned in some cities for its sexual content.[51][52] The film was "universally drubbed" by the critics,[53] and in recent years has been described as overblown and vulgar[51] and as being an "often stupid sex-western",[16] but also being "visually resplendent."[52] The publicity around the overt sexuality of the film, plus a huge advertising campaign, resulted in the public flocking to see "Lust in the Dust", as it was nicknamed.[53] It accumulated the second highest box office gross of both 1947 and the 1940s overall.[54] Despite playing a character who one critic says "spends most of a movie on her back or grovelling on her belly,"[55] Jones landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.[56] Peck, it is said, "credibly holds his own against the scene-steeling veterans" in the movie.[57]

Perk's next release was the modest-budget, serious adult drama, The Macomber Affair (1947), about an African hunting guide (Peck) who takes a couple on a hunt and becomes the object of the wife's affections.[58][59] Although the stars never left the United States, footage of lions and water buffalo and landscape from Africa was effectively inserted and offered exciting action.[59] Peck took a very active role in the development of the film, including recommending the director, Zoltan Korda, and in later years would say he was disappointed the film was overlooked by the public upon its release and in later decades.[58] This occurred despite the movie receiving reviews that, while citing some flaws (some unreal dialogue, poor ending), evaluated the movie as exciting and suspenseful[59] and even a "brilliantly good job" of bringing an Ernest Hemingway book to the screen.[60] The film is not mentioned in most film guides today[30][61] and is not viewed by many movie watchers today.[62]

Gentleman's Agreement established his power in the "social conscience" genre in a film that took on the deep-seated, but subtle, anti-Semitism of mid-century corporate America.

In 1947, Peck was cast in the Paradine Case (1948), his second and last film collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock, in contrast to some other stars of the late 1940s and 50s, such as Cary Grant and James Stewart, who did four films each with Hitch, or Grace Kelly, who made three films with Hitch in only two years, and was courted by Hitch for additional films for several years after she retired.[63] Bergman made three films with Hitch in a five-year span and was then out of the U.S. for over a decade.[64] Peck and Hitchcock were described as having a cordial but cool relationship.[65] Hitchcock had hoped that Cary Grant would accept the male lead role in Spellbound and was disappointed when that was not the case. He accepted Peck in the role, but perceived him as a bit of a country boy, even though Peck had lived in urban California since his preteen years; Hitchcock tried to socialize with him by offering him friendly advice on things, such as what colour suites to wear, and they also talked about fine wines and spirits.[66] Hitchcock was not as forthcoming on advice for Peck's acting in Spellbound saying "I couldn't care less what your character is thinking. Just let your face drain of all expression" even though Peck was a relatively inexperienced romantic leading man hungering for direction.[67] Luckily, Peck clicked romantically with his screen partner Bergman, both on and off the set, which made their interactions in the film very convincing.[68]

When producer David O. Selznick insisted on casting Peck for the The Paradine Case, Hitchcock was apprehensive, questioning whether Peck could properly portray an English lawyer, something he would say again years later.[69] As well, The Paradine Case ended up being an unhappy production for both of them, not apparently through any actions of each other; Selznick desperately wanted a hit and ended up rewriting parts of the script after watching each days' film footage[70] and in some cases directed Hitchcock to re-shoot scenes in a less Hitchcockian manner.[71] In later years, Peck did not speak fondly of the making of the movie[70] and when he was once asked which of his films he would burn if he could, he immediately named The Paradine Case.[72]

The Paradine Case was a British-set courtroom drama about a defense lawyer fatally in love with his client.[70][73] It had an international cast including Charles Laughton, Ethel Barrymore (who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination), and Italian beauty Alida Valli, as the accused, in her American film debut.[74] Despite the difficulties amongst the stars, the director and the producer during production, at the time of release the film ended up having good reviews strongly complimenting Peck's performance.[74][75] The public was not impressed, however, and The Paradine Case ended up only re-cooping half of its lavish $4.2 million cost.[70] In recent decades the film has been described as stagy,[16] dreary,[8] verbose,[16][70] and never building dramatically despite strong performances and "some instances of Hitchcock's visual flair."[70] Other critics assess the plot as predictable, but praise Peck as being "vulnerable yet believable in a role that requires significant delicacy of touch" as some of the character's are hard to fathom.[39] Some comprehensive movie guides of recent years do not mention the movie.[30][61]

