Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Marx Brothers~ a Paramount Pinnacle

This year marks a momentous landmark, the 100th anniversary for Paramount Pictures. The lovely Angela of The Hollywood Revue created a remarkable blogathon to celebrate this historic occasion- the Paramount Centennial Blogathon. When I consider the parade of outstanding talent that has been a product of Paramount across the decades, the Marx Brothers serves as a shining pinnacle of hilarious proportions.

Four of the five Marx Brothers made films at Paramount: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo. (Only eldest brother Gummo was not involved.) The Marx Brothers made six films with Paramount studios. Yes, that's right, six. Most folks refer to five as the number of Films the Marx Brothers made at Paramount. But technically speaking, they made a short film that was included in Paramount's twentieth anniversary documentary, THE HOUSE THAT SHADOWS BUILT (1931), with an adapted scene from I'll Say She Is. The Marx Brothers started as a vaudeville act on the stage. By the mid 1920's they hit Broadway with tremendous success. They also made a silent short, Dick Smith's HUMOR RISK (1921), which was the first film written by Jo Swerling, who later co-wrote IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1947) and GONE WITH THE WIND (1940), among others. This silent was never released and is now a lost film; some say by Groucho's own hands who was displeased by its quality.

The first two Paramount films were adaptions of their Broadway hits, Joseph Santley and Robert Florey's THE COCOANUTS (1929) and Victor Heerman's ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930). The remaining Paramount films were not directly based on their stage productions:  Norman Z. McLeod's MONKEY BUSINESS (1931), Norman Z. McLeod's HORSE FEATHERS (1932), and Leo McCarey's DUCK SOUP (1933). In the midst of these yearly film releases, Groucho and Chico squeezed in a radio series, "Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel". Considered lost until 1988, when all but one of the 26 scripts were discovered in storage at the Library of Congress. Then in 1996, a few of the actual recordings were discovered, including the very last episode aired. They used material from these radio shows for their future films.


Written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind with music by Irving Berlin, this was their first 'talkie' of many to follow. Groucho portrays Hammer, a Florida hotel owner in the midst of a land boom in the 1920's, who unsavorily attempts to unload real estate on unsuspecting buyers. Zeppo is the desk clerk (Jamison), while Chico and Harpo simply make mischief. Chico joins Hammer in swindling up the price of his questionable real estate. This cues the well-known Why A Duck? scene, as other guests join in on the shilling: 

Chico: "Well, you see, we come here to make money. I read the paper and it say, 'Big Boom in Florida,' so we come; we're a coupla big booms too."
Hammer (Groucho): "Well I'll show you how you can make some real money. I'm gonna hold an auction in a little while in Cocoanut Manor. know what an auction is, eh?"
Chico: "Sure! I come from Italy on the Atlantic Auction."


Also based on their popular stage production and with the same writing team of Kaufman and Ryskind, this one teamed up Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby for the music and lyrics. The music number, "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" became Groucho's signature tune and later used in his long-running TV show, "You Bet Your Life." Some lines from the original lyrics to this song were deemed not Hays Code appropriate after 1934 so certain lines were deleted. The original lyrics can be found here: Hooray for Captain Spalding. Groucho takes the lead as African explorer and honorary guest at a Long Island party, Captain Spaulding. By his side is Zeppo as his field secretary, Jamison. Interestingly, this is one of the only films where Zeppo didn't play the straight or romantic role but was allowed to be funny. Margaret Dumont joins again, as Mrs. Rittenhouse. Chico plays Signor Emanuel Ravelli and Harpo plays The Professor. Add in music and thievery surrounding copies of Beaugard's "After the Hunt" painting, and the zany mayhem begins...

Groucho as Capt. SPAULDING: "As I say, we tried to remove the tusks. But they were embedded so firmly we couldn't budge them. Of course, in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa but that is entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about."


