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Posts Tagged ‘gregory peck’

Gregory Peck stars as Tom Rath, the ‘man in the gray flannel suit’ of the title. The title was a metaphor for the corporate culture in America post-World War 2, and Rath is just such a man. A veteran of the war which finished ten years earlier, Rath has trouble coping with his life as a white collar office worker, and with a wife who wants him to be more ambitious and earn more money. He suffers with flashbacks to his time in the war, and memories of the Italian woman he fell in love with when he was a soldier – and their romance may have lasting repercussions.

About twenty minutes after I started watching the film, I considered turning it off, because I was expecting it to be boring. I did stick with it though, and I’m glad. Gregory Peck is one of my favourite actors, but it could be said that he didn’t have a great deal of range. He’s pretty perfect for this role though, and you could feel his frustration at trying to satisfy a demanding wife, connect with his uninterested children, hold down a good job (while coping with a colleague who seemed determined to put him down), deal with his past coming back to haunt him, and on top of all that solve a dispute regarding his late grandmother’s estate. Jennifer Jones was good as Tom’s wife Betsy, although I didn’t thnk she was a particularly sympathetic character.

There was quite a lot going on, and I felt that at least one subplot – where Tom is trying to settle his grandmother’s estate and is challenged by a former member of her staff, who claims that the old lady left the house to him – was probably unnecessary. Nonetheless, it was worth watching these few scenes if only for the excellent role played by Lee J. Cobb, as a sympathetic Judge who helps Tom (and later features again, helping with another problem). If Cobb had had a bigger part, he might well have stolen the whole film! Frederic March also played a superb part as Tom’s new boss, who has family problems of his own – a wife who he barely sees, and a daughter who is ashamed of him.

The ending does perhaps wrap things up a little too conveniently, but it was nice to see a clear resolution to the story.

Overall, while the film is slightly overlong (2 and a half hours), and possibly could have benefitted from some editing, it is definitely worth watching, especially for fans of Peck or March. I wouldn’t exactly call it enjoyable – it’s not supposed to be a happy film – but it did get under my skin somehow, and I would recommend it (it certainly made me think).

Year of release: 1956

Director: Nunnally Johnson

Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck

Writers: Sloan Wilson (book), Nunnally Johnson

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, Frederic March

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Gregory Peck was one of the 20th century’s most loved screen idols.  Tall and handsome, he is forever linked with (and perhaps confused with) his  most famous role, that of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).  This book chronicles his life, from his early stage career, through to his largely successful life in Hollywood and his humanitarian campaigns and activities.  It also describes his private life, including his first marriage to Greta, his second marriage to Veronique, and the tragic suicide of eldest son Jonathan.

I thought this book was clearly well researched, and well written.  Lynn Haney apparently was a friend of Gregory Peck, and the warmth she feels for him comes through loud and clear.  She does however manage to remain objective, and although she clearly holds Peck in high regard, there are constant reminders throughout that he was a man, not a god, and he had flaws and idiosyncrasies which made him all too human.

It’s a shame that the book does not seem to have any first person interviews with Peck or any of his family.  There are plenty of quotes from other interviews however.  (Early on in the book, Haney mentions another biography of Peck, and notes that the author of that book never met with nor spoke to Gregory Peck at all; implying that she had spoken to him.  As they were apparently friends, this is not surprising, but it does not appear that he had any part in the writing of this book.)  Having said that though, it’s clear that Haney knows her subject well.

The book discusses most of Peck’s films – the hits and the misses – giving anecdotes from the set, and offering glimpses into the actor’s interactions and relationships with colleagues.  It does not shy away from discussing disagreements that Peck had with other actors, producers or directors, or his disappointment with the way some projects turned out.

There is a saying that you should never meet your heroes because you will always be disappointed – you could broaden this saying and add that it’s best not to know too much about your heroes in case you are disappointed.  I can’t deny that at some points while reading this biography I read things that did disappoint me somewhat.  But I also believe that no man or woman on earth is perfect (whatever perfect is), and that all we can do is the best that we can at the time.  At the end of this book, I was left with the impression that Gregory Peck had done just that…and he will always be one of my favourite actors.

