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Home > Start Here > "To Kill a Mockingbird," A 50th Anniversary Restoration of the Classic Film

     

 

Harper Lee and Gregory Peck, who played Atticus Finch in the film "ToKill a Mockingbird" (Courtesy, MCHM)On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, Tavis Smiley introduced a 50th anniversary screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird," the 1962 classic film from Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

As part of the Academy's Gold Standard Series, the Oscar winning film has received a digital restoration that recognizes the film's fiftieth year of touching audiences worldwide with its themes of tolerance and justice. In 2010, a 50th anniversary celebration of the novel in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, attracted global visitors. The Alabama Humanities Foundation launched a successful exhibition of artwork inspired by the book and the film that toured the state. A "Live to Read" program of the book is currently being planned for summer 2012 by the Humanities Council of Washington D. C.

About Harper Lee's book, the film's screenwriter Horton Foote observed, "You feel Monroe County Courthouse and Museum, Monroeville Alabama. The interior courtroom was meticulously re-created in Hollywood for the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Courtesy, MCHM).it is so well informed by reality." Producer Alan Pakula, Director Robert Mulligan and Art Director Henry Bumstead shared Foote's dedication to an accurate cinematic translation of the novel. The task was not easy. Mulligan said that "Mockingbird" was "in no way begging to be made a movie, as some books are." Studios initially rejected the book as it contained neither romance nor action.

Gregory Peck's commitment to the lead role of small town lawyer Atticus Finch finally gave the project its momentum. Lee provided Peck and the filmmakers with a tour of Monroeville, which had developed a post World War II landscape of contemporary buildings that made it incompatible with the look needed for the film. A set had to be constructed in Hollywood. The interior of the vintage Monroe County Courthouse was re-created in California for the film's pivotal courtroom scene. When Lee visited the set in California, she was stunned by the re-creations of both the courtroom and a rural Alabama town.

The results were so effective that many Alabamians still believe "To Kill a Mockingbird" was filmed at home. Thanks to the enduring popularity of the book and the film, the Old Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama, is now a popular museum and theater. When Oscar winning actress Patricia Neal ("Hud") visited the museum in November 2008 to perform Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" in the Courtroom, she and Harper Lee met for the first time after the performance in one of the old jury rooms. The small handful of participants in their conversation said the two legends spoke mostly of their mutual admiration for the same man: Gregory Peck.

For more about Monroeville, Harper Lee and Henry Bumstead's set design for the film, visit www.monroecountymuseum.org.

"Academy Award" and "Oscar" are the registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Sources:

  1. "A Fearful Symmetry, The Making of 'To Kill a Mockingbird','" a documentary film directed by Charles Kiselyak.

  2. The Monroe County Heritage Museum, www.monroecountymuseum.org, all rights reserved.