(actor, born April 5, 1916, La Jolla, California – d. 2003)
From his very first year in Hollywood through five decades of making motion pictures, Gregory Peck has been to audiences around the world the quintessential Hollywood leading man: tall, dark, and handsome looks complemented by an overwhelming sense of moral and physical strength. Intelligence, virtue, and sincerity are some of the attributes most often used by his colleagues to describe him. "He can be funny," said Peck's Paradine Case costar Louis Jourdan, "which is fortunate. Otherwise, such perfection would be unbearable."
And he can act. Peck received four Oscar nominations within six years (The Keys of the Kingdom, The Yearling, Gentleman's Agreement, and Twelve O' Clock High) and then, in 1962, he starred in one of the best-loved films of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, and finally won the award.
Born Eldred Gregory Peck in Hollywood's backyard, Peck first traveled to New York to launch his acting career. Instead, he landed a job as a banker at the 1939 World's Fair. He wasn't sidetracked long, though. Three years later came his Broadway debut in Emlyn Williams's The Morning Star, followed by another play, and then a return to California for the conquest of Hollywood. He became a star overnight. By his third year in the business, he had already created several of his landmark roles--the missionary priest in The Keys of the Kingdom, the amnesiac in Spellbound, and the father in The Yearling.
Before long he was in the enviable and extremely rare position (for that time) of being able to pick his own roles, refusing to be tied down to a single studio or to sign a long-term contract. It was a fortuitous choice, for the films that followed are memorable: Gentleman's Agreement (1947), The Gunfighter (1950), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951), The Snows of Kilmanjaro (1952), Roman Holiday (1953), The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956),The Big Country (1958), On the Beach (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Cape Fear (1962), Arabesque (1966), Marooned (1969), The Oman (1976), and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
Not only a star but also a leading citizen, Peck has been active in many political, charitable, and film causes ranging from being a founding member of the National Council on Arts, to his election as chairman of the American Cancer Society. He was also chairman of the board of trustees of the American Film Institute from 1967 to 1969 and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1989 Gregory Peck received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.
In reviewing a 1988 television documentary about the life and work of Gregory Peck, The New York Times attempted to explain his longevity and success: "Each of his films has been informed by a steady, powerful presence, and a character who lives on the screen rather then an actor who chews up the scenery." In that same documentary, Liza Minnelli simply called him "the ultimate movie star."