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To Kill a Mockingbird (film)

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To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Mulligan
Produced byAlan J. Pakula
Screenplay byHorton Foote
Based onTo Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Narrated byKim Stanley
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyRussell Harlan, A.S.C.
Edited byAaron Stell, A.C.E.
  • Brentwood Productions
  • Pakula-Mulligan
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 25, 1962 (1962-12-25)
Running time
129 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$13.1 million[2]

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 American drama film directed by Robert Mulligan. The screenplay by Horton Foote is based on Harper Lee's 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. It stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout. To Kill a Mockingbird marked the film debuts of Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Alice Ghostley.

The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and was a box-office success, earning more than six times its budget. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Peck, and was nominated for eight, including Best Picture.

In 1995, the film was listed in the National Film Registry. In 2003, the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. In 2007 the film ranked twenty-fifth on the AFI's 10th anniversary list of the greatest American movies of all time. In 2005, the British Film Institute included it in their list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14. The film was restored and released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2012 as part of the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures.[3]


The film's young protagonists, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch (Mary Badham) and her brother Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch (Phillip Alford), live in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the early 1930s. The story covers three years, during which Scout and Jem undergo changes in their lives. They are innocent children, spending their days happily playing games with each other and spying on Arthur "Boo" Radley (Robert Duvall) who has not left his home for many years and about whom many rumors circulate. Their widowed father, Atticus (Gregory Peck), is a town lawyer and has strong beliefs that all people are to be treated fairly, to turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. He also allows his children to call him by his first name. Early in the film, the children see their father accept hickory nuts, and other produce, from Mr. Cunningham (Crahan Denton) for legal work because the client has no money.[4] Through their father's work as a lawyer, Scout and Jem begin to learn of the racism and evil in their town, aggravated by poverty; they mature quickly as they are exposed to it.

The local judge (Paul Fix) appoints Atticus to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), against an accusation of rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox). Atticus accepts the case. Jem and Scout experience schoolyard taunts for their father's decision. Later, as Atticus is sitting in front of the local jail to safeguard Robinson, a lynch mob arrives, which includes Mr. Cunningham. Scout, Jem and their friend, Dill (John Megna), interrupt the confrontation. Scout, unaware of the mob's purpose, recognizes Cunningham as the man who paid her father in hickory nuts and tells him to say hello to his son, who is her schoolmate. Cunningham becomes embarrassed and the mob disperses.

At the trial, it is undisputed that Tom came to Mayella's home at her request to help with the chopping up of a chifforobe, and that Mayella showed signs of having been beaten around that time. Among Atticus' chief arguments is that Tom has a crippled left arm, yet the supposed rapist would have had to make extensive use of his left hand in assaulting Mayella before raping her. Atticus then points out that Mayella's father, Bob Ewell (James Anderson), is left handed, implying that he – rather than Tom – was the one who beat Mayella. Atticus also states that the girl had not been examined by a doctor to check for signs of rape after the supposed assault. In his closing argument Atticus asks the all-white male jury to cast aside their prejudices and instead focus on Tom's obvious innocence. In taking the stand in his own defense, Tom denies he attacked Mayella, but states she kissed him. He testifies he voluntarily assisted Mayella because "I felt sorry for her because…". Although Tom does not finish his sentence, the prosecutor (William Windom) hammers home the point that he was a black man feeling sorry for a white woman. In a town where whites are viewed as superior to blacks, Tom's sympathy for Mayella dooms his case, and he is found guilty.

As Atticus leaves the courtroom, the black spectators in the balcony rise to their feet as a sign of respect and appreciation. Reverend Sykes says to Scout, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing." When Atticus arrives home, Sheriff Heck Tate (Frank Overton) tells him that Tom has been killed by a deputy during his transfer to prison. According to this deputy, Tom was trying to escape, "running like a crazy man" before he was shot. Atticus and Jem go to the Robinson family home to inform them of Tom's death. Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, appears and spits in Atticus' face while Jem waits in the car. Atticus wipes his face and leaves.