Publicity shot of Gregory Peck in Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Twelve O'Clock High (1949) was the first of many successful war films in which Peck embodied the brave, effective, yet human, fighting man. Based on real characters and events,[76] the movie was lauded by critics upon its release for its "rugged realism and punch" and was described as a "top-flight drama".[77] Another reviewer said the plot was expertly presented and that the film had a sharp emotional pull.[78] The National Board of Review ranked it in their top ten films of the year[79] and it received four Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture.[80] In recent years, film critics still hold a high opinion of the movie[81][16] with one critic saying it is "probably the best picture about the pressures which war imposes on those at the top"[82] and another declaring it as the best film of 1949.[79] As the newly appointed commander of a U.S. World War II bomber squadron who is tasked with whipping the squadron into shape, but then breaks down emotionally because of the stress of the job, Peck gave a performance described as flawless,[83] excellent[16] and riveting.[73] Peck was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won that title from the New York Film Critics Circle.[49] Twelve O'Clock High was also a commercial success finishing tenth in the 1942 box office rankings.[49][84]

As the decade turned, Peck was back in a couple of westerns, the first being The Gunfighter (1950), directed by Henry King, who had directed Twelve O'Clock High. Peck is the aging "Top Gun of the West" who is now weary of killing and wishes to retire with his wife and child that he has not seen for many years.[85][73] This psychological western, which is more of a character study with little action,[86] received solid reviews, as did Peck's performance, with one critic describing his character as fascinating.[87][88] The movie did only fair but disappointing business at the box office,[89] and studio executives blamed the mustache Peck had worn in it to give his character greater authenticity; they had not been aware he was wearing it until halfway through the shooting.[90][86] A second reason is probably that audiences did not expect to see, and did not want to see, the handsome, big star Peck in such a grim, sparse, understated film.[90] The Gunfighter has gained in critical appreciation over the years being admired for its superb production, melancholy realism and gritty suspense,[86][91][92] and being rated as a seminal movie in the western's move towards more psychological depth,[92] with Peck's performance being evaluated as impressive and dazzling.[92][8]

The other western which Peck was cast in, against his will, was Only the Valiant (1951), a B movie with obvious artificial production design.[93] Peck disliked the script and later labelled the movie as the low point of his career.[93][8] Peck had eventually signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick, and Selznick sold his services to Warner Bros for this movie.[93] The story of the movie is a very common one: "an unpopular, strict leader gathers together a rag-tag group of men and leads them on an extremely dangerous mission, turning them into a well-oiled fighting machine by the end and earning respect along the way."[94] In this case, Peck is an army captain and the mission is to protect an undermanned army fort against the warring Apache.[95][93] The love interest of Peck in the movie, and after hours as well, was troubled, sexpot Barbara Payton, a lesser known and more of a party-girl female lead than Peck was accustomed to.[96][97] While reviews were moderate at the time,[98] this little remembered picture,[99] that is not included in most film guides,[30][61] is assessed today as disappointing with a routine plot[93] or having a poor sceenplay made watchable by good performances, especially Peck's.[94][100]

Among his other films were Moby Dick (1956), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), Pork Chop Hill (1959), On the Beach (1959), which brought to life the terrors of global nuclear war, The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Roman Holiday (1953), with Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar-winning role. Peck and Hepburn were close friends until her death; Peck even introduced her to her first husband, Mel Ferrer. Peck once again teamed up with director William Wyler in the epic Western The Big Country (1958), which he co-produced.

Peck won the Academy Award with his fifth nomination, playing Atticus Finch, a Depression-era lawyer and widowed father, in a film adaptation of the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Released in 1962, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the Southern United States, this film and his role were Peck's favorites. In 2003, Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch was named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.[101]

Peck in 1973

Peck served as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute from 1967 to 1969, Chairman of the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund in 1971, and National Chairman of the American Cancer Society in 1966. He was a member of the National Council on the Arts from 1964 to 1966.[102]

A physically powerful man, he was known to do a majority of his own fight scenes, rarely using body or stunt doubles. In fact, Robert Mitchum, his on-screen opponent in Cape Fear, told about the time Peck once accidentally punched him for real during their final fight scene in the movie. He felt the impact for days afterward.[103] Peck's rare attempts at villainous roles were not acclaimed. Early on, he played the renegade son in the Western Duel in the Sun, and, later in his career, the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in The Boys from Brazil co-starring Laurence Olivier.[104]

Later work[edit]

In the 1980s, Peck moved to television, where he starred in the mini-series The Blue and the Gray, playing Abraham Lincoln. He also starred with Christopher Plummer, John Gielgud, and Barbara Bouchet in the television film The Scarlet and The Black, about Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, a real-life Catholic priest in the Vatican who smuggled Jews and other refugees away from the Nazis during World War II.