In the third Paramount film, the madcap brothers move from New York to Hollywood for filming. Written by S.J. Perelman, Will B. Johnstone and Arthur Sheekman, this film was stood apart from the others before with little focus on typical musical numbers and no Margaret Dumont. Yet it does include a fine supporting cast such as Thelma Todd. In this adventure, the Marx Brothers play stowaways on the high seas. The true premise of this film is really just a series of gags. (And if you're someone like me, the plot just gets in my way of enjoying a hilarious Marx Brothers' gag anyway.) MONKEY BUSINESS also claims the distinction of the only film where you can hear Harpo's voice, as he sings tenor from inside a barrel in the opening scene. Here, Ben Taggart as the ship captain falls prey into the gag trappings of Groucho...

Groucho: "I wanna register a complaint."
Captain: "Why, what's the matter?"
Groucho: "Matter enough. D'you know who sneaked into my stateroom at three o'clock this morning?"
Captain: "Who did that?"
Groucho: "Nobody. And that's my complaint. (pause) I'm young. I want gaiety, laughter, ha-cha-cha. I wanna dance! (sings) I wanna dance 'til the cows come home!"
Captain: "Just what do you mean by this?!"
Groucho: (ignoring the Captain) "Another thing...I don't care for the way you're running this boat. Why don't you get in the back seat for a while and let your wife drive?"
Captain: "I want you to know that I've been Captain of this ship for twenty-two years."
Groucho: "Twenty-two years, eh? If you were a man, you'd go in business for yourself. I know a fellow started only last year with just a he's got more women than you can shake a stick at...if that's your idea of a good time."


Written by Will B. Johnstone, Bert Kalmar, S.J. Perelman and Harry Ruby with Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby handling music and lyrics, HORSE FEATHERS was their most popular film yet. They even nabbed a cover on Time magazine. Groucho plays Huxley College professor Quincy Adams Wagstaf and pokes fun at the entire college system and Prohibition throughout. Although his younger brother in real life, Zeppo plays Groucho's son and student, Frank. Convinced the only way to get winning football players is via a local speakeasy, Chico as Baravelli and Harpo as Pinky come in as mistaken identity. Thelma Todd joins the boys again as college widow Connie Bailey, as both father and son Wagstaff compete for her affection. Leading up to a zany football game, there are fun musical numbers and hilarious bits including Harpo's running gag where pulls almost everything out of his coat: a fish, rope, a poster of a woman in her underwear, a cup of hot coffee, a sword; and right after Groucho warns him that he "can't burn the candle at both ends," a candle burning at both ends. And of course the dialogue reflected that madcap mayhem, as in the famous 'Swordfish' scene:

Chico as BARAVELLI: "Hey, what'sa matter? You no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say 'swordfish'. Now, I give you one more guess."


As the last of the Paramount films for the Marx foursome, DUCK SOUP marked the end of the Paramount relationship. Although now considered one of their best, it was actually a flop at the box office, causing Paramount to end their contract. It also marked the end for Zeppo as the fourth on-screen brother of the Marx Brothers. Tired of playing minor roles with little screen time, Zeppo went on to join his older brother Gummo as they created one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood. Additionally, this film marked the return of character favorite, Margaret Dumont.

A political farce taking place in the fictional country of Freedonia, this film takes on the comedic portrayal of waring countries and revolution in the most bizarre, silly and sometimes surreal fashion. There are funny bits from great supporting cast like Louis Calhern and Edgar Kennedy. It includes hilarious scenes like the famous 'Mirror' scene. And as always, you can count on the dialogue to keep you in stitches...

Groucho as FIREFLY: "To my dentist. Er .. 'Dear Dentist: Enclosed find check for five hundred dollars. Yours very truly.' Send that off immediately."
Zeppo as BOB: "I'll ... er I'll have to enclose the check first."
Groucho as FIREFLY: "You do and I'll fire you."