Autumn arrives, and Scout and Jem attend a nighttime Halloween pageant at their school. Scout wears a large hard-shelled ham costume, portraying one of Maycomb county's products. At some point during the pageant, Scout's dress and shoes are misplaced. She is forced to walk home without shoes, wearing her ham costume. While cutting through the woods, Scout and Jem are attacked by an unidentified man who has been following them. Scout's costume, like an awkward suit of armor, protects her from the attack but restricts her movement and severely restricts her vision. Jem is knocked unconscious and Scout escapes unharmed in a brief but violent struggle. Their attacker is thwarted and overcome by another unidentified man. Scout escapes her costume in time to see the second man carrying Jem to their home. Scout follows the stranger inside and runs into the arms of a concerned Atticus. Doc Reynolds comes over and treats the broken arm of an unconscious Jem.

When Sheriff Tate asks Scout what happened, she sees a man standing quietly in the corner behind the door of Jem's room. Atticus formally introduces Scout to Arthur Radley, whom she has known as Boo, the man who came to the aid of Jem and Scout in the woods. It is revealed that Boo had overpowered Bob Ewell before carrying Jem home. The sheriff reports that Ewell was discovered dead at the scene of the attack with a knife in his ribs. Atticus assumes that Jem killed Ewell in self-defense. Sheriff Tate, however, believes that Boo killed Ewell in defense of the children, and he tells Atticus that to drag the shy and reserved Boo into the spotlight for his heroism would be "a sin". To protect Boo, Sheriff Tate suggests that Ewell "fell on his knife". Scout draws a startlingly precocious analogy, likening unwelcome public attention to Boo to the killing of a mockingbird.


In the order of the film's opening credits:

Uncredited roles in order of appearance
  • Kim Stanley as the narrator—the voice of adult Scout—"Maycomb was a tired old town – even in 1932 when I first knew it – that summer I was six years old."
  • Paulene Myers as Jessie, Mrs. Dubose's servant, sitting close to her on the Dubose porch.
  • Jamie Forster as Mr. Townsend, sitting on a bench, with three men, near the courthouse: "If you're lookin' for your daddy, he's inside the courthouse."
  • Steve Condit as Walter, Mr. Cunningham's son, at dinner with the Finch family: "Yes, sir. I don't know when I had roast. We been havin' squirrels and rabbits lately."
  • David Crawford as David, Tom Robinson's son, sitting on the steps to the Robinsons' shack: "Good evening."
  • Kim Hamilton as Helen, Tom Robinson's wife, inside the Robinsons' shack: "Good evening, Mr. Finch."
  • Dan White as the mob leader approaching as Atticus Finch sits in front of the jailhouse: "He in there, Mr. Finch?"
  • Kelly Thordsen as a heavyset member of the mob who grabs and picks up Jem: "Well, I'll send you home."
  • William "Bill" Walker as Reverend Sykes, at the courthouse for Tom Robinson's trial: "Miss Jean Louise? Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."
  • Charles Fredericks as the court clerk at Tom Robinson's trial: "Place your hand on the bible, please. Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth...?"
  • Guy Wilkerson as the jury foreman at Tom Robinson's trial: We find the defendant guilty as charged."
  • Jay Sullivan as the court reporter at Tom Robinson's trial: "Yes."
  • Jester Hairston as Spence, Tom Robinson's father in front of the Robinsons' shack: "Hello Mr. Finch. I'm Spence, Tom's father."
  • Hugh Sanders as Doctor Reynolds, the town physician who examines Jem: "He's got a bad break, so far as I can tell. Somebody tried to wring his arm off."


The Old Monroe County Courthouse was the model for the set used in the film
A scene from the play performed in the actual courthouse in Monroeville

The producers had wanted to use Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama for the set. Harper Lee used her experiences as a child in Monroeville as the basis for the fictional town of Maycomb, so it seemed that would be the best place. However, the town had changed significantly between the 1920s and the early 1960s so they made the backlot in Hollywood instead.[5]

The Old Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville was used as a model for the film set since they could not use the courthouse due to the poor audio quality in the courthouse. The accuracy of the recreated courthouse in Hollywood led many Alabamians to believe that the film was shot in Monroeville. The Old Courthouse in Monroe County is now a theater for many plays inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird as well as a museum dedicated to multiple authors from Monroeville.[6][7][8]

Critical response[edit]

The film received widespread critical acclaim. As of July 2018, it maintains a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 57 reviews.[9] According to Bosley Crowther:[10]