Peck, Mitchum, and Martin Balsam all had roles in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, directed by Martin Scorsese. All three were in the original 1962 version. In the remake, Peck played Max Cady's lawyer.

His last prominent film role also came in 1991, in Other People's Money, directed by Norman Jewison and based on the stage play of that name. Peck played a business owner trying to save his company against a hostile takeover bid by a Wall Street liquidator played by Danny DeVito.

Peck retired from active film-making at that point. Peck spent the last few years of his life touring the world doing speaking engagements in which he would show clips from his movies, reminisce, and take questions from the audience. He did come out of retirement for a 1998 mini-series version of one of his most famous films, Moby Dick, portraying Father Mapple (played by Orson Welles in the 1956 version), with Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab, the role Peck played in the earlier film. It was his final performance, and it won him the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film.

Peck had been offered the role of Grandpa Joe in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but died before he could accept it. The Irish actor David Kelly was then given the part.[105]


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 life-long Democrat, Peck was suggested in 1970 as a possible Democratic candidate to run against Ronald Reagan for the office of California Governor. Although he later admitted that he had no interest in being a candidate himself for public office, Peck encouraged one of his sons, Carey Peck, to run for political office. Carey was defeated both times by slim margins in races in 1978 and 1980 against Republican U.S. Representative Bob Dornan, another former actor.

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".[106] 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.[107] President Richard Nixon, though, placed Peck on his "enemies list", owing to Peck's liberal activism.[108]

Peck was outspoken against the Vietnam War, while remaining supportive of his son, Stephen, who fought there. In 1972, Peck produced the film version of Daniel Berrigan's play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine about the prosecution of a group of Vietnam protesters for civil disobedience. Despite his reservations about American general Douglas MacArthur as a man, Peck had long wanted to play him on film, and did so in MacArthur in 1976.[109]

In 1978, Peck traveled to Alabama, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird, to campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Donald W. Stewart of Anniston, who defeated the Republican candidate, James D. Martin, a former U.S. representative from Gadsden.

In 1987, Peck undertook the voice-overs for television commercials opposing President Reagan's Supreme Court nomination of conservative judge Robert Bork.[110] Bork's nomination was defeated. Peck was also a vocal supporter of a worldwide ban of nuclear weapons, and a life-long advocate of gun control.[111][112]

Personal life[edit]

Gregory Peck's tomb at Los Angeles Cathedral

In October 1942, Peck married Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen (1911–2008), with whom he had three sons: Jonathan (1944–1975), Stephen (b. 1946), and Carey Paul (b. 1949). They were divorced on December 31, 1955.

During his marriage with Greta, Peck had a brief affair with Spellbound co-star Ingrid Bergman.[96] He confessed the affair to Brad Darrach of People in a 1987 interview, saying: "All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that's where I ought to stop... I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work."[113][114][115]

On New Year's Day in 1956, the day after his divorce was finalized, Peck married Véronique Passani (1932–2012),[116] a Paris news reporter who had interviewed him in 1952 before he went to Italy to film Roman Holiday. He asked her to lunch six months later, and they became inseparable. They had a son, Anthony Peck (b. 1956),[117] and a daughter, Cecilia Peck (b. 1958).[118] The couple remained married until Gregory Peck's death. His son Anthony is an ex-husband of supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. His daughter Cecilia lives in Los Angeles.

Peck's eldest son, Jonathan, was found dead in his home on June 26, 1975, in what authorities believed was a suicide.[119]

Peck had grandchildren from both marriages.[120] One of his grandsons from his first marriage is actor Ethan Peck.

