Oscar Actors: Peck, Gregory–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography (Cum Advantage)

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

Peck’s other Oscar-nominated roles are 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 B. 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.

Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in San Diego, California, to 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, and his mother was of English and Scots ancestry.  She converted to her husband’s religion, Catholicism, 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’s parents divorced when he was five, and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother, who took him to the movies every week.

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. He attended San Diego High School, and after graduating in 1934, 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.

Peck had ambitions to be a doctor, and later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, 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 gained attention, and after taking a public speaking course, he decided to try acting.

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 in Moby Dick. Peck would 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.”

In 1996, Peck donated $25,000 to the Berkeley rowing crew in honor of his coach, the renowned Ky Ebright.

Peck did not graduate with his friends because he lacked one course. His college friends were concerned for him and wondered how he would get along without his degree. “I have all I need from the university”, he told them. Peck dropped the name “Eldred” and headed to New York City to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse with the legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner. He was often broke, and sometimes slept in Central Park. He worked at the 1939 World’s Fair as a barker, and Rockefeller Center as a tour guide for NBC television, and at Radio City Music Hall.

He dabbled in modelling before, in 1940, working in exchange for food at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, where he appeared in five plays, including Family Portrait and On Earth As It Is.

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. The play opened in San Francisco just one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams’ The Morning Star in 1942. 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 exempted 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 later 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.”

In 1947, Peck co-founded The La Jolla Playhouse, at his birthplace, with Mel Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire. 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 operates today. It has attracted Hollywood film stars, both as performers and enthusiastic supporters.

After about 50 plays in total, including three short-lived Broadway plays, four or five road tours, and the rest during summer theater, Peck was offered his first film role, the male lead in the war-romance Days of Glory (1944), directed by Jacques Tourneur, alongside top-billed Tamara Toumanova, a Russian-born ballerina. Peck portrayed the leader of Russian guerrillas resisting the Germans in 1941 who stumble across a beautiful Russian dancer (Toumanova), who had been sent to entertain Russian troops, and protect her by letting her join their group.[9][19] During production of the film, Tourneur “untrained” Peck from his theater training where he was used to speaking in a formal manner and projecting his voice to the entire hall.[20] Peck considered his performance in the film as quite amateurish and did not wish to watch the film after it was released.[20] The film lost money at the box office, disappeared from theaters quickly,[21][22] and was largely dismissed by critics.

Bosley Crowther assessed it as slow-moving and verbose, adding that Peck’s acting was stiff. Opinions on the movie are mixed, with some of the sources saying it is too verbose or plodding, but TimeOut saying “it’s sober and surprisingly convincing, even making the romantic interludes with Toumanova unforced and natural. Quite beautifully directed.”[27] Despite the film’s lack of success, critics and audiences were in agreement that Peck had screen potential.[28] Film historian Barry Monush wrote, “Peck’s star power was evident from the word go.”[9] Hollywood movie producers became very interested in him, but rather than signing an exclusive long-term contract with one studio, he decided to freelance,[9] signing non-exclusive contracts with four studios,[29] including an unusual dual contract with 20th Century Fox and Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick.[30] This enabled Peck to choose only roles that interested him and resulted in his landing roles in several big-budget films over the next few years.[9]

Peck’s second movie, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), features him as an 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest looking back at his undertakings during over half a century spent as a determined, self-sacrificing missionary in China. The film shows him aging from his 20s to 80 and he is in almost every scene. Peck received his first Best Actor nomination and the movie had three other nominations, including for cinematography. Although the film finished only 27th at the box office in North America for 1944, Peck’s breakthrough performance catapulted him to stardom.

At the time of release, Peck’s performance was lauded by Variety and The New York Times, but those publications did not agree about the movie.[c] In the twenty-first century, reviews of The Keys of the Kingdom from six prominent sources continue to show mixed opinions with most discussing the film’s length[d] with TV Guide noting, “At 137 minutes, it was a fat film…Even at that length, it moved at a medium pace and managed to make its points without moralizing…There were many excellent set-piece scenes…Lots of good work from several character people”[41] RadioTimes says “it’s a long, talkative and rather undramatic picture, but its success saved Peck’s career after the weak showing of his first movie…strong supporting cast.”[42] Critics who give opinions of Peck’s performance are usually very positive[e] with film critic Greg Orypeck observing that Peck renders “a sincere, believable performance ranging from soft-spoken compassion to almost retaliatory loathing.”[32] The Keys of the Kingdom is not viewed by many movie watchers today.[43]

David Thomson wrote, “From his debut, Peck was always a star and rarely less than a box office success.” From 1945 to 1951, Peck was among the most successful Hollywood stars as The Valley of Decision was the highest-grossing movie of in 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, while Captain Horatio Hornblower was seventh.

Peck’s rapid success was further validated by being nominated for the Best Actor Oscar four times in the first six years of film career, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949).

In The Valley of Decision (1944), an extravagant, sprawling romantic 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, who had won the Academy Award for Best Actress two years prior.[46][9] Garson plays the protagonist who tries to smooth relations between her friends and Irish family and Peck’s, relations which get especially tense when the mill workers strike,[47] and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[48] Upon release, reviews from The New York Times and Variety were somewhat positive, with Peck’s performance described as commanding. In recent years, the two reviews from prominent sources are fair[g] but many summaries of Peck’s career and comprehensive movie review books or websites do not review the movie[h] and the movie is not viewed much today, despite the fact it was North America’s biggest grossing movie of 1945.

Peck’s next film was the first of two movies he would do with Hitchcock, the suspense-romance Spellbound (1945), opposite the previous year’s Academy Award for Best Actress winner, the alluring Ingrid Bergman. Peck plays a man who is thought to be the new director of the psychiatric facility where Bergman’s character works as a psychoanalyst, but he has amnesia and is having disturbing visions that suggest he may have murdered someone.[56] Released at the tail end of 1945, Spellbound was a huge hit that ranked as the third most successful film of 1946.[45][46] Frank Miller of Turner Classic Movies has written that the movie continued the rise of Peck into a Hollywood star and even “a major sex symbol.”[57] Producer David O. Selznick noted that during preview tests of the movie, the women in the audiences had big reactions to the appearance of Peck’s name on the screen and that during the first few scenes he appeared in they had to be shushed to quiet down.[57] Spellbound was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture,[33] although it was not in the National Board of Review’s top ten films of the year.[58]

Peck and Hitchcock were described as having cordial but cool relationship.[59] The director had hoped that Cary Grant would accept the male lead role in Spellbound and was disappointed when he did not. 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 on what color suits to wear and about fine wines and spirits.[60] Hitchcock was not as forthcoming on advice for Peck’s acting, saying to him “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.[61] Peck later said he thought he was too young when he first worked with Hitchcock and that Hitchcock’s indifference to a character’s motivation, which was important to Peck, shook his confidence.[30] Peck clicked romantically with his screen and overnight partner Bergman, so their screen romance was convincing.[62]

Spellbound was very well received by critics at the time, as was Peck’s performance with the New York Herald Tribune stating that it was a “masterful psychiatric thriller … with compelling performances by Bergman and Peck”.[66] Critical opinion of Spellbound has been mixed in recent decades, with some critics calling it fascinating,[j] others suggesting it is okay,[k] but some questioning its realism,[l] with Patrick Legare of AllMovie commenting, the film “has a series of incredibly eerie dream sequences…the film’s thriller elements, combined with a series of outstanding visuals, bring Spellbound within a notch of the director’s best works” and “Gregory Peck is a strong male lead…Bergman steals the show as his love-struck shrink,” but it uses “psychoanalytic ideas that are simplistic and obsolete to the point of becoming comical.”[71] Some other critics assert Peck’s performance is sub-par with writers Paul Condon and Jim Sangster saying Peck “fails to elicit sympathy in the way he does so often in other films.”[m]

In Peck’s next film he played a pristine, kind-hearted father, opposite wife Jane Wyman, whose son finds and insists on raising a three-day-old fawn in 1870s Florida, in The Yearling (1946).