Horton Foote's script and the direction of Mr. Mulligan may not penetrate that deeply, but they do allow Mr. Peck and little Miss Badham and Master Alford to portray delightful characters. Their charming enactments of a father and his children in that close relationship, which can occur at only one brief period, are worth all the footage of the film. Rosemary Murphy as a neighbor, Brock Peters as the Negro on trial, and Frank Overton as a troubled sheriff are good as locality characters, too. James Anderson and Collin Wilcox as Southern bigots are almost caricatures. But those are minor shortcomings in a rewarding film.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the film for focusing less on the blacks, denouncing the cliché of the honest, white man standing for a helpless black:[11]

It expresses the liberal pieties of a more innocent time, the early 1960s, and it goes very easy on the realities of small-town Alabama in the 1930s. One of the most dramatic scenes shows a lynch mob facing Atticus, who is all by himself on the jailhouse steps the night before Tom Robinson's trial. The mob is armed and prepared to break in and hang Robinson, but Scout bursts onto the scene, recognizes a poor farmer who has been befriended by her father, and shames him (and all the other men) into leaving. Her speech is a calculated strategic exercise, masked as the innocent words of a child; one shot of her eyes shows she realizes exactly what she's doing. Could a child turn away a lynch mob at that time, in that place? Isn't it nice to think so.

Walt Disney requested the film be privately screened in his house. At the film's conclusion, Disney sadly stated, "That was one hell of a picture. That's the kind of film I wish I could make."[12][13]

Gregory Peck[edit]

Gregory Peck's performance became synonymous with the role and character of Atticus Finch. Producer Alan J. Pakula remembered hearing from Peck when he was first approached with the role: "He called back immediately. No maybes. […] I must say the man and the character he played were not unalike".[14] Peck later said in an interview that he was drawn to the role because the book reminded him of growing up in La Jolla, California.[15] "Hardly a day passes that I don't think how lucky I was to be cast in that film", Peck said in a 1997 interview. "I recently sat at a dinner next to a woman who saw it when she was 14-years-old, and she said it changed her life. I hear things like that all the time".[16] The 1962 softcover edition of the novel opens:

"The Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, reminds me of the California town I grew up in. The characters of the novel are like people I knew as a boy. I think perhaps the great appeal of the novel is that it reminds readers everywhere of a person or a town they have known. It is to me a universal story – moving, passionate and told with great humor and tenderness." Gregory Peck.

Harper Lee, in liner notes written for the film's DVD re-release by Universal, wrote:

"When I learned that Gregory Peck would play Atticus Finch in the film production of To Kill a Mockingbird, I was of course delighted: here was a fine actor who had made great films – what more could a writer ask for? ...The years told me his secret. When he played Atticus Finch, he had played himself, and time has told all of us something more: when he played himself, he touched the world".[17]

Upon Peck's death in 2003, Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson in the film version, quoted Harper Lee at Peck's eulogy, saying, "Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself". Peters concluded his eulogy stating, "To my friend Gregory Peck, to my friend Atticus Finch, vaya con Dios".[18] Peters remembered the role of Tom Robinson when he recalled, "It certainly is one of my proudest achievements in life, one of the happiest participations in film or theater I have experienced".[19] Peters remained friends not only with Peck but with Mary Badham throughout his life.

Peck himself admitted that many people have reminded him of this film more than any other film he has ever done.[20]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1995 To Kill a Mockingbird was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[21] It is also Robert Duvall's big-screen debut, as the misunderstood recluse Boo Radley. Duvall was cast on the recommendation of screenwriter Horton Foote, who met him at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City where Duvall starred in a 1957 production of Foote's play, The Midnight Caller.[22]

The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.[23] Additionally, the AFI ranked the movie second on their 100 Years... 100 Cheers list, behind It's a Wonderful Life.[24] The film was ranked number 34 on AFI's list of the 100 greatest movies of all time, but moved up to number 25 on the 10th Anniversary list.[25] In June 2008, the AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. To Kill a Mockingbird was acknowledged as the best film in the courtroom drama genre.[26]

In 2007 Hamilton was honored by the Harlem community for her part in the movie. She was the last surviving African-American adult who had a speaking part in the movie. When told of the award, she said, "I think it is terrific. I'm very pleased and very surprised".[27]

American Film Institute Lists

Academy Awards[edit]

The film won three Academy Awards out of the eight for which it was nominated.[29]

Other nominations were for

Its main competition was Lawrence of Arabia, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score. Peter O'Toole had been nominated for Best Actor for his performance as T. E. Lawrence, but Peck won for Mockingbird. The Longest Day claimed the award for Best Cinematography, while Patty Duke was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Miracle Worker.