This isn’t the only available biography of Gregory Peck – it might not even be the best one around, but for fans, it is definitely worth reading.

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This British made film stars Gregory Peck as Squadron Leader Bill Forrester, stationed in Burma in World War II. Forrester no longer cares whether he lives or dies, after his wife died in a bombing raid. When he visits a missionary’s house in Burma, he feels a connection to a young Burmese woman who lives there. Shortly afterwards however, Forrester, his navigator Carrington and another colleague named Blore, crash land in Japanese territory, badly injuring Carrington in the process. A long walk across hostile and unforgiving territory is the only possible chance of escape.

I wasn’t too sure whether I would enjoy this film. War movies are not a favourite genre of mine, and I wouldn’t have considered watching it, if Gregory Peck hadn’t been in this film. However, I’m glad I did. The Purple Plain is less a war movie, and more a film about the human condition with the war as a backdrop.

Gregory Peck was at his most beautiful in the early-mid 50s, and he certainly looks stunning here. His looks do not detract from his excellent performance however, and he really captures the two sides of Forrester – the lost and hopeless side we see at the beginning of the film, and the somewhat more optimistic side of him that develops. Having found a reason to live, Forrester has to face the very real possibility that he might die, and this is all shown very well.

Win Min Than plays Anna, the young Burmese girl who Forrester falls for. She is luminous in the part, and very appealing. (This was the first and last film that the actress ever made – she had not previously pursued a career in acting, and had fallen into the role almost by chance. She decided against a career as an actress, in order to concentrate on her marriage.) Maurice Denham is also good as the irritating but well-meaning Blore. The only patchy acting was down to Brenda de Banzie, who played the missionary at whose house Anna lived. De Banzie plays the part with a Scottish (I think) accent, which is pretty bad, and ended up distracting me whenever she was on screen.

Overall though, this is a great little-known film, and one that is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Robert Parris

Writers: H.E. Bates (novel), Eric Ambler

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Win Min Than, Bernard Lee, Maurice Denham, Brenda de Banzie

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In this 1976 classic horror movie, Gregory Peck plays American ambassador Robert Thorn, who makes the biggest mistake of his life when his newborn child dies, and he agrees to illegally adopt another baby, whose mother died in childbirth. This is all unknown to Thorn’s wife Kathy (Lee Remick), and for the first few years of their son Damien’s life, everything is great. The Thorns have a healthy, happy child, and a wonderful marriage. Things start to go wrong however, at Damien’s fifth birthday party, when his nanny commits suicide in front of all the guests, and shortly afterwards, a Priest warns Robert that his family’s life is in danger from their son. Strange and troubling events soon start to convince Robert that his child is evil incarnate…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film – I’m not generally a fan of horror movies, and I wanted to see this one, purely because I am a fan of Gregory Peck. I actually did not find it scary – although there were a few genuinely tense moments – but I did find it riveting viewing. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are perfectly cast as the Thorns, who come to suspect that their child is not all he seems. Billie Whitelaw is also superb, and genuinely unsettling as Mrs Baylock, the nanny who replaces their ill-fated first nanny. Harvey Stephens, as only a young boy, does a fine job as Damien, although he does not get as much screen time as one might have expected. Excellent support is also given by Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan, the repentant Priest who tries to warn Thorn, and David Warner as a photographer named Jennings, who finds himself drawn into the mystery surrounding Damien.

There is very little gore in this film; rather, it is a case of what you don’t see, i.e., the power of suggestion. This creates a more unsettling atmosphere. Although the film is not as frightening nowadays – and possibly has not aged very well – I can imagine that at the time of its release, it was genuinely disturbing.

It’s well worth seeing, even if you’re not a fan of the horror genre – it’s a film that’s a classic with good reason!

