Peck won a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Atticus Finch – a lawyer in a small dusty Alabama town during the Depression who defends a black man (Brock Peters) accused of raping a white woman.
Though he is obviously innocent, the outcome of his trial is such a foregone conclusion amid the Southern small-town bigotry that no lawyer will step forward to defend him – except Finch, the town’s most distinguished citizen. His compassionate defence costs him many friendships but earns him the respect and admiration of his two motherless children.
Despite the tragic conclusion to the trial, the story offers some hope, not least in the portrait of Finch as a single parent, instilling principles of decency and morality into his children who can clearly see the inexcusable injustice for what it is.
We are left with the facts, and the world is left with a film that reflects on a tainted period in history, but one which still has repercussions today.
Peck had top-notch acting support while screenwriter Horton Foote also won an Oscar for an excellent job of translating Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the screen, and much of the atmosphere of the time and place remains intact.
The children are terrifically natural in important roles, particularly the ingenuous Scout Finch played by nine-year-old Alabaman Mary Badham (whose brother John, then at Yale, would go on to direct Saturday Night Fever (1977) and WarGames (1983).
To Kill a Mockingbird also boasts the feature debut of Robert Duvall as the children’s elusive neighbour, the bogeyman of their fantasies, and ultimately their saviour, Boo Radley.
One of Hollywood’s better efforts at filming a story dealing with racial problems in the United States.
Sheriff Heck Tate
Mayella Violet Ewell
Collin Wilcox Paxton
Aunt Stephanie Crawford
Mr Gilmer (Prosecutor)
Walter Cunningham Sr.