Blogathons, Coming Of Age, Drama, Page To Screen

The Inspirational Hero Blogathon: To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Inspirational Heroes Blogathon 2

The Midnite Drive-In and Hamlette’s Soliloquy are hosting this blogathon all about inspirational film heroes. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Heroes can come in many forms. They can be people who sacrifice themselves to save the lives of others. They can be people who make a stand against evil and injustice. Or they could be fantastic superheroes who make it their mission in life to help others.

I’m writing about a character who is simply an ordinary man who ends up becoming an everyday hero. Personally I think this type of hero is actually one of the greatest because they make small, day to day changes that can end up having a real lasting effect on others. This screen hero is someone who really inspires me. The character is Atticus Finch (shown in the banner image above) as played in the film by Gregory Peck.  

Atticus has shown me that it is those little day to day actions we do that can help to change the world. Those actions can also help to change the unpleasant attitudes seen around us. Be kind and decent to those you meet, help those in need, and above all else always have the courage to stay away from a mob mentality and just stay true to your moral principles every day.

 

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Atticus. Screenshot by me.

Atticus is a moral man, a kind man, a gentle man, and he is also a single father just trying to raise his children right. Atticus makes a stand against the cruelty and absolute stupidity that is racism. He treats everyone as equal (no matter what the colour of their skin, or regardless of their station in life). He is someone with characteristics within him that I think we really should all aspire to have within ourselves.

 

 

Atticus doesn’t care if he gets attacked, he also doesn’t care if he loses his reputation in his community, he only cares about doing what is right. I think that is pretty inspirational. Given the time and the place this film is set in, Atticus’s actions really are extremely brave, he could have been hurt or killed for helping someone who wasn’t white.  

In 1960, Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird was published. The novel was inspired in part by Harper’s own childhood. The character of Atticus was based upon her own father, Amasa Coleman Lee who himself was a lawyer. The character of Dill was based upon Harper’s friend Truman Capote. The novel is one of my favourites and I love the characters and the story.

The novel strongly put across its message of treating others as they should be treated, with kindness, respect and dignity. The message found within it is to treat others as you want to be treated, and while you’re at it, try and imagine what someone else is enduring in their life by putting yourself in their shoes.  

The book and its inspirational message translated very well I think onto the big screen. The film was made in 1962. Gregory Peck(or as I like to call him, the go to good guy of classic era Hollywood 🙂 ) was cast in the lead role of the morally decent Atticus. It was a perfect casting choice, as Peck was a very decent and good man in real life. Peck ended up winning an Oscar for his very memorable performance in this film.

The film is also a coming of age tale told entirely through the eyes of children. By showing everything from their point of view, I think that the lines between good and evil become glaringly obvious. We see how a cranky old man can seem like a scary old monster, how a supposed monster can be nothing of the sort, or how an ordinary father can end up being the greatest hero of all.

 

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Scout. Screenshot by me.

The six year old daughter of Aticus Finch is Scout(Mary Badham)the story is mainly told through her eyes, and those of her older brother Jem(Phillip Alford) and their neighbour Dell(John Megna).

 

Southern lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a single parent. He is raising his two children alone following their mothers death. He raises them both to be kind and respectful of others. He is helped in his task by the loyal Calpurnia (Estelle Evans)who treats the children as her own. She and Atticus are respectful of one another and she isn’t afraid to discipline the children if they have been rude or bad.

Atticus is asked to defend a black farmer called Tom Robinson(Brock Peters)who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell(Collin Wilcox)a white woman. Atticus stands up for Tom against the angry town residents who all immediately think that he is guilty of the crime. Atticus risks his reputation in his community by defending Tom when the case goes to trial. In doing so he teaches his children about moral courage and strength, and he shows that some things are worth risking your own life and situation in life for.

 

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Tom. Screenshot by me.

Brock Peters is nothing less than breathtaking as Tom. His face conveys the multitude of emotions that Tom is going through during the trial. We feel his fear and his anger, and we also get to see his dignity and hope too. It is comforting that for a time he had Atticus on his side.

 

Although (very sadly given the time and place it’s set in)the outcome of the trial is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the all white jury; never the less, the sight of Atticus making his plea to the jury is one of the most powerful, moving and unforgettable scenes in film history. 

The way Atticus delivers that famous speech never fails to get me when I watch this. He makes such an effort to get through to every person in that courtroom with his words. Peck delivers his dialogue in that scene so passionately that he makes you feel Atticus’s powerful words.