Year of release: 1976

Director: Richard Donner

Writer: David Seltzer

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw, David Warner, Patrick Troughton, Harvey Stephens

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This Western is loosely based on a real story.  Gregory Peck plays notorious gunslinger  Jimmy Ringo, who is tired of the life and has come to Cayenne in the hope of reuniting with his estranged wife, and the young son who has never known him.  However, Jimmy’s reputation has preceded him, and there are plenty of young men willing to risk a showdown with Jimmy in order to make a name for themselves.  The woman of the town object to him even being there at all and call upon the Marshal to remove Jimmy, and on top of all that, three vengeful cowboys from a town that Jimmy has just left are hot on his trail.

This film was more enjoyable than I had expected; the only reason I watched it was because Gregory Peck was in it, but I ended up enjoying the story.  Peck is perfect as the weary and cynical Jimmy, who isn’t allowed to forget his former life, as much as he would like to.  He’s gorgeous as always – even with his moustache!  Millard Mitchell was also great as the sympathetic Marshal Mark Street, who has known Jimmy for years.

The whole thing has a moody and somewhat sombre atmosphere, although there was a very amusing scene in the Marshal’s office, when the ladies in the town come down to demand that he removes Ringo.

Far more than a shoot-em-up Western, this is an intelligent and worthwhile examination of a man trying to change the direction of his life.

Year of release: 1950

Director: Henry King

Writers: William Bowers, William Sellers, Andre De Toth, Nunnally Johnson

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell, Jean Parker

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Gregory Peck heads up the cast of this terrific Western (‘terrific’ and ‘Western’ being two words I rarely use in the same sentence).  He plays Jim Douglas, a man who comes to the sleepy town of Rio Arriba, to witness the hanging of the four men who he believes raped and murdered his wife.  However, the night before the hanging, the four men escape and the townsmen ask Jim for his help in getting them back.

I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but I am a big fan of Gregory Peck, which is the reason I watched this movie – and I’m so glad that I did.  It has everything, a suspenseful storyline, a great main character, and a fabulous actor playing him.  This is really Peck’s movie – despite the star billing of Joan Collins (playing Josefa, an old flame of Jim’s), the rest of the cast are really supporting actors.  And Peck plays the brooding, obsessed man to perfection.  He really does have (as one of the criminals notes) the eyes of a hunter, and it’s clear that his desire to see these men dead has completely overwhelmed him.

There’s also an underlying debate in the storyline – when people use the excuse of justice to justify revenge, are they not lowering themselves to the level of those they judge?  For the most part though, this is simply a riveting storyline, with a great actor in the  main role.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Henry King

Writers: Frank O’Rourke (book), Philip Yordan

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Joan Collins

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Gregory Peck plays Henry Adams, a penniless American sailor who has arrived in London almost by accident.  All he wants is a job where he can earn some honest money, but then two elderly millionaires make a him a strange offer…they give him a £1 million pound note, and tell him that if he returns it to them intact after one month, they will get him any job he chooses.  Henry soon discovers that he doesn’t need to spend money to buy things – simply showing people the note and his apparent wealth is enough for them to give him whatever he wants for free!  (And after all, who has the money to provide change for such a sum?!)  He falls in love with the aristocratic Portia Lansdowne (Jane Griffiths), but inevitably, complications and misunderstandings ensue…

This was rare foray into British film for Gregory Peck, and also a role in a genre that he didn’t often go in for – comedy.  It works well on both levels.  Peck is stunning to look at (always handsome, I think he looked his absolute best in the 1950s), and is perfect as Henry – essentially a very decent and honourable man, who finds his apparent new found wealth places him at odds with his principles.  The British setting works well; the humour of the piece definitely feels eccentrically British.

Great support is given by Jane Griffiths as Portia, the object of Henry’s affection, and Joyce Grenfell as the Duchess of Cromarty (Portia’s aunt, who loves Henry when she thinks he’s rich and soon changes her mind when she realises the truth).  Reginald Beckwith plays Henry’s mute friend Rock, and his role is also a delight.