Peck owned the thoroughbred steeplechase race horse Different Class, which raced in England.[121] The horse was favored for the 1968 Grand National, but finished third. Peck was close friends with French president Jacques Chirac.[122]

Peck was Roman Catholic, and once considered entering the priesthood. Later in his career, a journalist asked Peck if he was a practicing Catholic. Peck answered: "I am a Roman Catholic. Not a fanatic, but I practice enough to keep the franchise. I don't always agree with the Pope... There are issues that concern me, like abortion, contraception, the ordination of women ... and others."[123] His second marriage was performed by a justice of the peace, not by a priest, because the Church prohibits remarriage if a former spouse is still living, and the first marriage was not annulled. Peck was a significant fund-raiser for the missionary work of a priest friend of his (Father Albert O'Hara), and served as co-producer of a cassette recording of the "New Testament" with his son Stephen.[123]


On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 at his home in Los Angeles.[124] His wife, Veronique, was by his side.[125]

Gregory Peck is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles. His eulogy was read by Brock Peters, whose character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck's Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.[126][127] The celebrities who attended Peck's 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.[126][128]


The Gregory Peck Award for Cinematic Excellence was created by the Peck family in 2008 to commemorate their father by honoring a director, producer or actor's life's work. Originally presented at the Dingle International Film Festival in his ancestral home in Dingle, Ireland,[129] since 2014 it has been presented at the San Diego International Film Festival in the city where he was born and raised. Recipients include Gabriel Byrne, Jim Sheridan, Laura Dern, Alan Arkin, Annette Bening, and Patrick Stewart. On October 18, 2019, Laurence Fishburne will receive the award.

Awards and honors[edit]

Peck was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning once. He was nominated for The Keys of the Kingdom (1945), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. In 1967, he received the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.[130]

Peck also received many Golden Globe awards. He won in 1947 for The Yearling, in 1963 for To Kill a Mockingbird, and in 1999 for the TV mini-series Moby Dick. He was nominated in 1978 for The Boys from Brazil. He received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1969, and was given the Henrietta Award in 1951 and 1955 for World Film Favorite – Male.

In 1969, 36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson honored Peck with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 1971, the Screen Actors Guild presented Peck with the SAG Life Achievement Award. In 1989, the American Film Institute gave Peck the AFI Life Achievement Award. He received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema in 1996.

He received the Career Achievement Award from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in 1983.[131]

In 1986, Peck was honored alongside actress Gene Tierney with the first Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain for their body of work.

In 1987, Peck was awarded the George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.[132]

In 1993, Peck was awarded with an Honorary Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[133]

In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[134]

In 2000, Peck was made a Doctor of Letters by the National University of Ireland. He was a founding patron of the University College Dublin School of Film, where he persuaded Martin Scorsese to become an honorary patron. Peck was also chairman of the American Cancer Society for a short time.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Gregory Peck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard. In November 2005, the star was stolen, and has since been replaced.[135]

On April 28, 2011, a ceremony was held in Beverly Hills, California, celebrating the first day of issue of a U.S. postage stamp commemorating Peck. The stamp is the 17th commemorative stamp in the "Legends of Hollywood" series.[136][137]

On April 5, 2016, the 100th anniversary of Peck's birth, Turner Classic Movies, cable/satellite TV channel, honored the actor by showing several of his films.


Peck donated his personal collection of home movies and prints of his feature films to the Film Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1999. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by printed materials in the Gregory Peck papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.[138]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Freedland, Michael. Gregory Peck: A Biography. New York: William Morrow and Company. 1980. ISBN 0-688-03619-8 p. 10
  2. ^ United States Census records for La Jolla, California 1910
  3. ^ United States Census records for St. Louis, Missouri – 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910
  4. ^ Ronald Bergan, "Gregory Peck obituary", The Guardian, June 13, 2003; see also Freedland, pp. 12–18
  5. ^ Freedland, pp. 16–19
  6. ^ Fishgall, Barry (2002). Gregory Peck: A Biography. New York City: Simon and Schuster. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-684-85290-X.
  7. ^ Thomas, Tony. Gregory Peck. Pyramid Publications, 1977, p. 16
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  9. ^ ""Gregory Peck comes home", ''Berkeley Magazine'', Summer 1996". Berkeley.edu. July 4, 2000.
  10. ^ Freedland, p. 35
  11. ^ a b "Gregory Peck Returns to Theatre Roots in Virginia Mountains", Playbill, June 29, 1998
  12. ^ Tad Mosel, Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell, Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1978[page needed]
  13. ^ Welton Jones. "Gregory Peck," San Diego Union-Tribune, April 5, 1998
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Arthur Freed
President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
Succeeded by
Daniel Taradash