When I think of the Marx Brothers, I'm reminded that they represent one of my earliest cinematic memories, along with Saturday mornings of Our Gang, the Keystone Cops, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and Abbott and Costello. The Marx Brothers kept me laughing out loud and helped form my sense of humor. I've always shared that comedy is my favorite genre of film, classic or modern. I delight in the fact that I can watch the Marx Brothers to this day and still laugh out loud, just as heartily as when I was a little kid. My childhood was peppered with its share of challenges yet laughs from Groucho, Chico, Harpo and even Zeppo helped me navigate through life with a silly, sunny outlook. I guess I can thank Paramount Pictures in part for that!  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eve Arden: What a Character!

When my fellow cinephiles Aurora of Once Upon a Screen and Paula of Paula's Cinema Club and I decided to create a blogathon event based on the unsung heroes of cinema, What A Character! was formed. The inherent challenge in such a blogathon is narrowing down to just one character actor in which to write upon. Despite the numerous scene-stealing talents over the decades, one in particular stood out for me... Eve Arden. 

I've always been drawn to Eve Arden and her characters. There was something in her screen persona that always resonated with me. What does this freckled, raven-haired 'thick' gal of a 5 foot 4 inch stature have in common with a 5 foot 8 inch, light-haired, statuesque, famed woman of the small and big screen? Nothing physical nor in talent, I assure you. But what Eve Arden was best known for, that sardonic rapid-fire wit... now that's something that this gal understands well. She was also known as the leading lady's best friend, the female side-kick, a career woman, a Mom and always of an independent and grounded nature. To me, Arden was the leading lady who usually played the supporting and character roles. But a key reason why she found herself in more character roles than in leading roles, is something else that she and I share in common... valuing work-life balance to prioritize family. She once said, "I've worked with a lot of great glamorous girls in movies and the theater. And I'll admit, I've often thought it would be wonderful to be a femme fatale. But then I'd always come back to thinking that if they only had what I've had - a family, real love, an anchor - they would have been so much happier during all the hours when the marquees and the floodlights are dark." I couldn't agree more.

Like me, Eve Arden grew up as a catholic school girl whose parents divorced when she was young. She was born as Eunice Quedens in Mill Valley, California in 1908 and by the time she turned 16, she left high school to pursue stage acting in a stock troupe (Okay, so we don't have everything in common.) After a couple of small parts in film, she was advised to change her name. As she looked upon a her vanity of cosmetics and perfume, she gazed upon "Evening in Paris" and "Elizabeth Arden" and voila! Eve Arden was born. Through her stage work like in the "Ziegfeld Follies" on Broadway and multiple minor roles in films in the 1930's, she gained a reputation as the sharp-witted comedic character and so acquired attention for a constant stream of films.

She played the sardonic side-kick in supporting roles with razor-sharp delivery in dozens of films throughout the 30's and 40's like: OH, DOCTOR (1937), STAGE DOOR (1937), AT THE CIRCUS (1939) as acrobatic Peerless Pauline with Groucho Marx, THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING (1941), THE DOUGHGIRLS (1944), and her Academy award nominated role Ida in MILDRED PIERCE (1945). As a matter of fact, she made twenty films in a period of just three years in the late 30's. To close out this decade, Arden took a break from her mastery of the sarcastic and quick-witted female friend stereotype to go back to Broadway. She starred in the musical comedy "Very Warm For May" (1939), musical revue "Two For The Show" (1940) and the musical comedy starring Danny Kaye, "Let's Face It" (1941).

With her signature voice and well-known character type, Eve Arden was a natural for radio. Her comedic timing was a great match with Danny Kaye's fast-paced zany and quick-witted style. So, she worked with Kaye again as a regular on his radio show, which lasted 58 episodes. Then in 1947 came the landmark role of her career. As Connie Brooks in "Our Miss Brooks", Eve Arden landed the role that perfectly suited her persona and in 1952 CBS took the radio show to television. The popular TV show continued through 1956 and even led to a film based on the series: OUR MISS BROOKS (1956). She briefly tried a show in her namesake, "The Eve Arden Show" (1957) but it was canceled soon after.
It was in the 60's that she focused on raising a family with her second husband, Brooks West. Both West and Arden co-starred in supporting roles in Otto Preminger's ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959). West played the local prosecutor opposite James Stewart as the defense attorney. Her first marriage to Ned Bergen lasted from 1939 to 1947 yet ended in divorce with no children. It was in her second marriage, she discovered her true anchor in life. She had four children (one biological son and 3 adopted- 2 daughters and one son) with Brooks West in a happy marriage that lasted from 1952 until his death in 1984. Here's another similarity I share with Eve Arden, as I too happily share four children with my second true love and anchor in life.