Reviews upon release were very positive[n] with Bosley Crowther evaluating it as a film that “provides a wealth of satisfaction that few films ever attain.”[75] The Yearling was a box office success finishing with the ninth highest box office gross for 1947[45] and landed six nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, and Peck won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his good-humored and affectionate performance.[76] In recent decades, it has continued to receive critical praise[o] with Barry Monush writing, it is “one of the best-made and most-loved family films of its day,”[9] and all the critics who comment on the performances assess them as strong.[citation needed]

Then Peck took his first “against type” role, as a cruel, amoral cowboy in the extravagant western soap opera Duel in the Sun (1946) with top-billed Jennifer Jones as the provocative, temptress object of Peck’s love, anger and uncontrollable sexual desire.[80] Their interactions are described by film historian Thomson as “a constant knife fight of sensuality.”[82] Also starring Joseph Cotten as Peck’s righteous half brother and competitor for the affections of the “steamy, sexpot” character of Jones,[83] the movie was resoundingly criticized, and even banned in some cities, due to its lurid, sexual nature,neven after some of the most sizzling scenes between Peck and Jones had been cut.[86] The publicity around the eroticism of Duel in the Sun,[87] one of the biggest movie advertising campaigns in history (focused on promoting the film’s unbridled sexuality), and a new tactic of opening the movie in hundreds of theaters across the U.S. at once[88] (including saturating the theaters in cities where it was opening), resulted in the movie being the second highest-grossing movie of both 1947 and the 1940s overall.[91]

Jones landed a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Duel in the Sun and some audiences are amazed at the passion in her performance,[80] even though in TV Guide’s review of the movie they describe it as “Jones’ failing entry into the Jane Russell sex goddess sweepstakes.”[81][q] Nicknamed “Lust in the Dust”, the film received mostly negative reviews upon release, such as Bosley Crowther writing that “performances are strangely uneven” and due to “the ultimate banality of the story and juvenile slobbering over sex” it “is a spectacularly disappointing job” which “has some flashes of brilliance in it” such as “eye-dazzling scenes of wide-open ranching and frontiering.”[90] In recent decades, most reviews from prominent critics and publications cite significant weaknesses but many acknowledge a certain bizarre entertainment value,[s] with Leonard Maltin describing it as “big, brawling, engrossing, often stupid sex-western…with memorable scenes.”[26] Opinions of those who comment on Peck’s performance have been polarized.[t]

Peck’s next release was the modest-budget, serious adult drama, The Macomber Affair (1947), concerning a couple who go on an African hunting trip with their guide played by Peck. During the trip, the wife, played by Joan Bennett, becomes enamored with Peck, and the husband gets shot.[99] Although the performers never left the United States, African footage was cut into the story.[100] Peck was very active in the development of the film, including recommending the director, Zoltan Korda. The film received positive reviews[u] but was mostly overlooked by the public upon its release and in later decades, which Peck would later say disappointed him.[99]

In November 1947, Peck’s next film, the landmark Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, was released and was immediately proclaimed as “Hollywood’s first major attack on anti-Semitism.” Based on a novel, the film has Peck portraying a New York magazine writer who pretends to be Jewish so he can experience personally the hostility of bigots.[105] It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Peck for Best Actor, and won Best Film and Best Director, picks which the New York Film Critics Circle and the Golden Globes affirmed.[106] It was also a hit, top-grossing film of 1948 with $3.9 million, $600,000 behind the top film. Peck would indicate in his later years that this was one of his movies of which he was most proud.[107]

Upon release, Gentleman’s Agreement was widely praised for both its courageousness and its quality,[v] with Bosley Crowther saying “every point about prejudice…has been made with superior illustration” and it’s “a sizzling film”.[111] Peck’s performance has been described as very convincing by many critics, both upon release and in recent years.[w] In recent decades, some critics have voiced negative comments about the film,[x] such as film writer Matt Bailey writing “Gentleman’s Agreement may have been an important film at one time, but was never a good film,” and some assess Peck’s performance as unconvincing.[y] However, Richard Gilliam of AllMovie asserts, “It is a solidly-made, well-crafted film, and if it seems tame or weak by today’s standards then that is because we, both as a society and as individuals, know and understand much more today than we did in 1947,” Other critics fully agree with Gilliam, suggesting that expectations for movies are different today than in the mid-20th century.[z]

Peck’s next three releases were commercial disappointments. The first of these, the Paradine Case (1947), was his second and last film collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock. When producer Selznick insisted on casting Peck for the movie, Hitchcock was apprehensive, questioning whether Peck could properly portray an English lawyer, something he would say again years later. 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 day’s film footage[121] and in some cases directed Hitchcock to re-shoot scenes in a less Hitchcockian manner. In later years, Peck did not speak fondly of the making of the movie, and when he was once asked which of his films he would burn if he could, he immediately named The Paradine Case.[123]

Released at the tail end of 1947,The Paradine Case was a British-set courtroom drama about a defense lawyer fatally in love with his client. 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.[124] The movie received good reviews from Bosley Crowther and Variety, both of which complimenting Peck’s performance,[aa] but the public was not impressed, and The Paradine Case ended up only recouping half of the lavish $4.2 million it cost.[121] In recent decades, the film has been described by most critics as talky and slow-moving, although critics who comment on Peck’s performance say he did a good job.[ab] Writers Paul Condon and Jim Sangster write “a somewhat predictable plotline mars a film that boasts some superb performances” adding “Peck is vulnerable yet believable in a role that requires significant delicacy of touch to maintain viewer’s loyalty and interest.”

Peck was next cast sharing top billing with Anne Baxter in the western Yellow Sky (1948), that being the name of the ghost town that Peck’s group of bank robbers seek refuge in, and then encounter the spunky tomboy, Baxter, her grandfather, and their gold.[129] Peck gradually develops an interest in Baxter’s character, who in turn seems to rediscover her femininity and develops an interest in him.[130] Reviews rate the film highly most of them citing excellent black-and-white cinematography, strong direction, and a very good screenplay,[ac][ad] with Variety writing upon its release, “the outdoor locations have been magnificently lensed. The director has put together an ace of a screenplay, given its dialogue rings true, and then proceeded with showmanly production guidance to make Sky a winner. The direction is vigorous, potently emphasizing every element of suspense and action and displaying the cast to the utmost advantage. There’s never a faltering scene.”[134] Critics which commented on Peck’s performance felt it to be solid.  Some critics who rated the film highly do cite the ending involving Peck’s character’s conversion (critic A.E. Wilson wrote, he’s “one of those agreeable bandits who need only a shave and the influence of a good woman to turn them into thoroughly decent citizens”)[135] as being slightly unbelievable,[af] or the romance as partly contrived,[131] but Craig Butler of AllMovie asserts, the “beautifully detailed direction…even makes the love angle work.”[132] The public wasn’t as receptive as the movie was only moderately commercial successful.[136]

The year after, Peck was paired with Ava Gardner for their first of three movies together in The Great Sinner (1949), an opulent period drama-romance where a Russian writer, Peck, becomes addicted to the vice (gambling) while helping the ravishing Gardner and her father pay back their debts.[137] The film received unfavorable reviews usually describing it as dull[ag] and the public was not interested, rendering it a commercial disappointment.[9][140] In modern times, comments from four recognized film review sources are contradictory.[ah] Leonard Maltin labels it “Lavishly produced but murky, talky,”[26] but TV Guide says “this often gripping film” has strong performances, that “Peck is powerful”, and that “the art and set direction are excellent with sumptuous re-creations of the high fashion gambling rooms, hotels and salons of 19-century Wiesbaden,” but “has a contrived upbeat Hollywood ending.”[143] Many film guides do not list this movie.