I also always find it extremely moving how all the black people in the public gallery all stand in respect for Atticus at the end of the trial. Justice may not have been done, but these people respect and appreciate him for going above and beyond what was expected of him in order to try and defend Tom.

Atticus Finch fights for Tom with all of his heart, and in doing so, he reminds his community (and also us)that we are all equal. In a court of law we should all be treated equally and justly regardless of our skin colour, gender, or our social situation. 

Gregory Peck is absolutely superb as the decent lawyer who always tries to do the right thing. His performance is all in the eyes and in his body language. This character screams decency and strength and Peck portrays these things so well on screen.

I especially love Peck in the scene where Mr. Ewell spits in Atticus’s face. When Ewell does this he flinches because it looks for a moment because he thinks that Atticus is about to hit him, but he doesn’t and in refraining from doing so actually gains the moral high ground over Ewell in that moment.

Peck is excellent in that scene because you can see the anger and disgust building up on his face and you can see how hard he is restraining himself from striking out at Ewell, but he simply won’t permit himself to sink to his level. This scene is witnessed by Scout and Jem and it is a moment that won’t be easily forgotten.

 

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Jem. Screenshot by me.

Mary Badham and Philip Alford are excellent as the children, they have a genuine bond and Alford does a very good job of showing us this boy is having to grow up fast. I like how Jem is protective of his sister. Badham plays Scout as a tomboy and as someone who is all curiosity, delight, and who is fearless.

 

I like how the film is both a look at some serious adult and moral issues, but is also a children’s story. There is adventure, fun and joy to be enjoyed alongside the more serious plot line. I also like how the children don’t have the same attitudes as the adults, they are more open and honest and they don’t understand some of the things going on around them. 

There is fine support from Brock Peters as the ill fated Tom. Brock makes your heart break for the injustice his character is going through and you can feel his growing anger and terror.

Collin Wilcox is excellent as the accuser of Tom Robinson, her explosive outburst in court is intense. James Anderson is also very memorable as the despicable father of Mayella. A very young Robert Duvall has a memorable appearance towards the end of the film as the gentle (and much misunderstood)Boo Radley. John Megna is funny as the curious Dill. Estelle Evans is excellent as Calpurnia, I love her in the scene where she really lays into Scout for being rude to a guest because of how he eats.

The brilliant character actor Paul Fix also appears as the judge preceding over Tom’s trial. Much like Atticus it is suggested through Fix’s performance that the judge isn’t happy with the racism, nor with the direction that the trial and verdict take, but that he is powerless to do anything about it, despite being in a position of authority and law.

The title sequence to this film is very clever and is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It shows us a child drawing, and we see a collection of objects in a box. Over this sequence we hear a child humming, and then the beautiful lullaby like score by Elmer Bernstein kicks in. It is simple and beautiful, and also very moving (and we haven’t even started the story yet!). Bernstein’s score for this film is so unlike his Western scores, and I think it was one of the best pieces of music that he ever composed.

 

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Atticus comforts Scout. Screenshot by me.

My favourite scenes are the following. The swing scene between Atticus and Scout. All the courtroom scenes. Scout asking Jem questions about their mum and Atticus being shown to have been listening in on the conversation. The children daring one another to near the Radley porch. Calpurnia telling Scout off for making fun of the way a guest at their house eats dinner. The children saving Atticus from the mob gathering outside the jail. Atticus’s reaction to being spat at. Scout and Atticus talking about her fighting, and about why he is defending Tom. Jem sitting in the car getting scared by Mr. Ewell. The scene where Boo comes to see Scout.

 

This is a film that I love a great deal. I think that it more than deserves all the praise and acclaim it has received over the years. This is a beautiful film that has an important message at its heart.  I hope that the character of Atticus continues to inspire people to be morally courageous, and also to stand up to hatred and injustice as he did. 

Given the sad state our world is in today, I think that all people should read Harper Lee’s novel and watch this film. The issues and themes present in this story are still very relevant in our society today. I think that it’s a crying shame that in 2017 humanity has progressed so much, in so many areas, yet it still has so far to go when it comes to treating everyone the same and putting aside silly prejudices such as skin colour or sexual orientation. 

What do you think of the film? Any comments about Gregory Peck’s performance?

