Born Eldred Gregory Peck in 1916, this handsome star of stage and screen began his life in La Jolla, California. His parents divorced when he was only five and he went to live with his grandmother of whom he had many fond memories. One of his earliest movie memories concerned being so scared by The Phantom of The Opera, which he saw when he was nine, that his grandmother allowed him to sleep in bed with her that night.
He studied pre-med at Berkeley, but the acting bug bit him shortly after graduation. He moved to New York and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He debuted on Broadway in 1942 in “The Morning Star”. After a year or so on stage, he returned to California to appear in another film, “Days of Glory”. But it was his next role in 1944 as a Roman Catholic priest in “Keys of The Kingdom” that soared him to stardom and earned him his first Academy Award nomination.
His paternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, was an immigrant from Ireland and she was related to Thomas Ashe, an Irish patriot who died in 1917. His paternal grandfather had Armenian roots and emigrated from England. Gregory Peck actually took classes in the Armenian language in his middle age to bring him closer to his Armenian roots.
Of all the many movies he made, “To Kill A Mockingbird” was his personal favorite. About this role he said, “I put everything I had into it; all my feelings and everything I’d learned in 46 years of living, about family life and fathers and children. And my feelings about racial justice and inequality and opportunity.”
He had five children, one of whom, Jonathan, took his own life by gunshot in 1975. Peck almost always played courageous men who saw injustice and fought it.
He died in June 2003, survived by his wife and four children and Brock Peters, his co-star in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” performed the eulogy.
What is YOUR favorite Gregory Peck film? Please share.