Eldred Gregory Peck could only have been made in America. In him was mirrored all that was right about that country: decency, respectfulness, charitable attributes, liberal politics...his American healthy outdoor handsome features could have been chiselled from the rock of Mt. Rushmore.
He was born in La Jolla, California on 5 April 1916.
His parents divorced when he was five and he was brought up by his grandmother.
He studied at Berkeley, where he got the acting bug and changed the focus of his studies. He enrolled in the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York and debuted on Broadway after graduation in Emlyn Williams' stage play The Morning Star. By 1943, he was in Hollywood where he debuted in the RKO film Days of Glory (a poor Jacques Tourneur directed movie).
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and again for The Yearling (1946), for which he won the Golden Globe.
Peck's became well known for his screen presence. He appeared rugged, decent and heroic. He appeared in several Westerns in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. He was nominated again for the Academy Award with his roles in Gentleman's Agreement(1947) and Twelve O’clock High (1949).
With a string of hits behind him, Peck took the decision to only work in films that interested him, appearing in Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) and Moby Dick (1956). He also worked with Audrey Hepburn on Roman Holiday.
After four nominations, Peck won the Oscar for his performance in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
In the 70s, he began producing with The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, and The Dove, but his acting career waned until he made a comeback in the horror film The Omen (1976).
In the 80s, Peck moved into television with the mini series The Blue and the Gray, and the movie The Scarlet and the Black.
Peck has received the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Medal of Freedom. Always politically liberal, he was active in charity and political work. He died peacefully, aged 87, with his second wife Veronica by his side on June 12th 2003.
Gregory Peck was an outspoken defender of Michael Jackson as a parent. He had been close friends with Jckson for 25 years. Jackson helped plan his memorial service.
He was married to Veronique for 48 years.
On the night of 12th June 2003, he told Veronique he didn't feel well. So she sat with him and held his hand. They had rarely been apart - even for a day at a time.
Around a.m., Greg looked at Veronique, dozed off and died quietly.
On Monday, 16th June 2003, Peck was laid to rest in a quiet family funeral in the Crypt mausoleum beneath the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral (the seat of the largest US Catholic diocese) in Los Angeles.
Among the 3,000 mourners at his memorial at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral were Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Harry Belafonte, Angelica Huston, Brock Peters and Michael Jackson.
His son, Jonathan Peck committed suicide in 1975 at the age of 31. The tragedy almost destroyed Peck.
He identified completely with the part of the Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Developed a deep friendship with Ava Gardner, his co-star in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. He appreciated her unflinching candor and ribald sense of humour.
Roman Holiday & Audrey Hepburn
Whilst he was making Roman Holiday, his first wife, Greta, and her mother , Emily Piipari, went to Helsinki for the XV Olympic Games. Mother and daughter hadn't been back to Helsinki since Greta was a child.
He recalled making Roman Holiday thus: 'It was my good luck, during that wonderful summer in Rome, to be the first of her screen fellows, to hold out my hands and help her keep her balance as she did her spins and pirouettes. Those months [were] probaly the happiest experience I ever had making movies'.
He also said: 'I liked her a lot. In fact I loved Audrey. It was easy to love her'.
The director, William Wyler, was nicknamed '90-take Wyler'.
When they filmed at the Coliseum, had worked 24 hours straight.
Cary Grant turned down the main role in Roman Holiday because it focused too much on the Audrey Hepburn character. Peck did it because he wanted to play comedy.
The Boys From Brazil, Laurence Olivier & Dr.Josef Mengele
He considered Laurence Olivier the best actor in the world. Olivier gave him advice when he was preparing to play MacArthur: 'No matter how heavy the drama, you must always look for the foibles of the character, and exploit them in tragedy'.
In The Boys From Brazil (1978), he was given the opportunity to play against type - big time. 'Villain' hardly suggests the historic treachery of Dr. Josef Mengele who carried out horrifying experiments of prisoners in the Nazi death camps and sent an estimated 2.5 million Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Afterwards, he escaped to South America and died on a Brazilian beach in the mid-1980s.
The film is a fictional account of Mengele's discovery of a method of cloning Hitler from samples of the Fuhrer's blood, and his plan to establish the Fourth Reich.
Two of the main reasons Peck chose to make the film was to keep the Holocaust in the spotlight and to work with Olivier.
My own view (webpage editor) of the film is that it is extremely disappointing and an opportunity missed. What actually happened to Mengele in South America after the war, while obviously less sensational than the film, is far more interesting than anything that appeared in this Lew Grade-turkey. When I say 'interesting' I mean how on earth he wasn't caught in those years would make a far more thought-provoking film. From what I can remember he was initially captured by Allied Troops straight after the war and managed to escape; he was in the phone book in Buenos Aires right up to 1958 just two years before the capture of Adolf Eichmann; he met Adolf Eichmann at least twice though they never really got on; and there was regular contact through his lawyer in Germany as well as with his wealthy family. Years after his death his son spoke about meeting him and included pictures of Mengele as an old man. He denied to him his part in the atrocities.
There is but a few seconds moving film of him that exists. No more than three seconds. A ghostly figure, middle-aged, moving past the camera and into the history books of evil. And that's it: all we see of the Angel of Death.
It would have been good to see how Mengele coped after hearing about Eichmann's capture - how did it impact his life on the run when he knew that at any moment he could be captured by Mossad. Far, far more in that than a half-pot blood cloning twaddle of a movie.
I said 'opportunity missed' earlier as I do think for years afterwards filmmakers were put off telling the real story as this movie had already been made. If it hadn't I truly believe that some great filmmaker would have been fascinated enough by this story to have wanted to tell it.
When he divorced his first wife, Greta, she was awared one of the largest settlements in Hollywood history. She received halp of the couple's community property including the house Gregory Peck on San Remo Drive in the Pacific Palisades and substantial interet in three motion pictures, The World in His Arms, Roman Holiday and Moby Dick. She was awared 20% of the first $100,000 Peck earned annually for the next ten years, 12.5% of the 2nd $100,000, 10% of the 3rd $100,000, 7.5% pf the 4th $100,000 and 5% of his earnings until she remarried (she remained single). In addition, she won $250.00 a month for each of their 3 children.
For Moby Dick, Peck received $250,000 for the picture and a percentage of the film's takings.
Locations included Youghal, a port town on the South Irish coast, as the film's New Bedford. The film was shot on the Irish Sea, in the Canary Islands, and in the studio in London.
John Huston was the director. His young daughter, Angelica, met Peck for the first time when he was dressed as Ahab. 'I remember seeing him as a four-year-old in Fishguard, Wales, with a peg leg and a big top hat. And that was the beginning of my love affair with Gregory Peck'.
Huston told the writer that he had a telegram from the producers saying they wanted a woman in the film as a love interest. The writer was disgusted until Huston cracked up and realised it was a joke.
They had adverse weather during the making of the film. They didn't lose any men but lost two 'whales' due to the weather in the Irish Sea. The 'whales' were plastic fabrications. They were 90 feet long, constructions of steel covered in latex - big, expensive articles. When one was broken it would take weeks to construct the 2nd one which meant they had to scrap around and try to shoot other scenes. This was one of the reasons the film went over-budget.
A 3rd whale was made for the final sea sequences in the Canary Islands.
Although Youghal was selected as the town that most closely resembled New Bedord, Massachusetts in 1841, the construction crews had to place special wooden shells over the front of the shores to make it look more authentic.