Her commitment to balance work with her prioritized family life remained; including a few guest spots and even squeezed in a sit-com, "The Mothers-In-Law"(1967) along side Kaye Ballard which lasted two seasons. She continued to work through the 80's with occasional cameos including her well known role as Principal McGee in GREASE (1978) and GREASE 2 (1982) and Warden June in PANDEMONIUM (1982). These roles reflected her sarcastic, sharp zingers that made her famous like her Miss Connie Brooks.
Eve Arden is an actress that effectively worked in the industry a majority of her life, which ended in 1990 at the age of 82. Her career spans sixty years in radio, on stage and in film. No easy or common feat, to be certain. But what's even more impressive is that she managed her time in a way that focused on her family as a priority, in the midst of this ongoing active career. What a success story! Personally, I've worked in various jobs since I was twelve years old. As a busy and similarly-sassy middle-aged Mom of four who has spent periods of time to raise my kids then returned to work again, I respect Arden's choices tremendously. To me, Eve Arden was a tremendous success as a career character in both her work and in life. What a character, indeed!


Today marks the kick-off to the first-ever WHAT A CHARACTER! blogathon. Created by the three amigos trio of Aurora @citizenscreen of Once Upon A Screen, Paula @Paula_Guthat of Paula's Cinema Club and myself, Kellee @Irishjayhawk66 of Outspoken & Freckled, this blogathon is to celebrate those delightful character actors with their scene-stealing signature looks or their hilarious antics. Although not the leading role, we find ourselves looking forward to these supporting characters time and time again. Often playing roles like the butler, a maid, the hotel manager or the ever-loyal best friend, we honor you!

Today's line-up includes some fantastic bloggers with their brilliant perspectives on the following characters:

Aurora/ @citizenscreen of Once Upon A Screen takes on the snarky and 'down to earth' Thelma Ritter:
Paula/ @Paula_Guthat of Paula's Cinema Club gets cozy with "Cuddles" S.Z. Sakall:

Kellee/ @IrishJayhawk66 of Outspoken and Freckled (yeah, I thought I'd join the fun too) joins sharp-witted zingers with Eve Arden:

Kay/ @KayStarStyle of Movie Star Makeover shines the bright spotlight on Ann Miller:

Janet /@JanetCoulon of Handknit Pants writes her thoughts on the long career of the much-more-than-matronly, Beulah Bondi: 

Ivan/ @igsjr of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear shows us the versatile ways of Charles McGraw:

Daniel/ @pgcooper1939 of PG Cooper's Movie Reviews shares his insights on how Eli Wallach brought the spaghetti western character into mythic status:

Beth Ann of Spellbound By Movies on Elsa Lanchester, from her childhood hardships to Queenie and beyond:

Annmarie/ @ClassicMovieHub of Classic Movie Hub enlightens us on the not-so-Italian Erik Rhodes and Alan Hale, whose full film career was much more than as Errol Flynn's sidekick:

Kristina/ @HQofK of Speakeasy on the instantly recognizable and unforgettable face of Felix Bessart:

Debbie/ @dapwriter of Debra Ann Pawlak reviews the life and loves of a man braver than the cowardly lion, Bert Lahr: 

Terry/ @mercurie80 of A Shroud of Thoughts shares his views on Eddie "Rochester" Anderson:

Lindsey/ @tmplindsey of The Motion Pictures on the very popular sidekick/valet persona of Eric Blore:

More bloggers to follow later today! Be sure to read all these wonderful blog posts and take a moment to comment with your feedback on their blog sites. You can find more participating bloggers throughout the weekend on Once Upon A Screen and Paula's Cinema Club. Thanks again to these outstanding bloggers and to all of you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Hello Film Loving Characters!

