Beloved author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Harper Lee, has passed away at the age of 89. With only one published novel for the most of her life, To Kill A Mockingbird is considered one of the best books of all time. The majority of us were probably forced to read the book for school whether we were interested in it or not. The literary classic quickly became one of my favorite books so I was pleased to hear that there was a film adaptation. Too often we see books to movie adaptations and find ourselves thinking that the book was better than the movie but that was not the case with To Kill A Mockingbird. Both the book and the movie are special pieces in American culture. I remember being first introduced to the movie from my mom because she too was a fan of the book. I decided to do a little more research and found a few facts about the critically acclaimed film:
1. Harper Lee's Involvement
Harper Lee was on the set of the film while the cast was shooting the first scene in which Atticus is greeted by Scout and Jem. Actor Gregory Peck noticed Lee was crying and asked her why as she explained he reminded her so much of her late father, who Atticus's character is based on (even down to his pot belly). Lee eventually gave Peck her father's pocket watch which he was wearing when he won an Academy Award for the role of Atticus Finch.
2. Tension Between Scout and Jem
Mary Badham (Scout) and Phillip Alford (Jem) did not get along on set of the movie. Badham would tease and mimic Alford when he would say his lines. During the scenes at the dinner table, Badham would have trouble with her lines. To Alford's dismay having to eat the same meal over and over for the filming, he decided to aim the tire she was riding in for a scene at an equipment truck in the hopes it would injure her.
3. The Start of Robert Duvall's Career
To Kill A Mockingbird marks the first role for actor Robert Duvall who plays Boo Radley. He spent six weeks out of the sun and dyed his hair blonde for the role. Duvall had no dialogue in the movie even though he remains such a big character but he did go on to have an amazing career, winning an Academy Award, two Emmy's, four Golden Globes, and a BAFTA.
4. Casting Tom Robinson
James Earl Jones auditioned for the role of Tom Robinson but it ultimately went to actor Brock Peters. In the court scene, Peters began to cry with no rehearsal and Gregory Peck had to avoid looking at him worried he would get choked up himself. Peters delivered Peck's eulogy at his funeral in 2003.
5. The Bond Between On-Screen Father and Daughter
Gregory Peck (Atticus) and Mary Badham (Scout) stayed close for the remainder of Peck's life and continued to always call her Scout. Peck obviously went on to have a great acting career but Badham and Philip Alford (Jem) did not act much after To Kill A Mockingbird, choosing to live relatively normal lives.
6. The Studio Risk
Many studios were not interested in buying the rights to the novel because there was no action and lacked a love story. Universal Pictures took a chance, which obviously became an amazing decision. Since Harper's hometown of Monroeville was too modernized for the setting in the 1960s, the crew created a backlot set to portray the fictional Alabama town in the 1930s to which Lee said looked perfect.
7. Monroeville Courthouse
The courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama that was copied for the film and still stands to this day as a museum dedicated to the book and movie. A new courthouse was built adjacent to the original one because it no longer serves for court proceedings. Every year the courthouse puts on a community play based on the book/movie and has always been given rave reviews. Add that to my bucket list!
8. Superhero Connections
(Although not movie related, I thought this was important to add). To Kill A Mockingbird is Clark Kent's favorite book according to the Superman comics.
At a young age, I didn't know much about Harper Lee or actors like Gregory Peck but I fell in love with the storytelling and seeing some of my favorite characters brought to life on screen. With racial issues still prevalent in today's society, the story's message still resonates, making it just as meaningful as it was 50 years ago. If you have yet to read the book or see the movie, please do yourself a favor and add it to your list immediately. The powerful messages and interesting characters will stay with you long after you finish the story. Thank you, Harper Lee, you will be missed.
Credits: Liveforfilms.com, IMDb