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Cannes Film Festival[edit]

The film was selected for the 1963 Cannes Film Festival in feature film category, winning the Gary Cooper Award.[30][31]


To Kill a Mockingbird
Tokill a mockingbird Varese.jpg
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedEarly April 1963[32]
RecordedAugust 1–2, 1996, City Halls, Glasgow
LabelVarèse Sarabande

Elmer Bernstein's score for To Kill a Mockingbird is regarded as one of the greatest film scores[33] and has been recorded three times. It was first released in April 1963 on Ava; then Bernstein re-recorded it in the 1970s for his Film Music Collection series; and finally, he recorded the complete score (below) in 1996 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for the Varese Sarabande Film Classics series.

  1. "Main Title" – 3:21
  2. "Remember Mama" – 1:08
  3. "Atticus Accepts The Case – Roll in the Tire" – 2:06
  4. "Creepy Caper – Peek-A-Boo" – 4:10
  5. "Ewell's Hatred" – 3:33
  6. "Jem's Discovery" – 3:47
  7. "Tree Treasure" – 4:23
  8. "Lynch Mob" – 3:04
  9. "Guilty Verdict" – 3:10
  10. "Ewell Regret It" – 2:11
  11. "Footsteps in the Dark" – 2:07
  12. "Assault in the Shadows" – 2:28
  13. "Boo Who" – 3:00
  14. "End Title" – 3:25

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (A)". British Board of Film Classification. December 20, 1962. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "To Kill A Mockingbird – Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  3. ^ Appelo, Tim (2012-01-10). "Universal Celebrates 100th Birthday With New Logo and 13 Film Restorations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  4. ^ Harper Lee. "To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 2–3". SparkNotes. Retrieved 2014-03-17.
  5. ^ W. Warner Floyd (March 29, 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Old Monroe County Courthouse". National Park Service. Retrieved August 4, 2018. See also: "Accompanying photos".
  6. ^ "To Kill a Mockingbird 1962". Movie Locations. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  7. ^ ""To Kill a Mockingbird" A 50th Anniversary Restoration of the Classic Film". Southern Literary Trail. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  8. ^ "To Kill a Mockingbird". Filming Locations. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  9. ^ "To Kill A Mockingbird". 1962-12-25. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 15, 1963). "One Adult Omission in a Fine Film: 2 Superb Discoveries Add to Delight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  12. ^ Gabler, Neal (2006) Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination, pp.587, Alfred A. Knopf, New York
  13. ^ Colt, Sarah, (2015) American Experience: Walt Disney, Public Broadcasting Service
  14. ^ Nichols, Peter. "Time Can't Kill 'Mockingbird'; [Review]." New York Times: February 27, 1998. pg. E.1
  15. ^ King, Susan. "How the Finch Stole Christmas; Q & A WITH GREGORY PECK." Los Angeles Times: December 22, 1997. pg. 1
  16. ^ Bobbin, Jay. "Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird." Birmingham News (Alabama): December 21, 1997 Pg. 1F.
  17. ^ Universal Pictures Legacy Series DVD 2005
  18. ^ Hoffman, Allison, Rubin, H. "Peck Memorial Honors Beloved Actor and Man; The longtime star is remembered for his integrity and constancy". Los Angeles Times: June 17, 2003. pg. B.1.
  19. ^ Oliver, Myrna. "Obituaries; Brock Peters, 78; Stage, Screen, TV Actor Noted for Role in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'; " Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: August 24, 2005. pg. B.8.
  20. ^ Gregory Peck Interview with Jimmy Carter at YouTube
  21. ^ To Kill a Mockingbird – Awards – IMDb
  22. ^ Robert Duvall (actor), Gary Hertz (director) (2002-04-16). Miracles & Mercies (Documentary). West Hollywood, California: Blue Underground. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 22, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  27. ^ "Harlem community honors 'Mockingbird' actress" from the USA Today.
  28. ^ a b "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  29. ^ "NY Times: To Kill a Mockingbird". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  30. ^ "Festival de Cannes: To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  31. ^ "1963 Cannes Film Festival". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  32. ^ Billboard Apr 13, 1963
  33. ^ Erikson, Matthew. "Elmer Bernstein: 'One of the Greatest Film Composers Ever'". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 24, 2016.

External links[edit]