To Kill a Mockingbird (film)

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To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Produced by Alan J. Pakula
Screenplay by Horton Foote
Based on To Kill a Mockingbird 
by Harper Lee
Narrated by Kim Stanley
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Russell Harlan, A.S.C.
Edited by Aaron Stell, A.C.E.
  • Brentwood Productions
  • Pakula-Mulligan
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 1962 (1962-12-25)
Running time
129 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million[2]
Box office $13.1 million (North America)[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.

The film, considered to be one of the best ever made, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. A box office success, it earned more than 10 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. It also ranks twenty-fifth on the American Film Institute's 10th anniversary list of the greatest American movies of all time. In 2003, AFI named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

To Kill a Mockingbird marked the film debuts of Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Alice Ghostley.


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 1930s. The story covers three years, during which Scout and Jem undergo changes in their lives. They begin as innocent children, who spend their days happily playing games with each other and spying on Arthur "Boo" Radley (Robert Duvall), who has not been seen for many years by anybody as a result of never leaving his house and about whom many rumors circulate. Their widowed father, Atticus (Gregory Peck), is a town lawyer and has a strong belief 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.[3] 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 teenaged girl, Mayella Ewell. Atticus accepts the case. Jem and Scout experience schoolyard taunts for their father's decision. Later, a lynch mob, led by Mr. Cunningham, tries to lynch Robinson over Atticus' objections. Scout, Jem and their friend, Dill, 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 assist with the chopping up of a chifforobe, and that Mayella showed signs of having been beaten around that time. Among Atticus' chief arguments, he points out that Tom is crippled in his left arm, and that the supposed rapist would have had to make extensive use of his left hand in assaulting Mayella before raping her. At the same time Atticus demonstrates that Mayella's father, Bob Ewell, is left handed, implying that he – rather than Tom – was the one who beat Mayella. Atticus also states that the girl had not even 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 . . . ". He didn't finish the sentence but the prosecutor hammered 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's found guilty.

Atticus arrives home to discover from the sheriff (Frank Overton) that Tom has been killed by a deputy during his transfer to prison. The sheriff states that according to this deputy, Tom was trying to escape. The deputy reported that Tom ran like a "crazy" man before he was shot. Atticus and Jem go to the Robinson family home to advise 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's forced to walk home without shoes and 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. Their attacker is thwarted and overcome by another unidentified man. Jem is knocked unconscious and Scout escapes unharmed in a brief but violent struggle. Scout escapes her costume in time to see a man carrying Jem to their home and entering. Scout follows and once inside 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 notices a man standing silently behind the bedroom door in the corner of Jem's room. Atticus introduces Scout to Mr Arthur Radley; he is the person who came to their aid against Ewell in the woods. Boo is also the man who carried Jem home. The sheriff reports Bob Ewell was discovered dead at the scene of the attack with a knife in his ribs. Atticus assumes Jem killed Ewell in self-defense. Sheriff Tate, however, believes that Boo killed Ewell in defense of the children and 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 to an earlier lesson from the film (hence its title) when she likens any public outing of Boo to the killing of a mockingbird. The film ends with Scout considering events from Boo's point of view, and Atticus watching over the unconscious Jem.



Unbilled roles (in order of appearance)
  • Kim Stanley [Unseen 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 [Mrs. Dubose's servant, sitting close to her on the Dubose porch {the character has no speaking lines}]
  • Jamie Forster [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 [Mr. Cunningham's son Walter, at dinner with the Finch family: "Yes, sir. I don't know when I've had roast. We've been having squirrels and rabbits lately."]
  • David Crawford [David Robinson, on the steps to the Robinsons' shack: "Good evening."]
  • Kim Hamilton [Helen Robinson, inside the Robinsons' shack: "Good evening, Mr. Finch."]
  • Dan White [Mob leader approaching as Atticus Finch sits in front of the jailhouse: "He in there, Mr. Finch?"]
  • Kelly Thordsen [Heavyset member of the mob who grabs and picks up Jem: "Well, I'll send you home."]
  • William "Bill" Walker [Reverend Sykes, at the courthouse for Tom Robinson's trial: "Miss Jean Louise? Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."]
  • Charles Fredericks [Court clerk at Tom Robinson's trial: "Place your hand on the bible, please. Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth...?"]
  • Guy Wilkerson [Jury foreman at Tom Robinson's trial: We find the defendant guilty as charged."]
  • Jay Sullivan [Court reporter at Tom Robinson's trial: "Yes."]
  • Jester Hairston [Tom Robinson's father in front of the Robinsons' shack: "Hello Mr. Finch. I'm Spence, Tom's father."]
  • Hugh Sanders [Doctor who examines Jem: "He's got a bad break, so far as I can tell. Somebody tried to wring his arm off."]

Robert Duvall is the last adult cast member still living.[citation needed]


To Kill a Mockingbird
Tokill a mockingbird Varese.jpg
Soundtrack album by Elmer Bernstein
Released Early April 1963[4]
Recorded August 1–2, 1996, City Halls, Glasgow
Label Varèse Sarabande

Elmer Bernstein's score for To Kill a Mockingbird is regarded as one of the greatest film scores[citation needed] 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


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."[5] 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.[6] "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."[7]

The 1962 softcover edition of the novel opens with the following: "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." [8] 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."[9] 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."[10] 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.[11]

Critical response[edit]

The film received widespread critical acclaim. As of September 2015, it maintains a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews.[12] According to Bosley Crowther:[13]

"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 that 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:[14]

"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."

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."[15] 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.[16]

The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.[17] Additionally, the AFI ranked the movie second on their 100 Years... 100 Cheers list, behind It's a Wonderful Life.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] In the 54 Best Legal Films of all-time,[21] To Kill a Mockingbird finished in top place with 14 votes out of a possible 15.[22]

In 2007, Hamilton was honored by the Harlem community for her part in the movie. She is 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."[23]

American Film Institute Lists

Academy Awards[edit]

The film won three Academy Awards out of the eight for which it was nominated.[25]

Other nominations were for Best Picture (Producer, Alan J. Pakula), Best Director (Robert Mulligan), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Russell Harlan), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mary Badham), and Best Music, Score — Substantially Original (Elmer Bernstein)

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.[26][27]


The film was restored and released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2012 as part of the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures.[28]

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. ^ Harper Lee. "To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 2–3". SparkNotes. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  4. ^ Billboard Apr 13, 1963
  5. ^ Nichols, Peter. "Time Can't Kill 'Mockingbird'; [Review]." New York Times: February 27, 1998. pg. E.1
  6. ^ King, Susan. "How the Finch Stole Christmas; Q & A WITH GREGORY PECK." Los Angeles Times: December 22, 1997. pg. 1
  7. ^ Bobbin, Jay. "Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird." Birmingham News (Alabama): December 21, 1997 Pg. 1F.
  8. ^ Universal Pictures Legacy Series DVD 2005
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Gregory Peck Interview with Jimmy Carter at YouTube
  12. ^ "To Kill A Mockingbird". 1962-12-25. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger. "To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  15. ^ To Kill a Mockingbird – Awards – IMDb
  16. ^ Robert Duvall (actor), Gary Hertz (director) (2002-04-16). Miracles & Mercies (Documentary). West Hollywood, California: Blue Underground. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  21. ^ "Best Legal Movies of All Time". 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  22. ^ "Best Legal Movies of All Time". 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  23. ^ "Harlem community honors 'Mockingbird' actress" from the USA Today.
  24. ^ a b "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  25. ^ "NY Times: To Kill a Mockingbird". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  26. ^ "Festival de Cannes: To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  27. ^ "1963 Cannes Film Festival". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  28. ^ Appelo, Tim (2012-01-10). "Universal Celebrates 100th Birthday With New Logo and 13 Film Restorations". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 

External links[edit]