Peck originally rejected his assignment to The Great Sinner, which was to be his last movie under his contract to M-G-M, and only eventually agreed to do it as a favor to the studio’s production head.[138] Up until shortly before filming began, blonde siren Lana Turner was to play the female lead, but she was in Europe on an extended honeymoon and when she did not travel back in time, was replaced by the brunette Gardner.[144][138] Peck ended up becoming great friends with Gardner and would later declare her his favorite co-star.[9] Peck always said he thought she was a very good actress even though he said she often spoke poorly of her acting abilities.[140] Their friendship lasted the rest of Gardner’s life and when Gardner died in 1990, Peck took in both her housekeeper and her dog.[145]

Later in 1949, Twelve O’Clock High (1949), the first of many successful war films in which Peck embodied the brave, effective, yet human, fighting man, was released. Based on real characters and events, Peck portrays the new 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.[105] The National Board of Review ranked it in their top ten films of the year[58] and it received four Academy Awards nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in a leading role (Peck,)[33] with Peck winning that title from the New York Film Critics Circle.[76] Twelve O’Clock High was a commercial success finishing tenth in the 1950 box office rankings.[146]

Twelve O’Clock High received very strong reviews upon release,[ai] with Bosley Crowther describing it as a “top-flight drama” and as “tremendously vivid”, and saying that it “has conspicuous dramatic integrity, genuine emotional appeal and a sense of the moods of an airbase that absorb and amuse the mind. And it is beautifully played by a male cast, directed by Henry King, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for Twentieth Century-Fox.”[148] Variety said the movie “deals soundly and interestingly with its situations” and unveils its plot “from a flashback angle so expertly presented that the emotional pull is sharpened.”[149] Film critics of the 1990s and since still hold a high opinion of it[aj] with TimeOut writing “One of Peck’s best performances…A superb first half…King’s control, the electric tension and the performances all hold firm (to its end).”[153] Evaluations of Peck’s performance, both in 1949 and in recent years, are glowing,[ak] including Bosley Crowther writing “High and particular praise for Gregory Peck…Peck does an extraordinarily able job in revealing the hardness and the softness of a general exposed to peril.”[154] Film historian Peter von Bagh considers Peck’s performance “as Brigadier General Frank Savage to be the most enduring of his life.”[155]

In the early 1950s Peck had lead roles in two westerns, the first being The Gunfighter (1950), directed by Henry King, who had directed Twelve O’Clock High. Peck plays an aging “Top Gun of the West” who is now weary of killing and wishes to retire with his alluring but pragmatic wife and his seven-year-old son, both of which he has not seen for many years. Peck and King did much photographic research about the Wild West Era and had discovered that most cowboys had mustaches, or even beards, had “bowl” haircuts and wore beat-up clothing, so Peck decided to wear a mustache in a film role for the first time to give his character greater period authenticity.

The Gunfighter did fair but disappointing business at the box office,[160] earning $5.6 million in receipts, the 47th most for 1951.[161] Twentieth Century Fox’s studio chief Darryl Zanuck blamed Peck’s mustache for turning off young female film-goers, because most of them wanted to see usual handsome, clean-shaven Peck, not the authentic-cowboy Peck. Peck later said when the studio’s president saw some footage with him wearing mustache two weeks into the shoot, he wanted to re-shoot everything, but balked when he was told the cost, which was actually double the real cost as the production manager had been persuaded by Peck and King to inflate the amount.

Jeremy Arnold of TCM says the mustache causing the poor box office of the film is probably an exaggeration, “but it’s possible that the overall sparse, understated, antihero grunginess of The Gunfighter was not what Peck fans wanted to see in 1950.”[

The Gunfighter, which is a psychological western, a character study with little action, received “solid reviews” upon release, with some critics “raving over it”[164][al] and Peck’s performance “bringing him some of his best notices.”[9] Bosley Crowther wrote, that it is “one of the tautest and most stimulating Westerns of the year … [G]ood writing, good direction and good acting…provides some of the slickest, sharpest drama that you will get in this type of film … with a lot of incidents of humorous, dramatic, sentimental and even poignant quality [it’s] an intriguing film which actually says a little something about the strangeness of the vainglory of man. And through Mr. Peck’s fine performance, a fair comprehension is conveyed of the loneliness and the isolation of a man with a lurid name … an arresting and quite exciting film.” He thought the lead character was “played shrewdly by Gregory Peck”.

The movie has grown in critical appreciation over the years and “is now considered one of the all-time classic westerns” A number of critics particularly cite its realistic portrayal of the West in the late 19th-century[an] and its excellent cinematography and direction.[ao] TV Guide writes, “An arresting, superbly produced and downbeat Western photographed in black and white, it presents an unglorified view of the Old West as a grim, dirty and decidedly desperate place … Henry King’s direction is outstanding, holding the action tautly drawn, while Arthur Miller’s high-contrast cinematography is highly suggestive.” Critics of recent decades uniformly praise Peck’s performance,[ap] with David Parkinson of RadioTimes saying “Peck gives a performance of characteristic dignity and grit.”[168] TV Guide says “The Gunfighter was as a seminal movie in the western’s move away from action cliches towards more psychological depth.”[171][aq]

The other western which Peck was cast in, this one against his will, was Only the Valiant (1951), a low-budget movie, for which Peck disliked the script and would later label as the low point of his career.[172][9] Peck’s non-exclusive contract with David O. Selznick permitted Selznick to sell his services to other studios, and Selznick sold his services to Warner Bros for this movie after he ran into financial difficulties.[172] The plot 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.”[173] In this variation of the plot, Peck portrays a U.S. army captain and the mission is to protect an undermanned army fort against the attacking Apache.[174][172] The romantic interest of Peck in the movie, and after-hours as well, was lesser-known, troubled Barbara Payton.[62][175] Variety’s review said “In this cavalry yarn … great pains have been exerted to provide interesting characters. Peck makes the most of a colorful role.”[176] It did fair business at the box office earning $5.7 million in receipts which was 35th for the year.[177] This little-remembered picture,[178] is not included in most film guides,[52][105] and today receives mixed reviews from the three prominent sources that have issued comments of it, although Peck’s acting is assessed as impressive.[ar]

Also released in spring 1951 in the United Kingdom (fall 1951 in North America), was Peck’s first movie of four in eight years portraying a commander at sea. Based on a popular British novel, Captain Horatio Hornblower features Peck as the commander of a warship in the British fleet during naval battles against the French and Spanish in the Napoleonic Wars, a commander who also finds romance with Virginia Mayo’s character in between the swashbuckling.[182] Peck was attracted to the character, saying, “I thought Hornblower was an interesting character. I never believe in heroes who are unmitigated and unadulterated heroes, who never know the meaning of fear.”[183] The role had been originally intended for Errol Flynn, but he was felt to be too old by the time the project came to fruition.[182] Captain Horatio Hornblower was a box office success finishing ninth for the year in the UK.[184] and seventh in the North America.[44]

Some reviews in 1951 lauded Peck’s performance as Captain Horatio Hornblower, with Bob Thomas of the Associated Press saying Peck provided “the proper dash and authenticity as the remarkable nineteenth-century skipper”[185] and Variety writing “Peck stands out as a skilled artist, capturing the spirit of the character and atmosphere of the period. Whether as the ruthless captain ordering a flogging as a face-saving act for a junior officer or tenderly nursing a woman through yellow fever, he never fails to reflect the Forester character.”[186] In the twenty-first century, reviews of Peck’s performance range from somewhat negative to very positive.[as] Richard Gilliam of AllMovie argues, it is “an excellent performance from Gregory Peck” elaborating that “Peck brings his customary aura of intelligence and moral authority to the role,”[189] but David Parkinson of the RadioTimes asserts “Gregory Peck plays Hornblower as a high-principle stuff shirt and thus confounds director Raoul Walsh’s efforts to inject some pace.”[190] The reviews of the movie upon its release were good to very good[at] with Variety giving the most positive review saying it’s “a spectacular success” and “effervescent entertainment with action all the way. It is an incisive study of a man who is dispassionate, aloof and remote, yet is often capable of finer feelings … The major action sequences have been lensed with great skill.”[192] Critical opinion today ranges from rating it as average to excellent with some critics asserting the romance or psychological study components detract from the well-filmed adventure components.[au]

An even bigger-budget movie featuring Peck, his third directed by Henry King, was released in North America a month before Captain Horatio Hornblower. David and Bathsheba, a lavish Biblical epic, was the top-grossing movie of 1951.[46] The two-hit-movie punch elevated Peck to the status of Hollywood mega-star.[194] David and Bathsheba tells the story of David (Peck), who slew Goliath as a teenager; and, later, as beloved King, becomes infatuated with the luscious Bathsheba, played by Susan Hayward; and then, after much soul searching, sends her soldier husband into a certain-death battle. He then divorces the first wife of his harem, which allows him to engage with the equally-willing Bathsheba, after which God devastates the kingdom; and only after much devastation does David seek atonement from God.[195][196]