It's almost time for the first-ever WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon! Hosted by Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled and Paula of Paula's Cinema Club, we are excited to host this fun inaugural blogging event. We have set up a schedule (see below) for the bloggers who have signed up thus far for next weekend: Sept. 22-24th.

Remember, this blogathon is all about those scene-stealing delightful character actors that we all love to see on the big screen. We're anxious to read all of these wonderful posts. So many great character actors have been chosen so far. However, there are many great ones yet unspoken for. So, feel free to join in the film blogging fun while there's still time! If interested, please contact one of us ASAP with your character choice and contact info so we can add you to the list! We will need all links to be provided and live no later than 24 hours prior to your assigned date to allow for promotion time. 

Plus... don't forget that we have provided a lovely banner to go with your character blog and we encourage you to proudly display on your site. We will continue to update as we approach next weekend.


Aurora aka Once Upon A Screen @citizenscreen
Kellee aka Outspoken & Freckled @IrishJayhawk66
Paula aka Paula's Cinema Club @paula_guthat

Kellee is Hosting~ Saturday, September 22:
Character:                            Blogger:             Blog site:

Aline MacMahon Emma  Lets Misbehave

Ann Miller Kay Kay Star Style

Beulah Bondi Janet Coulon

Charles McGraw Ivan Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Eddie "Rochester" Anderson Terry A Shroud of Thoughts

Edgar Kennedy Gregory Maupin

Edward Everett Horton Jill Blake Sittin On A Backyard Fence

Eli Wallach PG Cooper  PG Cooper's Movie Review

Elsa Lanchester Beth Ann Spellbound By Movies

Eric Blore Lindsey The Motion Pictures

Erik Rhodes and Alan Hale Annmarie Classic Movie Hub

Felix Bressart Kristina Speakeasy

Eve Arden Kellee Outspoken & Freckled

Aurora is Hosting ~Sunday, September 23:

Lucille Wilson and Maude Eburne  Patricia Nolan  Caftan Woman

Frank McHugh Dorian Tales of the Easily Distracted

Gail Patrick  Laurie One Gal's Musings

Grady Sutton Jessica Comet Over Hollywood

Hume Cronyn in "Shadow of a Doubt" Jackie Jaxbra Tumblr

John Qualen Kristen Sales on Film

Lee J. Cobb in "We Raid Calais Tonight" Ruth Silver Screenings

Lew Ayres in "Holiday" Marya Cinematic Fanatic

Louise Beavers  Margaret The Great Katherine Hepburn

Marjorie Main  Lucy Secluded Charm

Mary Wickes Brandie  True Classics

Sam Levene Duke  Picture Spoilers

Thelma Ritter Aurora Once Upon A Screen

Paula is Hosting~ Monday, September 24:

David Landau Cliff Immortal Ephemera

Margaret Dumont Manish Once Upon A Screen

Porter Hall Joel Joel's Classic Film Passion

Richard Jaeckel Jack Deth Paula's Cinema Club

S.Z. Sakall Paula Paula's Cinema Club

Una Merkyl Kevyn The Most Beautiful Fraud In The World

Una O'Connor Anthony Strand Zeppo Marxism

Victor Jory Jacqueline T. Lynch Another Old Movie Blog

Victor Moore Kari What Happened 2 Hollywood

Virginia Weidler Nikki Lynn All Things Classic Film

Walter Brennan and Mercedes Cambridge Le Critica Retro

Ward Bond Tonya GoosePimply Allover

William Demarest Sean The Joy and Agony of Movies

Happy Blogging!

