To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird photo starrating-5stars.jpg“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1960 novel is adapted into a milestone of American cinematic entertainment. The townspeople of Maycomb, Alabama as seen through the eyes of Jean Louise Finch or “Scout” as she‘s affectionately known – a little girl living during The Great Depression in the South. As the movie begins, an adult Scout narrates through voice-over regarding her experiences growing up with her family – brother Jem, friend Dill, and father Atticus Finch.

To Kill a Mockingbird is highlighted by stunning performances that are breathtakingly genuine. Young actress Mary Badham epitomizes tomboy “Scout” with the skill of a seasoned pro. The film examines her societal observations beginning as a 6 year old. These include her adventures with her brother, 10 year-old Jem (Phillip Alford) and their friend “Dill” (John Megna). Dill is a peculiarly eccentric boy based on Harper Lee‘s real life childhood friendship with Truman Capote. The three of them pass their summers together preoccupied with a neighbor home that belongs to the hateful Mr. Radley and his reclusive son – the often talked about but never seen – Boo Radley. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch, a lawyer and the children’s father. It has become an iconic role. The actor embodies absolute virtue, both as a father and as a lawyer tapped to defend a man on trial for a serious crime. Peck even won the Oscar (beating Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia). Estelle Evans is their no-nonsense housekeeper Calpurnia and inherent mother figure to the kids. Deeply respected, she provides discipline and love but doesn’t overindulge the children.

Gregory Peck is the personification of goodness in his part as the southern lawyer selected to defend a black man accused of rape. Director Robert Mulligan along with frequent collaborator-producer Alan J. Pakula, brings a classic of modern American literature to the screen in a near perfect masterpiece. To Kill a Mockingbird meticulously captures the reflections of a young girl. It’s hard to imagine a more deft handling of what a child witnesses concerning the residents of a close-knit community. Bigotry is definitely a major subject. However Horton Foote’s Oscar winning adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel, is more importantly a timeless reminiscence about growing up in Alabama during the 1930s. Multiple characters and storylines are effectively managed as a portrait of the American south is painted. The atmosphere of a small southern town is perfectly captured. Russell Harlan’s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography has a transcendent quality that rightfully earned an Oscar nomination. His beautifully framed evocation of the south is just as important as the actors that gives spirit to Harper Lee’s words. The entire story climaxes in a entertaining courtroom drama that deals with civil rights but it leads to so much more. As the developments play out, the movie demonstrates how subsequent events have a profound effect on the formative education on a maturing protagonist.

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16 Responses to “To Kill a Mockingbird”

  1. Nice review. I haven’t seen this for years, but for a long time it was one of my favorite films. Looks like I’ll have to watch it again.

    • I have seen this film before but had forgotten how wonderful it is. I have a fluctuating short-list of favorite films. There’s roughly 30 titles on it, give or take a few. This just made the list.

  2. Great review! TKAM is one of those classics I’m very interested in but for some reason haven’t seen yet!

    • Mark, thank-you for reminding me of this extremely well done adaptation of a great novel. It is worth seeing again and again.
      You are right that the story is about so much more than bigotry. The view is through the eyes of a child growing up and the effect events have on her formation. In speaking of Attcus, Gregory Peck said he was the character he admired the most of all his roles.

    • You should definitely remedy that soon. The movie is a cinematic milestone.

  3. A question and 2 comments:

    1. What ever became of Mary Badham?

    2. Robert Duval’s second best performance.

    3. That Atticus sort of got under my skin after a while. The writers should’ve given the guy at least ONE fault, like maybe, he couldn’t shoot a rifle for sour apples.

    • Yes Atticus was almost too good to be true.

      Just goes to show you don’t have to utter a single word to make an impression. Knowing your tastes, I’m guessing The Great Santini is your pick for his best? Tender Mercies and The Godfather films are my other guesses.

      From Wikipedia:
      Badham also appeared in the films Let’s Kill Uncle and This Property Is Condemned before retiring from the acting profession in 1966. She is an art restorer and a college testing coordinator. Married to a school teacher, and the mother of two, she also travels around the world recalling her experiences making To Kill a Mockingbird.

  4. Saw this movie for the first time. Wow! Immediately one of my favorites of all time. Great inspiring family, exciting situations, touching moments, laughter and a little horror. This movie has it all. And it was all done realistically. I left the theater emotional after what I had just seen. I didn’t want it to end. Loved it. 5 stars.

  5. I read the book in high school, but somehow I escaped watching the film in class. It’s a shame too because it sounds like a great adaptation. I’ll have to Netflix it. Very interesting fact about the eccentric friend being based on Truman Capote, I had no idea about that. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I saw the film ages ago. Thanks for making me think of it again. Wonderful review.

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