Peck’s performance in David and Bathsheba was evaluated upon release by Bosley Crowther “as an authoritative performance,”[197] Variety said “Peck is a commanding personality…he shades his character expertly,”,[196] and Bob Thomas said “Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward lend great credibility to the title roles.”[198] In recent years, Jerry Butler of AllMovie argues, if Peck “is a trifle stiff, he supplies the requisite power and charisma,”[199] Radiotimes says “Peck manages to exude nobility,”[200] TV Guide says the movie is “awash with juice thanks to the force supplied by the three leads,”[201] and Leonard Maltin says the movie has “only fair performances.”[26] In 1951, the critics gave David and Bathsheba positive reviews, generally saying it avoided excessive spectacle[av] with Bob Thomas writing it “is a Biblical epic of immense scope…written and performed with dignity and restraint…There are some dull spots and David could have used some of Samson’s excitement. But David is more satisfying work and a tribute to its makers.”[198] By contrast, in recent decades, some critics do assert it is overblown and also dull and generally give it negative to slightly positive reviews.[aw] Craig Butler of AllMovie says, “The script is predictably overblown, filled with the kind of bombast and stilted melodrama that is to be expected. It’s ridiculous, yet in its own strange way it works…The direction is big and broad…yet ultimately rather sterile. But there’s plenty of spectacle to fill the eyes, with gorgeous costumes, delicious cinematography and fabulous sets…[ax]David also has a stellar cast…Susan Hayward is a delight as the luscious adulterous…throw in some nifty battle scenes, and the result is good if occasionally dawdling.”[199] Eddie Dorman Kay asserts it “paled in comparison to other large-scale melodramas,”[203] which could be the reasons for its low level of viewing in recent decades.[204]

Peck was back in a seafaring adventure-romance in his next movie, The World in His Arms (1952), directed by Raoul Walsh, who had also directed Captain Horatio Hornblower. Peck portrays a seal-hunting ship captain in 1850 San Francisco who romances a Russian countess played by Ann Blyth and ends up engaging a rival sealer played by Anthony Quinn in a sailing race to Alaska.[205][206] In 1952, three prominent critics/publications gave it positive reviews[ay] with Variety enthusing it contained “some of the best sea footage ever put on film” and Bob Thomas stating “The story puts the accent on action…there is an overdose of action. It all ends up to exciting and colorful stuff with no strain on the thinking matter.”[210] In the twenty-first century, not all prominent film critics or publications have commented on the film, but all four that do give it positive reviews, three trumpeting the thrilling sailing race.[az] TV Guide comments “Strong period adventure…Superb sea footage, lots of action and a robust relationship between Peck and Quinn combine to make this highly enjoyable.”[213] Craig Butler of All Movie also commented that Peck is “a superb actor, who brings enormous skill to the part, but who simply lacks the overt derring-do and danger that is part of the role.”[211] The film was moderately successful but more so in the UK than in North America.[214][215]

About a year after David and Bathsheba was released, Peck was on theater screens with Susan Hayward again and directed by Henry King again, in another top-grossing adventure-romance movie (ranking fourth for 1952).[45] This time Ava Gardner plays his great love, while Hayward has a much less sensual role than she had as Bathsheba.[216] The Snows of Kilimanjaro, based on an Ernest Hemingway short story, stars Peck as a self-concerned writer looking back on his life, most longingly his romance with his delectable first wife (Gardner), while he slowly dies from an accidental wound while on an African hunting expedition and his current wife (Hayward) nurses him.[217] Upon release, Bosley Crowther and Variety both gave the movie positive reviews and praised the technicolor cinematography that enabled the characters to have convincing scenes in several European and African locales, including with wild animals.[ba] The majority of the modern critics or publications which have reviewed the movie agree the cinematography is high-quality [bb] with Craig Butler of All Movie saying “Visually…Kilimanjaro is a feast, with the camera capturing the full beauty of its often-stunning locations and also finding emotion in the “character” scenes,” adding “The art direction is lovely.” Most modern reviewers do have negative comments about the screenplay with TimeOut saying “the film tends to ramble” and Craig Butler arguing it is “not really Hemingway, but not quite a real-world either,” whereas TV Guide asserts “the script is a seamless blend of the screenwriter’s and Hemingway’s styles.” Most reviewers over time praise Peck’s performance with TV Guide saying the story is “enacted with power and conviction by Peck,” although David Shipman feels Peck’s facial expressions were too bland to portray the writer, therefore, overall, not recommending the movie.[95]

Peck’s next movie was his “first real foray into comedy”[9] and he was working with director William Wyler, who had not made a comedy since 1935,[51] and co-starring with Audrey Hepburn, a 24-year-old newcomer in her first significant film role;[222] yet it turned out as a “genuinely magical romance that worked beyond all expectations”[9] and made Hepburn an overnight star.[223] Roman Holiday (1953) has Peck playing a reporter who ends up escorting a young princess (Hepburn) on a whirlwind 24-hour tour of Rome after she sneaks out of her high-security hotel while on a tour of European capitals.[51][224] Roman Holiday was a commercial success finishing 22nd in the box office in 1953, its first calendar year of release,[46] but continuing to earn money into 1955 with “modern sources noting it earned $10 million total at the box office”.[225] It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, with Hepburn winning for Best Actress, a pick which the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) echoed, a rare occurrence; Peck was nominated for a BAFTA for Foreign Actor.[45] At the Golden Globe awards held in early 1955, Peck and Hepburn were named the World Film Favorite Award winners for their respective genders; Peck had also won the award in 1950.[45]

As had been the case with several movies before, Peck’s role in Roman Holiday had originally been offered to Cary Grant, who turned it down because the part appeared to be more of a supporting role to the princess.[222] Peck had the same concern, but was persuaded by Wyler that the on-site filming in Rome would be an exceptional experience, and accepted the part, even eventually insisting that Hepburn’s name be above the title of the film (just beneath his) in the opening credits.[222] Peck later said he was not just being nice when he insisted on that, saying he had told his agent “I’m smart enough to know this girl’s going to win the Oscar in her first picture, and I’m going to look like a damned fool if her name is not up there on top with mine.”[162]

Upon release of Roman Holiday, Bosley Crowther’s review said “Peck makes a stalwart and manly escort…whose eyes belie his restrained exterior;”[224] the Hollywood Reporter’s review stated “Peck turns in another of his outstanding performances playing the love-smitten reporter with intelligence and good-humored conviction;”[226] and, Variety said Peck “figures importantly in making the picture zip along engrossingly.”[227] All three also gave the movie very strong reviews,[bc] with Variety observing William Wyler “times the chuckles with a never-flagging pace, puts the heart into laughs…and points up some tender, poignant scenes in using the smart script and cast to the utmost advantage.”[227] In recent decades, a small proportion of critics have expressed some doubts, with Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader positing William Wyler “lays out all the elements with care and precision, but the romantic comedy never comes together – it’s charm by computer.”.[229] Christopher Tookey is more positive saying Roman Holiday “may look old-fashioned, ponderous and too much like a travelogue, but in the 1950s it seemed fresh and enchanting…Wyler’s direction lacks the light touch or satirical imagination which might have made this a classic; but it’s still modestly entertaining,” adding that Peck “is less tree-like than usual and turns in one of his most charming performances.”[52] The majority of prominent critics had very positive comments about the film,[bd] such as Tony Sloan of RadioTimes evaluating it as a “sublime film” with a “charming love story,” and as “immaculately directed,” adding “written and played with style and grace, this is a film to treasure, both for its endearing action and its marvelous performances.”[232] Rebecca Flint Marx of AllMovie writes, “Roman Holiday has “Peck at his most charismatic” and declares it “one of the films’ most enduring romances” which is “not just a romance between the two lead characters, but a love affair between the camera and the city.”[233]

Overseas and New York (1954–1957)
With his acclaimed performance in The Gunfighter, Peck was offered the lead role in High Noon but turned it down because he did not want to become typecast as a Westerns actor.[164] Peck then based himself out of the UK for about eighteen months between 1953 and 1955. This was because new US tax laws had drastically raised the tax rate on high-income earners, but the tax amount due would be reduced if you worked outside the country for extended periods.[234] As a result, in addition to Roman Holiday filmed in Rome, his three following films were shot and set in London, Germany and Southeast Asia.

