Childhood & Early Life
Gregory Peck was born to Bernice Mae ‘Bunny’ and Gregory Pearl Peck in La Jolla, California. Coming from an Irish-English-Scottish descent, he was raised as a Catholic.
His parents separated while he was just six years old, leaving him under the care of maternal grandmother. Upon the death of his grandmother four years later, his father took on his responsibility.
Academically proficient, he attained his basic education from St. John's Military Academy and San Diego High School. For a year, he took up theatre and public-speaking courses at San Diego State Teacher's College before enrolling at University of California, Berkeley.
In 1936, joined the University of California, Berkeley as a pre-medical student but majored in English. It was the university’s acting coach, Ky Ebright, who realized his potential acting talent. Edwin Duerr, director of the university's Little Theatre, took it further by enrolling him in the group. No sooner, he started performing in plays and dramas.
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Upon completing his graduation, he moved to New York City to polish his acting skills. For the same, he admitted himself at the Neighborhood Playhouse to gain knowledge from the legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner. To support a living, he took up menial jobs.
He made his stage debut in 1941 for George Bernard Shaw's play ‘The Doctor's Dilemma’. A year later, he was seen in Broadway productions, ‘The Morning Star’ opposite Emlyn Williams’. Same year, his second Broadway performance was released under the title ‘The Willow and I’, alongside Edward Pawley.
He made his big screen debut, playing the character of a Russian guerrilla fighter, in the film ‘Days of Glory’ released in 1944. However, it was his second movie ‘The Keys of the Kingdom’ that brought him rave reviews. He bagged an Academy Award nomination for his top-notch performance.
From then on, he started to make a mark with his acting prowess taking up diverse projects and fulfilling them with great panache. ‘The Yearling’ brought out his warm and affectionate side as an actor. His exceptional performance earned him an Academy award nomination.
Following this, he earned his third and fourth Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Actor for the films ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ and ‘Twelve O'Clock High’. Both the films proved his versatility as an actor. While the first was in the genre of social conscience, the latter was a war film.
Meanwhile, he was also seen in films like, ‘Spellbound’, ‘Duel in the Sun’, ‘The Paradine Case’ and ‘The Gunfighter’.
In 1953, he was cast alongside Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar-winning role for the movie, ‘Roman Holiday’.
The later films of the 1950s decade include, ‘The Moby Dick’, ‘The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’, ‘The Big Country’ and ‘On the Beach’.
In 1961, the iconic film ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was released wherein he was seen playing the character of Captain Keith Mallory. Same year, ‘Cape Fear’ was released.
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His role of Atticus Finch, a Depression-era lawyer and widowed father, for the film, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, a film adaptation of the Harper Lee novel, won him his fifth Academy Award nomination. Released in 1962, the film further cemented his position as an ace actor.
It was his sheer talent and exceptional acting kills that earned him the chair of the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967. Same year, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute which he served until 1969.
In 1970, rumors of him being the possible Democratic candidate for the office of the California Governor started doing the rounds due to his unflinching trust and support for the party. However, he clarified that had no intentions of holding a political office.
An ardent detractor of Vietnam War, in 1972, he produced a film adaptation of Daniel Berrigan's play ‘The Trial of the Catonsville Nine’. The plot revolved around the prosecution of a group of Vietnam protesters for civil disobedience. Four years later, he played the titular role of General Douglas MacArthur in the film MacArthur.
Starting 1980s, he switched to the small screen and was starred in a number of series. While he played the character of Abraham Lincoln in ‘The Blue and Gray’, he was cast as Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty in the television film ‘The Scarlet and The Black’.
Year 1991 witnessed the release of his last film, ‘Other People’s Money’. In it, he played the role of a business owner who was trying to prevent his company from a takeover bid by a Wall Street liquidator. He retired from films thereon and dedicated his time touring the world.
In 1998, he came out of retirement for his last stint before the camera for the miniseries version of his film, ‘The Moby Dick’. The role won him a Golden Globe award in the category for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
Awards & Achievements
For his acting talent, he was nominated five times for the Academy awards, winning the same once in 1962, for playing the character of Atticus Finch in the movie ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Six years later, he was awarded with Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
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He was the proud recipient of multiple Golden Globe awards, for the movie ‘The Yearling’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘The Boys from Brazil’. He also received the same for the TV miniseries of his film, ‘The Moby Dick’.
Year 1969 witnessed him being felicitated by US President Lyndon Johnson with the nation's highest civilian honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Post retirement, he received a number of lifetime achievement award for his artistic contributions such as Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, Crystal Globe award, Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award and George Eastman Award
In 1993, at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival, he was honoured with an Honorary Golden Bear. Five years later, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts. In 2000, he was made a Doctor of Letters by the National University of Ireland.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Greta Kukkonen in October 1942. The couple was blessed with three sons, Jonathan, Stephen and Carey. The couple separated in 1955 but maintained cordial relations with each other.
Following legal separation from his first wife, he walked the aisle for a second time with Paris news reporter, Veronique Passani. The couple was blessed with a son, Anthony Peck and daughter Cecilia Peck.
He died in his sleep on June 12, 2003 and is survived by his second wife and children. He was buried in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles, California.
The vast body of work which astutely display his cinematic excellence was honoured with him receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6100 Hollywood Blvd.
In 2011, the U.S. postal department venerated the contribution made by him by issuing a postage stamp commemorating him.