“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.