The film shot in London was another comedy, The Million Pound Note (1954), based on a Mark Twain short story.[235] Peck was later said to have loved making the film because “it was a good comedy opportunity”, “no expense was spared on the best and sometimes ornate interior sets,” and “he was given probably the most elegant wardrobe he had ever worn in film.”[235] Peck plays a penniless American seaman in 1903 London who is given a one million pound bank note by two rich, eccentric brothers who wish to ascertain if he can survive for one month without spending any of it.[236] Peck is able to get posh digs, is feted by high society, has success in the stock market, and finds a romantic partner but can it last?.[235] When released, reviews of the movie were mixed and the film performed only modestly at the box office.[235]

Three prominent reviewers all lauded The Million Pound Notes’s production, such as the Edwardian horse-and-buggy era settings, but each had some other reservations. The New York Tribune lamented “it cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a breezy satire on human vanity or a fancy period romance” and that Peck’s “touch with comedy is light, but guarded, almost suspicious.”[235] Bosley Crowther felt it lacks “bounce and buoyancy…to make it spark with humor (or) glow with warmth and charm” so it “ambles along very nicely…having some mild, gracious fun.[236] Variety’s concern was “the yarn suffers from the protracted exploitation of one basic joke.”[237] In modern times, the three prominent film publications/websites that provide substantive reviews all give positive comments.[be] Adrian Turner of RadioTimes praised it as a “lovely comedy” which “has a lot of charm and gentle humor, owing to Peck’s evident delight in the role and the unobtrusive direction” adding it has a “witty script.”[240]

Berlin and Munich were the filming locations for Night People (1954), which had Peck portraying a US army military police colonel investigating the kidnapping of a young American soldier.[241] Peck later stated that the role of was one of his favorites, because his lines were “tough and crisp and full of wisecracks, and more aggressive than other roles” he’d had.[242] When released, Variety described it as “a top-notch, exciting cloak-and-dagger thriller” with the director getting “a clean triple for his smart handling of production, direction and scripting.”[243] Bosley Crowther felt it was a “first-rate melodrama” with “some very good color-camera work”, adding that the director keeps the characters moving “at breakneck speed…never becoming complex” and “does not resort to such devices as character and mood subtleties” resulting in “a picture that is plenty of fun to watch.”[244] Despite decent reviews overall, the film did poorly at the box office.[242]

Next, Peck was in Sri Lanka and then back in the UK for the shooting of his second movie as a North American bomber commander who has strong emotional problems during WWII, The Purple Plain (1954).[234] Peck’s role is as a Canadian squadron leader whose wife had been killed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on London in 1941 and four years later in Burma he has become a killing machine with no regard for his own life, although a love affair with an alluring, young Burmese beauty helps him regain the will to live.[245][246] When his bomber is shot down by the Japanese and crash lands in a desert with purple-hued soils (the “Purple Plain”), he and his crew have a long, arduous journey back to British territory.[246][234] The Purple Plain was hit in the UK where it was tenth in box office grosses for the year[247] and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film;[45] however, it was a box office flop in the U.S.[234][248]

The Purple Plain opened to solid reviews[234] with Variety labeling it a “fine dramatic vehicle” that “vividly establishes the atmosphere,”[249] while Bosley Crowther wrote, “the extent of Peck’s agony is impressively transmitted…in vivid and unrelenting scenes.”[250] In recent years, the movie “has become one of Peck’s most respected works,”[234] with Leonard Maltin assessing it as absorbing,[26] Adrian Turner of RadioTimes calling it “a classy production” which is “impressively shot”,[245] and David Thomson rating Peck’s performance as excellent.[19] Craig Butler of AllMovie describes The Purple Plain as a “feature-length character study that reveals its character subtly”; he praises its “evocative and stirring visuals” that advance “both the story and our understanding of the lead character,” elaborating that “Peck is astonishing, giving the sort of layered, intense yet nuanced performance that deserves major awards”.[251]

Peck in The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
Peck’s popularity seemed to be on the wane in the U.S.[9] That was not the case in the UK though, where a poll named him the third most popular non-British movie star.[252] Peck did not have a film released in 1955.

Peck bounced back in the U.S. with a movie set in Downtown New York, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956),[9] in which he portrays a married, ex-soldier father of three who mulls over how to proceed with his life after he starts a lucrative speech-writing job, has some other complications arise in his life, and is increasingly haunted by his deeds in Italy during WWII.[253][254] Peck’s wife was played by Jennifer Jones, a reunion from Duel in the Sun, and during the filming of a scene where the spouses argue Jones clawed his face with her fingernails, prompting Peck to say to the director “I don’t call that acting. I call it personal.”[255] The movie was successful finishing eighth in box office gross for the year[256] despite contemporary reviews being mixed. [255]

In 1954, reviews of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit were disparate.[255][bf] Bosley Crowther espoused it as, “a mature, fascinating and often quite tender and touching film” positing that “The film runs for two and a half hours and, except for two somewhat long war flashbacks, every minute is profitably used” in particular citing a scene between Peck and his boss, played by Fredric March, saying “this sequence takes time, but it is one of the most eloquent and touching we’ve seen” adding “all the actors are excellent.”[257] John McCarten of The New Yorker said “if it were an old-fashioned serial, I’m sure we might have been able to tolerate it. In one massive, dose, though, it’s just too damned much.”[261] Variety’s review voiced some concerns about the acting, including Peck’s, but said, “Fredric March is excellent, and the scenes between him and Peck lift the picture high above the ordinary.”[260] In recent years, critics have had similar, but more moderated comments about The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.[bg] Craig Butler of AllMovie says, “a powerful film…there’s some brilliant dialogue and character sketching from Nunnally Johnson, who directs with a sure hand” adding “there are a few sections where…the tone gets a little too preachy” and “Although Jennifer Jones is disappointing (a fact that mars the effectiveness of the film), [Peck] gets extremely solid support” from everyone else. He concedes “it’s also undeniable that a good 20 minutes could and should have been chopped away.”[263] Adrian Turner of RadioTimes evaluates it as “An overlong, self-important yet compelling melodrama.”[264] Two recent reviewers who comment on Peck’s performance describe it as excellent, with Craig Butler of AllMovie declaring, “the role fits (Gregory Peck) as if it had been tailor-made for him. Peck’s particular brilliance lies in the quiet strength that is so much a part of him and the way in which he uses subtle changes in that quietness to signal mammoth emotions. He’s given ample opportunity to do so here and the results are enthralling…an exceptional performance”.[263] Adrian Turner of RadioTimes refers to “the excellent Peck” and states Peck plays “the appealing flawed hero.”

Peck next starred in a role that he was unsure he was right for but was persuaded by director John Huston to take on,[265] that of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1956), a film adaptation of “Herman Melville’s famous story of a man’s dark obsession to kill a whale” off the northeastern U.S. Coast.[266] The movie had the ninth highest box office of the year in North America,[45] but cost $4.5 million to make (more than double the original budget) so it lost money, and was considered a commercial disappointment.[267] Peck also almost drowned twice during filming in stormy weather off the sea coasts of Ireland and the Canary Islands and several other performers and crew members suffered injuries.[267] John Huston was named best director of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review for Moby Dick, but did not receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director.

In 2003 Barry Monush wrote, “There was, and continues to be, controversy over his casting as Ahab in Moby Dick.”[9] Upon opening, Variety said: “Peck often seems understated and much too gentlemanly for a man supposedly consumed by insane fury.”[268] Bosley Crowther’s review asserted that Peck “holds the character’s burning passions behind a usually mask-like face. We could do with a little more tempest, a little more Joshua in the role. Peck spouts fire from his nostrils only when he has at the whale.”[266] However, The Hollywood Reporter argued, “Peck plays it…in a brooding, smoldering vein, but none the less intensely and dynamically.”[269] In modern times, critics have said Peck is: “often mesmerizing” (Barry Monush);[9] “stoic” and “more than adequate” (Brendon Hanley of AllMovie); “[270] “lending a deranged dignity” to the role (Leonard Maltin);[26] “not half as bad as some alleged, and actually suggesting the ingrained, heroic misanthropy” (David Thompson);[19] a “lightweight Ahab”(Timeout);[271] “neither pitiable or indomitable”; and never “vengeance incarnate” (David Shipman);[95] “miscast, completing lacking the required demonic presence” (Adrian Turner of RadioTimes);”[272] and, “miscast” (TV Guide).[273] Huston always said he thought “Peck conveyed the exact quality he had wanted for the obsessed seaman.”[265] Peck himself later said “I wasn’t mad enough, not crazy enough, not obsessive enough – I should have done more. At the time, I didn’t have more in me.”[274] He also noted he thought he “played it too much for the richness of Melville’s prose, too vocal a performance” and should have played it with a cracked voice as if his vocal cords were gone.[30]