Universal's Tour De Force: To Kill A Mockingbird

Kristen of Journeys in Classic Film has created a splendid blogathon concept: write upon a film or topic surrounding the Universal Studios films created on the infamous Hollywood backlot. Considering the enormous variety of films produced across the decades, it was a tough call. But one film that is arguably one of the most well-known films ever made at Universal stands out for me...Robert Mulligan's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962).

Before I address this popular film based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, I must share my experiences with Universal Studios. Kristen chose this blogathon concept because she loves Universal Studios Hollywood and the backlot tours. I must confess I have never been to Hollywood. But, you can bet your last dollar that a trip to Hollywood and the Universal Studios backlot tours is definitely on my bucket list. A few years ago, I was in Orlando, FL where my husband joined me as I finished up a business trip. We had a day to kill so we decided to go to the Universal Studios theme park.

One of the first things we did was take a photo at one of those shops where they put your head shot digitally into the backdrop of a movie poster. As tacky and touristy as that sounds, it was a blast. And we lucked out in that we chose a movie poster backdrop of a favorite film of ours, Steven Spielberg's  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK(1981) where our skin tones matched the actors so well that no adjustments needed to be made. The shop clerk said they've never had that happen before. We later used that photo in our movie themed wedding. After picture time, we excitedly got in a long line for THE MUMMY ride, a roller coaster ride based on one of my favorite adventure films- the 1999 film and subsequent film sequels. However, I must admit that ride scared me SO incredibly much that I honestly thought I was going to leave via an ambulance. No, seriously.  I was so rattled by the flames and speed of that ride that I insisted we next only take on the most lame rides imaginable.

After walking for awhile and taking in the views of the fun park, we turned a corner then noticed an E.T. themed ride. As approaching the long line, I flagged down a park staffer and asked, "is this ride scary?" She looked at me with a blank stare. I went on, "you see, I REALLY couldn't handle that Mummy ride and..." but before I could finish my rantings, I needed to step aside for the folks coming through from behind me trying to get in the E.T. line. There was a mini parade of elderly folks in motorized scooters, one with an oxygen tank. After they passed me, I looked up at the park staffer who responded, "Um... NO Ma'am- I think you'll be fine." My husband never laughed so hard as I awkwardly stepped in line behind the rascal parade. Something tells me I should be able handle the Universal backlot tour in Hollywood just fine.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was filmed on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot for all of its exterior shots.  For the residential streets, located on what is now the 747 stage and King Kong attraction, real houses were purchased for a $1 a piece from the developers of Dodgers Stadium then arranged by art director Henry Bumstead. Only one house still remains, the Boo Radley house, now located on Elm Street. It's undergone only minor changes over the years but is not available to the regular tram tour. The Courthouse Square, just north of the original residential row of houses, is now better known for it's part in Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) yet was known as Mockingbird Square back in 1964 when the Universal tour first began.

Based on the highly acclaimed novel, the film version of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was anticipated to be as controversial as it was popular. This was a challenge to bring paralleled authenticity to this personal triumph of Harper Lee's and to come to fruition on the big screen. Set in a racially segregated small town in 1930's Alabama, Lee based this story on her real-life father Amasa Lee and his experience as an attorney defending a black client in 1923 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. In the film, our lead character is Atticus Finch, portrayed by Gregory Peck. The role was originally offered to Rock Hudson then later to James Stewart, who turned it down stating he thought the subject matter was too liberal to be successful. When the lead offer then turned to Gregory Peck, he read the novel within a single sitting and accepted the role immediately. Amasa Lee, then 82, became friends with Peck throughout his preparation for his role. Sadly, he died before filming completed. Harper Lee was so impressed by Peck's performance and homage to her father, she gave him her father's actual pocket watch and chain which he carried with him to the Academy Awards and as he accepted his Best Actor Oscar.  

