Gregory Peck is Born1916
Eldred Gregory Peck born April 5, La Jolla, CA. to Gregory Pearl Peck, of Irish descent, and Bernice Ayres, of Missouri.
His parents divorce, his mother returns to St. Louis, Missouri, and Gregory goes to live with his maternal grandmother in La Jolla.
St. John’s Catholic Military Academy1926
Sent to St. John’s Catholic Military Academy outside of Los Angeles, where he serves as an altar boy.
High School in San Diego1930
Returns to live with his pharmacist father. Attends San Diego High School.
Finding the Stage1938
As a senior, discovers his passion in acting and appears in five plays at UC Berkeley.
New York Bound1939
Graduates UC Berkeley, boards a train to NY to study acting, and drops the first name “Eldred.”
Making Ends Meet1939
Barker at NY Worlds Fair, Usher at Radio City, models for Montgomery Ward, sleeps in Central Park when out of cash.
Wins A Scholarship to the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse, studies acting with Sanford Meisner, movement with Martha Graham.
Exempted from military service in WWII due to back injury. Begins playing roles in Summer Stock theater, including the Barter Theater, the Cape Playhouse.
Tours in The Doctor’s Dilemma, by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Guthrie McClintic and starring Katherine Cornell.
Meets with Louis B Mayer, Darrel Zanuck, David O Selnick, Samuel Goldwyn. Says no to contract player system, becoming one of first actors able to work at multiple studios. Stars in first film, Days of Glory.
Third Oscar Nomination1947
Stars in Gentleman’s Agreement, first major film to deal with discrimination against Jews. Winner of Best Picture Oscar.
Goes Back to Theater Roots1947
Founder of La Jolla Playhouse, with fellow actors Mel Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire.
An Epic Western1958
Stars in The Big Country with Charlton Heston, also Co-Produces the film with William Wyler
Ahead of the Curve1958
Stars in On The Beach, sounding a warning against nuclear proliferation. Third film with beloved friend Ava Gardner.
Original Buddy Movie1961
Stars in The Guns of Navarone, with Anthony Quinn, David Niven and Anthony Quayle.
Elected to the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Raises Record Breaking Funds1965
Appointed Chairman of American Cancer Society, travels the country raising awarness and funding.
Inner City Cultural Center1966
Helped found the Inner City Cultural Center, a multi-cultural theater in South Central Los Angeles.
Elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, serves three terms.
A Special Globe1969
Wins Golden Globe Cecil. B. DeMille Award, for Outstanding Contributions to the World of Entertainment.
Opposes Vietnam War1972
Produces The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. At the same time is very proud of his son Stephen, who is deployed as a Marine in Vietnam.
Works With Friend Laurence Olivier1978
Stars in Boys from Brazil as evil villain Dr. Josef Mengele.
In the Hometown of Veronique1993
Awarded Legion d'Honneur in Paris, France's Highest Honor, by President Jacques Chirac.
Sixth Golden Globe, at 781998
Plays cameo in TV remake of Moby Dick. Nominated for Emmy Award, wins Golden Globe.
Friend Harry Belafonte Presents1999
Wins Marian Anderson Award in Philadelphia for humanitarian leadership.
A Fine Accolade1999
The American Film Institute names Gregory one of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.
Gregory Peck Passes AwayJune 12, 2003
June 12, at home in Los Angeles, with Veronique and his family at his side.
Final Words From a Lifelong FriendJune 16, 2003
June 16, Brock Peters delivers Gregory's eulogy, at Los Angeles' Catherdral of Our Lady of the Angels.
A Presidential Favorite2012
For the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird, President Obama screens film at the White House.
I’m not a do-gooder. It embarrassed me to be classified as a humanitarian. I simply take part in activities that I believe in.
– Gregory Peck
I think that’s what the audience is really interested in… you, how you’re going to cope with the situation, the obstacles, the troubles that the writer put in front of you.
– Gregory Peck
Tough times don’t last, tough people do, remember?
– Gregory Peck
I enjoy practicing my craft as well as I possibly can. I enjoy the work for its own sake.
– Gregory Peck
Of the movies I’ve done there isn’t much I really like. The Gunfighter, Roman Holiday, Twelve O’Clock High I feel were my best.
– Gregory Peck, 1957
Tall and strikingly handsome, with a commanding presence and a deep, resonant voice, Peck was born in La Jolla, California, on April 5, 1916. As a senior at the University of California at Berkeley, he was cast in several plays and fell in love with acting. Upon graduating, he won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and made his Broadway debut in 1942. Critical praise and more stage roles followed. Peck soon caused a sensation in Hollywood and quickly became a major star. One of cinema’s most respected actors, Gregory Peck appeared in more than 60 films during an esteemed career that stretched from the 1940’s to the early 2000’s. His dignity, humanity, and integrity impressed critics from the start and endeared him to generations of moviegoers. Nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actor, he won the Oscar for his performance as defense attorney Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, a character that Peck said was closest to his own heart.
Although he played a wide variety of memorable roles throughout his career—a wayward cowboy in Duel in the Sun (1946), a love-struck reporter in Roman Holiday (1953), Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1956)—Peck always grounded his performance in a keen intelligence and innate authenticity that illuminated the screen.
His thoughtful portrayal of a devoted priest in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Another Oscar nomination followed for The Yearling (1946). In Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), Peck played a passionate young reporter determined to expose anti-Semitism. Acclaimed by critics as well as the public, the film earned eight Academy Award nominations, including one for Peck as Best Actor. He received a fourth Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the commander of a demoralized World War II bomber squadron in Twelve O’Clock High (1949).
Peck’s own favorite role, and the one for which he is most remembered, is Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, the film tells the story of Atticus’s defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman. The film opened in December 1962. According to Variety, it was “a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years.” The film earned eight Academy Award nominations, countless international honors, and the Best Actor Oscar for Peck. Perhaps Harper Lee summed it up best: “Atticus Finch gave Gregory Peck an opportunity to play himself.” In 2003, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Atticus Finch the number one movie hero in American film history.
From the beginning, Peck’s career included many critical and box-office hits, including Spellbound (1945), The Gunfighter (1950), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), On the Beach (1959), and The Guns of Navarone (1961). In the late 1950s, he also formed his own movie production company. Its films included the epic 1958 western The Big Country, the innovative Korean War drama Pork Chop Hill (1959), and the suspense thriller Cape Fear (1962), among others. In The Omen (1976), he had the biggest box office hit of his career. In 1991, he revisited Cape Fear in a version directed by Martin Scorsese, and in 1998 received a Golden Globe for his tour-de-force appearance in a television adaptation of Moby Dick.
In the midst of his phenomenal rise in Hollywood, Peck remained committed to live theater. In 1947, he was a founder of the La Jolla Playhouse, a nonprofit professional theater company, and was an active and avid supporter for the rest of his life. Peck was an outspoken opponent of racism and anti-semitism, and championed films which addressed these issues head-on.
Peck was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1970 and also served as a longtime governor. He was an inaugural member of the National Council on the Arts and the Founding Chairman of the American Film Institute. He was National Chairman of the American Cancer Society and raised record-breaking contributions. He also devoted himself to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which provides health care to members of the entertainment industry. For his public service, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar, in 1967.
In 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Peck the Presidential Medal of Freedom as “an artist who had brought new dignity to the actor’s profession,” and in 1970, Peck received the Screen Actors Guild award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the ideals of the acting profession.” In 1989, he received the AFI Life Achievement Award, followed by the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991 and the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1998.
Gregory Peck will long be remembered for leaving the indelible imprint of his own character on all the roles he played, especially Atticus Finch, of whom 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.”