Assessments of Moby Dick have also been diverse. In 1956 Bosley Crowther wrote, the movie is a “rolling and thundering color film that is herewith devotedly recommended as one of the great motion pictures of our times,” “the drama is set up on strong, realistic incidents,” “space does not possibly permit us to cite all the things about this film that are brilliantly done, from the strange subdued color scheme employed to the uncommon faithfulness to the details of whaling that are observed,” and “it cannot be done better, more beautifully or excitingly.”[266] In the same year, Variety, opined the movie is “more interesting than exciting” and “does not escape the repetitiousness that often dulls chase movies.”[268] In recent years, most reviews are favorable[bh] with TV Guide asserting it is “one of the most historically authentic, visually stunning, and powerful adventures ever made,”[273] but some reviews are negative, with Adrian Turner of RadioTimes positing, it “has some wonderful scenes but must be counted as a noble failure. The great whale always looks phony.”[272]

Peck’s next movie was a romantic comedy, and being allowed to choose his leading lady, chose Lauren Bacall, who was actually happy to be busy because her husband, Humprey Bogart, was gravely ill at the time.[275] Designing Woman (1957) is about a fashion designer and a sports writer, who meet in California on vacation, and, although Peck’s character already has a romantic partner back home in New York, have a brief torrid affair and hastily get married, only to find out when they are back home that they have wildly different lifestyles, outlooks, interests and friends.[276] While the movie was mildly successful in North America and elsewhere, grossing $6.4 million in North America, 35th for the year, it did not cover its cost.[277][278] Upon release, Variety said it is “deftly directed” and “cleverly brings together the worlds of Haute couture, sports (particularly boxing), show business, and the underworld. Bacall..is excellent…Peck is fine as the confused sportswriter” and added that all the other actors/actresses give top-notch performances.[279] Bosley Crowther said the film was moderately funny with a poor ending.[bi] In recent years, the few reviews from prominent critics or websites are generally positive [bj] with TV Guide exclaiming the director, screenwriter and “a heck of a supporting cast have done the impossible; they’ve made…the famous stoneface…Peck, somewhat funny. Bacall gives an especially good performance. The very funny script took the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay…it is pure entertainment with no underlying message.”[282] Some movie review books or websites do not include this movie.

Reflections on violence (1958–1959)
Peck’s next movie, the western The Bravados (1958), reunited him with now 72-year-old director Henry King after a six-year gap.[160] In their six films together, King was able to draw out some of Peck’s best performances,[160][18] most often in characters who appeared strong and authoritative but had inner demons and character flaws that could destroy them; only one character Peck played under King’s direction could be considered, on balance, a good person, that of Bomber Commander Frank Savage in Twelve O’Clock High.[283] Finnish film writer Peter von Bagh wrote, some collaborations produce routine results, but that with Peck and King the collaboration “was primed to an ever greater creative pitch and turned out to be mutually rewarding.”[284] Only their last film together, the succeeding years’ Beloved Infidel (1959), was not either a critical or commercial success. Peck once said “King was like an older brother, even a father figure. We communicated without talking anything to death. It was direction by osmosis.”[162] Peck also said “he provided me with a one-man audience, in whom I had complete trust…If I played to him and he liked it, then I was fairly confident I was on the right track.”[285]

In The Bravados, Peck’s character spends weeks pursuing four outlaws whom he believes raped and then murdered his wife.[286] He succeeds in tracking them down and kills three of them in vengeance, but a climactic twist leaves his character agonizing over whether he is any better a person than the fugitives.[287] Upon its opening, A.H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote, the movie “is executed intelligently in fine, brooding style against eye-filling, authentic backgrounds, so its basically familiar ingredients glisten with professional polish”, that “the general tautness of the yarn is accentuated by a tightly written script,” and that “the producers have given their essentially grim “chase” equally colorful and arresting treatment.”[288] The film was a moderate success, finishing in the top 20 of the box office for 1959.[289][45] In recent years, The Bravados has received very mixed comments as has Peck’s performance,[bk] with TimeOut asserting that it has “good performances and excellent ‘scope camerawork” and “the action sequences are fine,” but that Peck’s “crisis of conscience..is worked out in perfunctory religious terms;”[291] and TV Guide stating Peck’s cowboy’s “moment of truth is a powerful one and he gives it all the value it deserves, although much of his acting up to then had been lackluster.”[292]

Peck decided to follow some other actors into the movie-production business, organizing Melville Productions in 1956, and later, Brentwood Productions. These companies would produce five movies over the following seven years, all starring Peck,[293] including Pork Chop Hill, for which Peck served as the executive producer.[294] These and other films Peck starred in were observed by some as becoming more political, sometimes containing a pacifist message, with some people calling them preachy,[30] although Peck said he tried to avoid any overt preachiness.[162]

In 1958, Peck and his good friend William Wyler co-produced the western epic The Big Country (1958), although it was not under Peck’s production company.[295] The project had numerous problems, starting with the script, as even after seven writers had worked on it, Wyler and Peck were still dissatisfied.[296] Peck and the screenwriters ended up rewriting the script after each day’s shooting, causing stress for the performers, who would arrive the next day and find their lines and even entire scenes different than for what they had prepared.[297] There were strong disagreements between Wyler, as the director, and many of the performers, including with Peck, as Peck and Wyler had different views about the need for 10,000 cattle for a certain scene and about re-shooting one of Peck’s close-ups; when Wyler refused to do another take of the close-up, Peck left the set and had to be persuaded to return.[296] Peck and Wyler did not speak again for the rest of the shoot and for almost three years afterward, but then patched things up.[296][297] Peck would say in 1974 that he had tried outright producing and acting at the same time and felt “either it can’t be done or it’s just that I don’t do it well,” adding that he did not have the desire to direct.[285]

The story for The Big Country involves Peck, a peaceful city slicker, coming west to live with his fiancée and getting in the middle of a violent feud between two cattle-ranching families over access to water on a third party’s property, with Peck eventually being forced to physically fight back.[9][298] Peck has two romantic interests in the movie, one being Jean Simmons, and Charlton Heston is one opponent he must deal with.[299] The movie was a big hit, finishing fourth at the box office in North America for 1958[300] and second in the UK.[301]

At the time of release, reviews for The Big Country ranged from moderately negative to moderately positive, in most cases based on whether the author prioritized character depth and fulsome expression of a message or construction of interesting scenes and cinematography of the landscape; opinions on Peck’s performance were also disparate.[bl] In recent decades, critical opinion of The Big Country has generally risen although there is still disagreement; many prominent critics and publications describe the cinematography as excellent, some laud Peck’s performance, and some cite the film as too long.[bm] Timeout describes it as “One of those Big Westerns…which aren’t so much epic as long. Finely crafted, though, with some marvelous camerawork…and a vague message about violence,”[307] Tony Sloman of the RadioTimes says “Unfairly neglected today, this major western is a film of truly epic dimensions…Thanks to the combination of top director William Wyler and a superb cast…the film is never tiresome, despite its length. It also features a great theme tune…when heard in context, the music rightfully lifts this distinguished movie to the realm of screen classic” and “Gregory Peck was particularly suited (to the role) – he was one of the few actors whose innate pacifism rang true.”[308]

Peck next played a lieutenant during the Korean war in Pork Chop Hill (1959), which was based on a factual book about a real battle.[309] Peck portrays a lieutenant who is ordered to use his 135-man infantry company to take from the Chinese the strategically insignificant Pork Chop Hill because its capture would strengthen the U.S.’s position in the almost-complete armistice negotiations.[310] As executive producer, Peck recruited Lewis Milestone of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) to direct, and although many critics label it as an anti-war film,[9][311] it has also been stated that “as shooting progressed it became clear Peck and Milestone had very different artistic visions.”[312] “Peck wanted a realistic but relatively conventional war movie, whereas Milestone envisioned a more thoughtful reflection on the futility of war.”[312] Peck later said the movie showed “the futility of settling political arguments by killing young men. We tried not to preach; we let it speak for itself.”[162] Despite solid reviews, the film did only fair business at the box office.[313]