The story centers on Atticus Finch, defense attorney in the "tired old town" of Maycomb, Alabama and widowed father of 2 children- Jem and Scout. The story is narrated by Scout as a grown adult, as she looks back upon the details of those memorable days when she was six years old. She recounts a time when her father Atticus takes on a highly controversial case, in defense of a black man who is falsely charged with the rape of a white woman. Many in this racially divided town try to persuade Atticus from taking the case. But he is an intelligent man of great integrity and unyielding principles with an ever calm and resolute disposition. He takes on the case despite the many obstacles presented by these narrow-minded, uneducated and simple town folk. The jury's mindset reflects a guilty verdict before the trial even begins. Through the eyes of curious tomboy Scout, we grow to know her father's character not only as a truly fair and unbiased man but as a deeply loving father. Atticus's character places him in an unique role that stands out from any other citizen in town. While his intelligence and education is vastly higher than any of his fellow neighbors, his deeply principled and fair stance on any issue also places him as the most respected man in town, by both the black community and the white. He is never patronizing as he grapples to educate them and reveal the injustices of their intolerance and prejudices. He unwaveringly stands firm as a genuinely kind and balanced man.

The characters of Jem (portrayed by Philip Altman) and Scout (portrayed by Mary Badham) Finch reflect the love and good parenting from which they were raised. Like their father, they are intelligent, curious and kind without bias or prejudice. Atticus never talks down to his children; only communicating openly, honestly and with respect. But they are still young and often display baffled confusion as to ongoing displays of bigotry and hatred they see expressed in their community. Another key figure in this story is "Boo" Radley, a mysterious shut-in, portrayed by Robert Duvall. Duvall spent 6 weeks avoiding the sun and dyed his hair blond to reflect the physical nature of this reclusive albino man, who only dared to traverse outdoors at night to protect his sensitive eyes. The character of Arthur "Boo" Radley is partially based on Alfred "Son" Bouleware, who lived with his parents in a run-down, boarded-up house near Lee's childhood home. Similar to "Boo", "Son" Bouleware was also an albino held as a shut-in by his father, following a vandalism incident. In the story, we see several instances of gossip as a result of wild rumors spread across the years as to the character of "Boo" Radley.

The defendant, Tom Robinson, as portrayed by Brock Peters, is falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell (portrayed by Collin Wilcox), daughter to Bob Ewell (portrayed by James Anderson). Through courtroom drama, it becomes apparent that Tom's only crime is being a black man who rejected a white woman's forced affections then bravely expresses pity upon her. The very idea is incredulous to the racist faction of the room. Mayella knows the truth yet remains in passionate denial for fear of the horrors of her bigoted community's shunning. Her own father Bob Ewell is the actual guilty man in this crime of abusing Mayella. Yet she is so affected by the torture of his abuse and the societal-imposed shame of tempting a black man, she chooses to blame an innocent man in fear and denial.

The cast and direction of this film felt deep affection for this story and remained committed to keeping the integrity of Harper Lee's original vision. While this movie marked the debut film for several actors and was a highlight in Gregory Peck's long and successful career, bonds formed as the result of this film that remained throughout their lives. Brock Peters gave such a stirring performance in his courtroom scene that he started crying, something that was not as rehearsed, which forced Peck to look just above his face to avoid becoming overwhelmed in emotion himself.  Year later, Peters gave the eulogy at Gregory Peck's funeral. Gregory Peck also formed a close friendship with Mary Badham and they remained friends until his death. He always called her, "Scout."

I too have always felt a deep affection for this film. I find Atticus Finch to be one of the most admirable and likable screen characters in film history. It helps that Gregory Peck was the perfect actor to play this role and performed with such beautiful authenticity. Perhaps I'm especially drawn to this character because my father was mostly absent from my childhood and I quietly wished for a man like Atticus to be my father. And perhaps it is the bigger story of racial injustice that I find to be the most compelling. Like Jem and Scout, I was raised by a single parent who believed in absolute tolerance. My mother taught me that bigotry was gravely wrong and that one must actively stand up against social injustice. To this day, this remains of vital importance to me and is evident in the way I raise my own children. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is simply a masterpiece. This film shall endure as a timeless classic and its life's lessons should be shared with your family, for generations to come.