Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

Intelligent and intriguing, Mary McDonagh Murphy’s documentary, “Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird” explores the phenom of the classic book.

The docu is timely, too: It comes out exactly 50 years after the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, on May 4, 1961. Lee’s tome inspired the 1962 movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” featuring Gregory Peck in his Oscar-winning performance, and one of the best American films about small-town life

First Run Features will release “Hey, Boo,” which is named after the mysterious, scary character (played in the film by Robert Duvall) in April and then on DVD in July (see below)

Murphy’s documentary film explores the writing of the phenomenal book To Kill a Mockingbird,” its enormous impact, past and present, and it also unravels some of the mysteries around the novelist’s life, including the endless question of why she never published again another book.

As is well known by now, Harper Lee’s first and only novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was instantly a beloved classic. The film version, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, won three Oscar Awards.

Anna Quindlen, Tom Brokaw, James McBride, James Patterson, Wally Lamb, Oprah Winfrey, and others interviewed by Murphy reflect on the novel’s power, influence, and popularity and the many ways it has shaped their lives and careers.

Luminaries, such as newsman Tom Brokaw enlist the novel among their all-time favorite books.   Says Brokaw: “One of the most telling lines that I hear from early pioneers in the Civil Rights movement is that ‘we had liberated not just black people, we liberated white people.’ I think that Harper Lee helped liberate white people with that book.”

Queen of TV’s talk Oprah Winfrey calls it “our national novel.” In the movie, she notes: “I remember starting it and just devouring it, not being able to get enough of it, because I fell in love with Scout. I wanted to be Scout and I wanted a father like Atticus.”

Author Mark Childress observes: “You know that famous quote Lincoln reportedly said to Harriet Beecher Stowe: ‘Oh, here’s the little lady whose book caused such a big war.’ The same can be said of Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the most influential novels, not necessarily in a literary sense, but in a social sense.”
The book is still required reading in most classrooms and sells nearly a million copies every year—many more than other seminal American novels, such as “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

This month President Obama presented the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence, to ten recipients for their outstanding achievements and support of the arts. Among those honored was author Harper Lee. In characteristic fashion, Lee did not attend the ceremony.

On April 28, 2011, the US Postal Service will issue a stamp in the ‘Legends of Hollywood’ series honoring Gregory Peck. At the request of Peck’s family, he is being depicted wearing glasses, as he was on screen while playing Atticus Finch.

“Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird” chronicles how Lee was able to write such a work, the context and history of the Deep South where it is set, Lee’s family background and the social change the novel inspired after its publication.

Although Lee has not given an interview since 1964, Murphy’s reporting, research and rare interviews with the author’s friends and 99-year-old sister, Alice, add new details and never-before-seen documents and photos to the book’s remarkable story.

Many speak on the record for the first time ever, sharing intimate recollections, anecdotes, and biographical details, including new information about Lee’s tumultuous friendship with Truman Capote.

About the director

Mary McDonagh Murphy is an independent filmmaker and the author of “Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird,” published by Harper Collins. Murphy was a producer for CBS News for twenty years where she won six Emmy Awards. Her other documentaries include Cry for Help, about adolescent suicide and depression, which aired nationally on PBS in 2009 and Digital Days, narrated by Tom Brokaw, about the Internet’s impact on the newspaper industry for the Associated Press.


Produced, Written and Directed by: MARY MCDONAGH MURPHY
Director of Photography: RICH WHITE
Narrator: BOB MAYER
Alabama Consultant: LYNN RABREN
Associate Producer: BRYONY KOCKLER

Running time: 82 Minutes