Most critics, both upon Pork Chop Hill’s opening [bn] and in recent years,[bo] agree that it is a gritty, grim and realistic rendering of battle action.TV Guide’s modern review says it “depicts the heroic battle in such stark detail that the viewer can almost smell the acrid fumes of cordite and taste the dust blown from the dead ridge” labeling it as “an authentic and memorable cinematic experience.”[316] Three critics who comment on Peck’s performance are laudatory,[bp] with Variety saying Peck’s performance is “completely believable. He comes through as a born leader, and yet it is quite clear that he has moments of doubt and of uncertainty.”[310]

Peck’s second release of 1959 had him opposite Deborah Kerr in Beloved Infidel which, based on the memoirs of film columnist Sheilah Graham, portrays the romance between Graham (Kerr) and author F. Scott Fitzgerald (Peck) during the last three years of his life, towards the end of which Fitzgerald was often drunk and became verbally and physically abusive.[317] Bosley Crowther assessed it as “generally flat and uninteresting” with a “postured performance of Gregory Peck…his grim-faced, monotony as a washout is relieved in a couple of critical scenes by some staggering and bawling as a drunkard, but that is hardly enough.”[318] Variety said “It is a film in which the characters go mostly unexplained and this makes for superficiality which deprives them of sympathy. What’s more, the acting, while excellent and persuasive in parts, is shallow and artificial in others. Problem is primarily with Peck who brings to Fitzgerald the kind of clean-cut looks and youthful appearance that conflict with the image of a has-been novelist.”[319] Reviews from five prominent scribes in recent decades are similar with all five, including Barry Monush, Leonard Maltin Tony Sloman of RadioTimes, TV Guide and Craig Butler of AllMovie all saying, Peck was blatantly miscast,[bq] with TV Guide specifying that because of their physical differences (tall vs. short, and dark-haired vs. fair-haired) and Craig Butler saying “Peck was an extremely talented actor, but there is nothing in his personality that matches the qualities associated with Fitzgerald. As a result, Peck is totally at sea.” David Thomson writes the role left Peck “hopelessly adrift”,[19] although TV Guide says his effort was noble. The movie is little known today.[323]

Peck next starred in Hollywood’s first major movie about the implications of nuclear warfare, On the Beach (1959), which co-starred Ava Gardner in their third and final film together.[324] Directed by Stanley Kramer and based on a best-selling book, the movie shows the last weeks of several people in Australia, where it was filmed, as they await the onset of radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs.[325] Peck portrays a U.S. submarine commander who has brought his submarine and crew to Australia from the North Pacific Ocean after they realized that nuclear bombs have been detonated in the northern hemisphere. He has a romance with Gardner’s character before and after doing a submarine run to San Francisco to see if there are any survivors and, finally, he and his crew decide to travel to Alaska to see if it is uncontaminated.[325] The film was named to the top ten lists of the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle.[326] It was successful at the North American box office finishing eighth for the year,[45] but due to its high production cost it lost $700,000.[327]

Upon opening, many reviews of On the Beach were very positive[br] with Newsweek assessing it as “An extraordinary movie…the year’s most devastating picture, and one of the best,”[133] and Bosley Crowther enthusing “this deeply moving picture” contains “some vivid and trenchant images that subtly fill the mind of the viewer with a strong appreciation of his theme,” and “Kramer has brilliantly directed a strong and responsive cast.”[325] It is also reported that a significant number of critics questioned the realism of all the people in the movie, both those featured, and society at large, behaving so normally while facing imminent death.[bs] In recent decades, critical opinion of On the Beach is mixed with some prominent critics asserting the script is poor,[bt] but some critics saying the acting, especially Peck, and cinematography are excellent, and that, overall, the film is powerful.[bu] For example, Craig Butler of AllMovie writes, it “is a very flawed but intensely powerful film…problematic is the clichéd, almost soap-operatic relationship between Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner and the somewhat melodramatic handling of other sections of the film. In spite of this, however, there’s an overwhelming, desperate bleakness that perfectly captures the sense of hopelessness that is central to the story…The cast helps tremendously. Peck has rarely been more stalwart…Even decades after its release, Beach is a harrowing and devastating experience.”[332]

Second commercial and critical peak (1960–1964)
After having no movies released in 1960, Peck’s first release of 1961 was the big-budget ($6 million)[333] WWII adventure The Guns of Navarone, in which his six-man British and Greek commando team, which also includes David Niven and Anthony Quinn, undertakes a multi-step mission to destroy two seemingly impregnable cliff-top German radar-controlled artillery guns on the Greek island of Navarone.[85] The team of specialists (Peck is the mountain climbing expert) need to destroy the guns so British ships can evacuate across the Aegean Sea two-thousand trapped British soldiers.[85] Derived from a fact-based novel, subplots during the mission include finding a traitor in their midst, personal differences and bad history between characters, and debates about the morality of warfare.[334] The movie was a huge hit becoming the top-grossing movie of 1961,[46] and became “one of the most popular adventure movies of its day.”[9] It landed seven Academy Award nominations, including for best picture, director, and screenplay, winning for best special effects, while at the Golden Globe Awards it won for Best Dramatic Movie.[33] It also won the BAFTA for Best British Screenplay.[335]

Several actors, including Cary Grant (who at 50 was deemed too old), James Mason, and William Holden (who asked for too much money), were considered for Peck’s leading role before Peck was hired (at the same price that William Holden had asked for, plus a percentage of the box office).[336] During filming, Peck said the fact his team seems to defeat “the entire German army” approached parody, concluding the only way to make it work was for all the performers to “play their roles with complete conviction.”[335] Director J. Lee Thompson had to balance the story and script preferences of three big-name actors, and did incorporate many of the dialogue and character development suggestions of Peck, such that Peck was so impressed he offered him the job of directing the next film he was producing, Cape Fear.[335] Peck and Niven became good friends during the filming and Peck gave the eulogy at Niven’s funeral many years later.[335] Niven developed a severe infection from a split lip inflicted during the filming of storm scenes in a water tank and had to be hospitalized for several weeks, which delayed filming to the point the production was almost abandoned.[337]

Most reviews of The Guns of Navarone in 1961 were positive as illustrated by it being named the best picture of the year in Film Daily’s annual poll of critics and industry reporters.[335] Variety, The New Yorker, and Bosley Crowther all said it was a thrilling action drama, although The New Yorker acknowledged the story was “preposterous” and Crowther commented it could have used more character development and human drama.[bv] In recent decades, most prominent critics or publications give it positive reviews[bw] such as Matthew Doberman of AllMovie observing, “The Guns of Navarone is proof that excitement and drama have always owed more to good storytelling than to computer graphics and hurtling asteroids. A classic underdog war tale, the film boasts strong human drama and intense emotional involvement thanks in large part to the compelling performances” and adding it contains “realistic tension”.[342] By contrast, two prominent critics, Tony Rayns of TimeOut and Christopher Tookey, argue the ongoing dialogue about the morality of warfare detracts from the story, and Mike Mayor in Videohound’s War Movies says the plot is sometimes clunky, although both Tookey and Mayor still give the movie a positive review. The Guns of Navarone is considered to be one of the great WWII epics.[343][340] Comments on the performances, both then and recently, generally say the whole cast was compelling, although Paul V. Peckly of The New York Herald Tribune had written, “Peck may seem at times a trifle wooden and his German accent too obviously American …. but his not too introspective, somewhat baffled manner is manly and fitted to the role he plays,”[335] while Tony Rayns of TimeOut asserts it’s David Niven “who steals the acting honours here as a cynical explosives expert whose laid-back attitude is put to the test when the mission starts to go awry.”[334]

Peck’s next film, both as an owner of Melville Productions and as a star, was Cape Fear (1962), wherein upon being released from prison after serving eight years for a sexual assault, Max Cady, played by Robert Mitchum, heads to the home city of the witness whose testimony convicted him, that being the lawyer played by Peck, where he threatens to get back at Peck through his wife and daughter, and meticulously, but fully within the law, terrorizes the family.[344] Peck was anxious to have Mitchum in the role of Cady, but Mitchum declined at first and only relented after Peck and Thompson delivered a case of bourbon to Mitchum’s home.[345] Many cuts were made to the movie to satisfy the Production Code Administration in the US, including replacement of the word “rape” with “attack”, and removal of a reference to Peck’s daughter and wife as being “juicy”.[345] Even more cuts (161) were needed to satisfy censors in Britain which resulted in the version being released there being six minutes shorter than the North American version.[345] The film grossed only $5 million at the North American box office which was 47th for the year. [346]