This isn’t a laugh-out-loud screwball comedy, but it’s charming, sweet and whimsical and very amusing too.  London looks lovely, and so does the main actor!  Definitely worth a watch.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Ronald Neame

Writers: Mark Twain (story), Jill Craigie

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Jane Griffiths, Reginald Beckwith

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This movie chronicles the last months in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, as detailed in the book by Sheila Graham – Hollywood reporter and one time girlfriend of Fitzgerald. The author of such incredible novels as The Great Gatsby (which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend) and Tender Is The Night, is now writing pulp fiction movies for a movie studio – accepting what work he can in order to pay for the care of his wife Zelda who is in an asylum, and the schooling for his daughter.  He meets Sheila Graham, and there is an instant attraction between them.  They fall deeply in love, but Fitzgerald’s alcoholism threatens to destroy their unhappiness.

First let me preface my thoughts on the movie by saying that I am aware that this account of real life events has been highly fictionalised and romanticised.  I decided to view it almost as a fictional film about fictional characters, which helped my enjoyment of it.  This is not a very popular film (Peck himself was not overly happy with it), and there were parts it which didn’t so well, but overall I did enjoy watching it.

I thought Peck played his part well, and really showed the difference between the witty, erudite and thoughtful sober Fitzgerald, and the drunken, overbearing and rude Fitzgerald (again, this may be misrepresenting the real man, so I am talking as if the character was entirely fictional).  Like many drunks, Fitzgerald could be funny and entertaining, but he couldn’t handle the alcohol, and it made him unpredictable to be around.  In fact, the scenes of a drunken Fitzgerald were some of Peck’s best scenes in this film.

Gregory Peck looks gorgeous – absolutely so – in this film.  One of the best looking Hollywood actors ever (to me anyway), here he is handsome and charismatic.  Deborah Kerr however, while looking lovely, didn’t seem quite so convincing in her role.  I thought she was terrific in An Affair To Remember, but here she seems overly theatrical in the part, and it was hard to really warm to her character.

The score is somewhat overblown, although there is some lovely music in it, but the movie does look beautiful.  If you’ve not seen this lesser appreciated movie, I think it’s worth giving it a go.  Much of the criticism levelled at it is entirely justified, but if you can take that on board, there’s still a lot of reasons to see this film.

Year of release: 1959

Director: Henry King

Writers: Sheila Graham (book), Gerold Frank (book), Sy Bartlett

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert

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In this classic movie, Audrey Hepburn is a princess (of a country which is never named), who comes to Rome on official business.  Despairing of her pampered lifestyle and lack of freedom, she escapes from her country’s embassy, deciding to explore Rome by herself.

She soon meets up with cynical journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), who initially thinks she is drunk, but soon realises her true identity, and sees the opportunity for a great story.  Princess Anne does not realise that Bradley is a journalist, and he doesn’t reveal that he knows who she is.  Instead, he takes her to see many of the sights of Rome, and gradually their feelings for each other develop.  But Anne has duties to her country and knows that her pretend life as an ordinary citizen cannot last….

I watched this film for the first time, the night that I got back from a mini break in Rome, and I adored the movie.  Black and white films are not something I would normally choose to watch, but this was a true classic – amusing, incredibly charming and romantic.  Much like the two leads.  Peck and Hepburn on screen are like genetic perfection, and both of them are perfect in their respective roles.  (It was in fact Audrey Hepburn’s debut film, and she won as Oscar for her part.)  Peck is gorgeous, but he is world weary and while he is a decent and kind man, his only care initially is for writing an exclusive scoop on the princess – but his feelings change as he comes to know her.  Hepburn meanwhile is cute, innocent in a child like way and very funny, capturing the vulnerability and loneliness of the princess in her ivory tower, and infusing her character with a great deal of fun on her ‘day off’.  I defy anyone to watch this movie and not fall a little bit in love with her.  The setting of Rome is of course beautiful and lends the perfect backdrop to this romantic comedy.

Some movies become classics for a reason – this is one of them.  I only wish I had watched it a long time ago, but it has instantly become a favourite film for me, and one that I will watch again and again.

Year of release: 1953

Director: William Wyler

Writers: Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton, Dalton Trumbo

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert

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