 

 

 

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Disaster

On The Beach (1959)

What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? How would you react to such news, and how would you cope with having this new fact in your life?Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film tackles all these questions and more. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 novel of the same name, written by Nevil Shute.

At the time of the films release there was great public fear of Atomic and Nuclear weapons. I’m sure this film chilled many viewers to the bone at the time, particularly due to its unflinching look at the aftermath of one of these weapons being used.

I like how the film captures how many different reactions various people have to the news of the end of mankind. Some people escape into booze, some go to extremes to feel and experience life while it still exists, and some simply refuse to accept that there is no hope of survival. It always makes me think how I would react in such a situation.

The film is set in Australia. The entire worlds population(apart from those in Australia)have died due to radiation sickness following a Nuclear war. The radiation is being spread on the winds, and it is estimated to arrive in Australia in around five months time. The citizens there are trying to come to terms with the war, and with the fact of their own impending fate.

An American submarine, the U.S.S. Sawfish, surfaces in Australia. It was submerged when the war began and therefore the crew haven’t been exposed to the radiation. The submarine has been travelling around surfacing at various countries, only to find no sign of life. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck)and his crew dock in Australia and come ashore. Despite Dwight’s wife and children being killed in the war, he just cannot accept that painful fact.

Whilst ashore, Dwight befriends Moira (Ava Gardner), and the two slowly fall in love with one another. Dwight however cannot permit himself to act on his feelings though because he still considers himself married.

Dwight and his men take to sea again after a Morse signal is picked up coming from a city in America. The crew must try and find out if anyone has somehow managed to survive.

This is a bleak film and is not an easy watch at all. The performances of the cast make it a must see. I find it to be extremely moving and it captures so well the horror and tragedy such an event would bring about.

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Gregory Peck is completely heartbreaking as a man trying to appear in control, but who inside is consumed with grief that he cannot display publically. Gregory shows us the tough façade cracking a few times. Thanks to his performance we see Dwight really struggling to stay in control, and wrestling with his conscience in regards to his undeniable feelings for Moira.

Fred Astaire is best remembered today for his incredible dancing skills, but he was also a fine dramatic actor. His performance here as Julian Osborn is one of the best he ever gave. Julian was a Nuclear scientist and feels guilt that something he helped to build destroyed humanity. Fred steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he is in the background but you keep your focus on him to see how he is reacting at certain moments.

Ava Gardner touches my heart as the boozy Moira. She has so much love to give, and she wants to spend her final days with Dwight. Ava perfectly conveys this woman’s inner turmoil, as she struggles to blot out the pain of the present and at the same time finds in Dwight a reason to stay alive.

Anthony Perkins is excellent as the young Lt. Peter Holmes. Peter and his wife have recently had a baby, and his wife is struggling to accept the truth of what is about to happen to everyone. Anthony perfectly captures the emotional and moral distress Peter is in, when he has to decide if he and his young family will take the government issued suicide pills or not.

It is the kind of decision that nobody should ever have to make, but the film forces you to think what you would do in his place. Would you accept the slow, painful and deeply unpleasant death caused by radiation? Or would you have one last beautiful day surrounded by those you love, still being healthy and in control of your life, and then peacefully slip away?

Donna Anderson breaks my heart every time I watch this. Donna plays Peter’s wife, Mary. This woman is terrified of the truth, but she won’t accept or even talk about it. She too must decide how to meet her end. I think many people would react like Mary, still holding out for hope even when faced with the opposite reality. Donna portrays Mary’s hysteria and terror very well indeed.

John Tate is Admiral Bridie. John only appears in a few scenes, but he is excellent when he does. I really like how he subtly conveys his love for his much younger secretary, Lt. Hosgood (Lola Brooks). It’s there in the way he looks at her. I love their final scene together where they share a drink together, that scene moves me each time I watch and is beautifully played by both actors.

If you are among the few people on the planet who actually believe we should have Nuclear weapons; then I would hope that this film (particularly the final ten minutes, and especially the final shot)would make you change your opinion. I would also recommend you watch the TV miniseries Threads and The Day After.  Just one of these weapons is one too many and these films show what will happen if we ever use them.

It annoys me so much that some members of our species are intent on creating ways of bringing about our destruction. We should learn to love each other, because at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all human and will all die one day. Why can’t our time on earth be filled with happiness instead of war and hate? This film focuses on the good points about humanity – love, compassion, friendship and kindness. It makes you think that you should value life, as you could lose it at any time.

My favourite scenes are the following. Julian and Peter’s conversation on the submarine. Dwight trying to explain to Moira at the train station how he feels about his dead family. The young sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore in San Francisco, he chooses to die there (his home city)but he will do so alone. Bridie and Hosgood sharing a drink and an important  conversation. The scene during the boat race between Dwight and Moira. Moira watching the submarine submerge. Moira and Julian’s conversation in his garage. The final scene.

A powerful film, with an equally powerful message to deliver. Strong performances from all the cast and a beautiful score. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking its best.

I highly recommend the novel too. It goes into more detail about how the war started. It also graphically describes the symptoms of radiation sickness, while the film only hints at those horrors.

Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts below.

 

 

Romance

Roman Holiday (1953) My Favourite Audrey Hepburn Film

This romantic comedy is one which I return to again,again, and (oh, yes)again. Funny, poignant, romantic and very moving; this film is one of those rare ones that has something in it for everyone.

Princess Ann(Audrey Hepburn)is the heir to her (never named) countries throne. During a state visit to Italy, Ann stops off in Rome. One night she sneaks out of the embassy she is staying in, desperate for a few hours of freedom. She is discovered by American reporter Joe Bradley(Gregory Peck)sleeping on a street bench, he takes her back to his apartment and it begins to dawn on him just who she is. Will he use her to create the story of his career or not?

Gregory Peck is terrific as Joe Bradley, the reporter out for a story when he finds the runaway Princess Ann. At first he is only interested in her because of the story her presence would generate, but as he spends more time with her he finds himself wanting to protect her; the pair slowly realise they are falling in love, but can either of them give up the lives they at currently living(the answer to this may well surprise new viewers who think they know how it will end)Peck is at his most handsome and likeable here, and his performance is one of my favourites of his.

Not only an enjoyable film, Roman Holiday is also responsible for making Audrey Hepburn a big film star. Audrey had featured in a small number of film roles when she was cast in the lead role of Princess Ann(a role originally intended for British actress Jean Simmons).

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Audiences took Audrey to their hearts and she became an instant star. The Academy gave her the Best Actress Oscar for her enchanting performance here. I still find it hard to believe that she had done so little acting before this, as Audrey is so natural on screen and is utterly superb in a very emotional scene(that farewell hug in the car).

I think that Audrey perfectly conveys the strength, charm, innocence, vulnerability and enthusiasm of her character. This is my favourite performance from her, and it is a performance that still comes across as being fresh and believable all these years later.

William Wyler’s film does a good job of conveying how constricted and lonely the life of someone who is a royal must be. Yes they live in luxury, travel far and wide, and have great wealth; but they are also expected to devote their lives in service of others and often can’t marry who they choose, and they are under constant scrutiny. An extremely unenviable lifestyle I’d say, and it is from this life that Ann wishes to find some respite and freedom from.

Filmed in and around Rome, the film always makes me long to visit Italy, but in a way makes me feel like I have done so. I also always get a craving for ice cream after the scene of Ann and Joe meeting on the steps.

Eddie Albert provides solid support as Irving, Joe’s friend and cameraman. Irving takes many photos of Ann on her Roman Holiday, any one of which would be perfect for the front page, but will he ever let them see the light of day?

I love this film so much, it can move me and make me laugh like no other, the characters are likeable and the ending is far from predictable. I think it is the ending that helped make it so special, it wasn’t another regular fairytale, the realism throughout helps make it believable.

My favourite scenes are that farewell hug in the car(gets me every single time, and I firmly believe it always will), the mouth of truth sequence(improvised by Gregory to get a genuine reaction from Audrey), the “sorry honey, but I haven’t worn a nightgown in years” scene, and the scene where Ann reminds her staff that she is more than aware of her duty.

I want to give a shout out to screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for his beautiful story. Sadly due to the fact that he was blacklisted in the 1950’s, Trumbo was never credited on the opening titles of this at the time. That omission was corrected many years later.

Another shoutout goes to Edith Head for her stunning costumes. Ann’s royal evening gown deserves particular praise.

I also like that Gregory and Audrey became lifelong friends during the making of this, they made me believe so much that they cared for one another on screen, and it’s nice to think that they became special to each other off screen. Gregory also met his future wife Veronique during the making of this, the couple remained married until his death in 2003.

As ever if you’re a fan of this film, please do share your thoughts below. If you’ve never seen this, then I hope you’ll check it out soon.