Bosley Crowther and Variety both gave Cape Fear solid reviews.[bx] Crowther said, “A cold-blooded, calculated build-up of sadistic menace and shivering dread is accomplished with frightening adroitness” and Variety observed, “As a forthright exercise in cumulative terror Cape Fear is a competent and visually polished entry.” Both lauded Mitchum’s performance with Crowther saying he played the villain with a cheeky and wicked arrogance, and both expressed satisfaction with Peck’s performance, although Variety noted he could have been a little more stressed by the occurrences. Other reviews were mixed due to the movie’s disturbing nature with Brendan Gill of The New Yorker being especially appalled arguing, “It purports to be a thriller but is really an exercise in sadism, and everyone concerned with this repellent attempt to make a great deal of money out of a clumsy plunge into sexual pathology should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. What on earth is Gregory Peck doing in such a movie?”[345] In recent decades, reviews from six prominent film publications are positive to very positive with all of them citing Robert Mitchum’s performance as excellent and half of them specifically mentioning the music as very effective.[by] Allan Jones of RadioTimes writes, “… this gripping and tension-laden original thriller … Great shocks increase the climatic suspense, with Mitchum giving a portrayal of villainy that’s unforgettable vicious and sadistic. Director J. Lee Thompson’s skillful use of light and shadow enhances the uncomfortable mood, while Bernard Herrmann’s score counterpoints the growing dread with deft precision.”[353] Timeout asserts “director Thompson isn’t quite skillful enough to give the film its final touch of class (many of the shocks are just too planned).” Two of these critics commented on Peck’s performance in Cape Fear, both saying it was solid with TV Guide saying “Peck is careful not to act the fear; he’s an interesting foe for Mitchum.”

Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Peck’s next role was in the 1962 film adaptation of the Harper Lee novel Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird.[354] In a small town in Alabama in the 1930s, Scout, a six-year-old girl, and Jem, her ten-year-old-brother, see and live events before, during and after their widowed father’s passionate trial defense of a black man wrongly accused of the sexual assault of a white woman; Peck plays their kind and scrupulously honest lawyer father, Atticus Finch.[354] Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, which was his fifth and last time nominated. The film received seven other Academy Award nominations including for Best Picture, Director and Cinematography, also winning Adapted Screenplay and Art Direction. At the Golden Globes, Peck won for Best Actor in a Drama and the film was nominated for Best Film and Director. It did not make the National Board of Review’s Top 10 list. It was nominated for Best Film at the BAFTAs.[bz][355] The film grossed $22.9 million at the North American box office which was sixth most for the year.[346] In 2003, Atticus Finch as portrayed by Gregory Peck was named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.[356] Peck would later say “My favorite film, without any question.”[52]

When producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan approached Peck about taking the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Peck agreed to read the book. In The Films of Gregory Peck by John Griggs, Peck is quoted as saying, “I got started on it and of course I sat up all night and read straight through it…I called them at about eight o’clock in the morning and said ‘When do I start?'” He also said that more than it being a fine novel. “…I felt there was something I could identify with without any stress or strain…And I felt that I knew those two children.”[357][ca] Peck did eventually request changes so that film deviated somewhat from the book, mainly showing more scenes of Peck in the courtroom than were in the original rough cut, thus shifting the focus away from the children, who had been the focus of the book, and more towards Atticus Finch.[cb] In order to obtain maximum realism, sets were built on Universal’s back lot which very closely matched 1930s Monroeville.[cc] Location scouts traveled all around Los Angeles to find homes that looked the same as those in the neighborhood where Lee grew up in Monroeville and then dismantled, transported and reassembled them on Universal’s back lot, plus an exact replica of Monroeville’s courtroom was constructed.[357]

The reviews of 1962 in four prominent publications each described Peck’s performance as excellent. Variety wrote that the role was especially challenging for Peck but that he “not only succeeds, but makes it appear effortless, etching a portrayal of strength, dignity and intelligence.”[cd] The Hollywood Reporter said “Peck gives probably the finest performance of his career, understated, casual, effective.”[364] Time posited “Peck, though he is generally excellent, lays it on a bit thick at times – he seems to imagine himself the Abe Lincoln of Alabama.”[365][366] Reviews in recent decades have similarly lauded Peck’s performance,[ce] with Film Monthly observing, “Gregory Peck’s performance as lawyer Atticus Finch is just as beautiful, natural, and nuanced as the movie itself.”[371] Barry Monush describes Peck’s performance as “the summit of his career” adding “Peck [is] magnificent as the gentle lawyer who gives equal attention to his motherless children and to a hopeless court case. This was one of the finest examples of great acting through understatement.”[9] Both Michael Gebert[45] and Andrew Collins of Radiotimes[372] refer to Atticus Finch as the role that defined Peck’s career.

Variety, The New York Herald Tribune, Saturday Review and the Hollywood Reporter all unreservedly described the film as excellent[cf] while Bosley Crowther[cg] and Time gave it positive reviews, but pointed out some flaws, and the Village Voice gave it a negative review. James Power of the Hollywood Reporter labeled it “One of the finest pictures of this or any other year” adding “Produced with care by Alan J. Pakula and directed with true brilliance by Robert Mulligan, the Universal picture is a genuine experience, so penetrating and pervasive it lingers long after the last image has faded … The two children are nothing short of phenomenal. Untrained, they respond to direction like bright young animals, alert, sensitive, plastic … The rest of the cast is also fine, playing with a realism that stimulates life without distorting it … the gentle score … is superb, letting the action speak, only underlining with tangent emotion.”[364] Time magazine said “Mulligan and scenarist Horton Foote have translated both testament and melodrama into one of the year’s most fetching and affecting pictures … Mockingbird has nothing very profound to say about the South and its problems. Sometimes, in fact, its side-porch sociology is simply fatuous … the Negro is just too goody-goody to be true.”[366] The Village Voice wrote, “… this is not much of a movie even by purely formal standards. Horton Foote’s script is a fuzzy digest of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer best-seller, while Robert Mulligan’s direction is slavishly faithful to the elliptical style of Miss Lee’s action sequences … A reader can always catch up on a mystifying action a page or two later, but a moviegoer wants to see what is happening while it is happening. When the Negro is shot (off-screen) for attempting to escape, Peck is so upset that by some inverted logic understood only by Liberal Southerners, he deplores the Negro’s impetuousity … It never seems to occur to Miss Lee, Mr. Foote, or Mr. Mulligan, as it occurred to someone sitting behind me, that the Negro’s reported escape is as malodorous as his unjust conviction.”[373]

Mature years (1965–1979)
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.[374]

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.[375] 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.[376]

Later work (1980–2000)
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 at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival
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 was originally offered to voice Mayor Phlegmming for the 2001 film Osmosis Jones but he declined it as he retired from acting in 2000. The role went to William Shatner.

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.[377]

Politics
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”.[378] 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.[379] President Richard Nixon, though, placed Peck on his “enemies list”, owing to Peck’s liberal activism.[380]

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.[381]

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.[382] 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.[383][384]

Documents declassified in 2017 show that the National Security Agency had created a biographical file on Peck as part of its monitoring of prominent US citizens.[385]

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. 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.”

On New Year’s Eve in 1955, the day after his divorce was finalized, Peck married Véronique Passani (1932–2012), 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),[390] and a daughter, Cecilia Peck (b. 1958).[391] 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.

Peck had grandchildren from both marriages.[393] One of his grandsons from his first marriage is actor Ethan Peck.

Peck owned the thoroughbred steeplechase race horses. In 1963 Owens Sedge finished eighth in the Grand National.[394] Another of his horses, Different Class, raced in the 1968 Grand National[395] The horse was favored, but finished third.

Peck was close friends with French president Jacques Chirac.

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.”[397] 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.[397]

Death
On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87 at his home in Los Angeles.[398] His wife, Veronique, was by his side.[4]

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.[399][400] 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.[399][401]

Legacy
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,[402] 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, Laura Dern, Alan Arkin, Annette Bening, Patrick Stewart and Laurence Fishburne.

Awards and honors
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.[403]

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.[404]

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.[405]

In 1993, Peck was awarded with an Honorary Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[406]

In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[407]

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.[408]

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.[409][410]

Archives
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.[411]

See also
List of Gregory Peck performances
List of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients