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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
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 and her brother Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch, live in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the early 1930s. Despite the Finch family's modest means, the children enjoy a happy childhood, cared for by their widowed father, Atticus, and Calpurnia, the housekeeper. During the summer, the Jem, Scout, and their friend, Dill, play games and often look for Arthur "Boo" Radley, the reclusive neighbour they have never seen. Atticus, a lawyer, strongly believes all people should be treated fairly, to turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. Many of Atticus' clients, like Mr. Cunningham, are poor and can only pay in trade, giving him fresh produce, firewood, and so on.[4]

Atticus' work as a lawyer exposes Scout and Jem to their town's racism and evil, aggravated by poverty. As a result, they mature quickly. The local judge appoints Atticus to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, against an accusation of rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell. Atticus accepts the case. His decision causes Jem and Scout to experience schoolyard tauns. 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, 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, 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 he felt sorry for her,his words inciting a negative reaction from spectators. Whites are viewed as superior to blacks, and Tom's sympathy for Mayella dooms his case, and he is found guilty.

As Atticus exits the courtroom, the black spectators sitting in the balcony rise in respect and appreciation. When Atticus arrives home, however, Sheriff Tate informs him that Tom has been killed during his transfer to prison, apparently while attempting to escape. Atticus, accompanied by Jem, goes to the Robinson home to relay news of Tom's death. Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, appears and spits in Atticus' face while Jem waits in the car.

Autumn arrives, and Scout and Jem attend a nighttime Halloween school pageant. Scout is wearing a large hard-shelled ham costume, portraying one of Maycomb county's farm products. Scout's dress and shoes are misplaced, forcing her to walk home in her costume. While cutting through the woods, Scout and Jem are attacked by an unidentified man. Scout's cumbersome costume protects her from the attacker's knife but restricts her vision. Jem is knocked unconscious after a brief but violent struggle. The attacker is suddenly thwarted and overcome by another unidentified man. Scout escapes her costume and sees the second man carrying Jem toward their house. Scout runs into the arms of a concerned Atticus. Doc Reynolds treats an unconscious Jem's broken arm.

Scout tells Sheriff Tate and her father what happened, then sees a man standing quietly behind the door of Jem's room. Atticus introduces Scout to Arthur Radley, whom she has known as Boo. He was the man who came to the aid of Jem and Scout in the woods. 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.


Duvall is the last surviving adult actor from the film's credited cast. Badham and Alford also survive.

Uncredited roles in order of appearance[edit]

  • 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, with the site's critical consensus states, "To Kill a Mockingbird is a textbook example of a message movie done right — sober-minded and earnest, but never letting its social conscience get in the way of gripping drama."[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'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, 1960. 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 (January 10, 2012). "Universal Celebrates 100th Birthday With New Logo and 13 Film Restorations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  4. ^ Harper Lee. "To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 2–3". SparkNotes. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  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 August 4, 2018.
  7. ^ ""To Kill a Mockingbird" A 50th Anniversary Restoration of the Classic Film". Southern Literary Trail. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  8. ^ "To Kill a Mockingbird". Filming Locations. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  9. ^ "To Kill A Mockingbird". December 25, 1962. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 15, 1963). "One Adult Omission in a Fine Film: 2 Superb Discoveries Add to Delight". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved July 13, 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) (April 16, 2002). Miracles & Mercies (Documentary). West Hollywood, California: Blue Underground. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "AFI'S 100 Years... 100 Cheers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 22, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  27. ^ "Harlem community honors 'Mockingbird' actress" from the USA Today.
  28. ^ a b "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  29. ^ "NY Times: To Kill a Mockingbird". NY Times. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  30. ^ "Festival de Cannes: To Kill a Mockingbird". Retrieved February 27, 2009.
  31. ^ "1963 Cannes Film Festival". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 2, 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]