Born in: San Diego, California
Education: BA in English, from UC Berkeley
Career: Actor and Producer
Died on: June 12, 2003
Gregory Peck was a critically acclaimed American actor, whose excellent acting skills won him one Academy Award and four Golden Globes. Apart from that, he was awarded with Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Cecil B. DeMille Award, AFI Life Achievement Award and Honorary Cesar. One of most popular film stars of the 20th Century Fox, Peck reached the pinnacles of success from the 1940s to the 1960s. Amongst his most notable performances are those in ‘The Yearling’, ‘Twelve O'Clock High’ & ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. He was also listed as #12 in ‘Greatest Male Stars of All Time’, by American Film Institute (1991).
Childhood and Early Life
Gregory Peck was born as ‘Eldred Gregory Peck’ on 5th April 1916, in La Jo community of San Diego, California. He was the son of Gregory Pearl Peck, a chemist and pharmacist, and Missouri-born Bernice Mae "Bunny". Peck had English heritage from his father’s side and Irish heritage from his mother’s side. His parents got divorced when he was just six years old and he spent the next few years with his grandmother. Peck went to Roman Catholic military school, St. John's Military Academy, in Los Angeles, in 1926. He suffered another setback when his grandmother expired, while he was still in school.
Thereafter, his father started bringing him up and enrolled him in San Diego High School. After graduating from school, Peck went to San Diego State University to improve his grades. During this time, he also worked as a truck driver, for an oil company. In 1936, Peck enrolled as a pre-med student at UC Berkeley, majoring in English. His good looks and great physique brought him the attention of the Berkeley acting coach. Later, he was recruited by Edwin Duerr, director of the school's ‘Little Theater’ and acted in five plays, during his senior year. During this time, he also worked as a kitchen helper for the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
Following his graduation from Berkeley, with a BA degree in English, Peck dropped the name "Eldred". Thereafter, he left for New York, to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse, with Sanford Meisner. Around this time, he faced many financial hardships and even worked at the 1939 World's Fair and as a tour guide for NBC's television broadcasting. The Broadway debut of Peck, in the lead role, came in 1942, with Emlyn Williams' ‘The Morning Star’. The same year, he did ‘The Willow and I’ with Edward Pawley. In 1949, Peck founded The La Jolla Playhouse, in San Diego, with his friends - Jose Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire.
Entry and Success in Films
Peck made his debut in movies in 1944, with the film ‘Days of Glory’, followed by ‘The Keys of the Kingdom’. The latter one won him his first Academy Award nomination. The next year, he was seen in ‘The Valley of Decision’ and ‘Spellbound’. In 1946, Peck came out with ‘The Yearling’, a film that won him his first Golden Globe as well as the second Academy Award nomination. In the next two years, he won two more Academy Award nominations - one for ‘Gentleman's Agreement (1947)’ and the other for ‘Twelve O'Clock High’ (1949). For the latter one, he was also given the NYFCC Award for Best Actor.
During the decade of 1950s, he was seen in many successful films like 'The Gunfighter', 'Captain Horatio Hornblower', 'The World in His Arms', 'Roman Holiday', 'Night People', ‘Moby Dick’, ‘On the Beach’, ‘The Big Country’, etc. His first film of the 1960s was ‘Guns of Navarone’ (1961), a reasonable success. The next major film of Peck came out in 1962 - ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. The film won him his first and last Academy Award, for Best Actor, apart from a Golden Globe. He continued coming in movies till 2000, in which he did his last film - ‘A Conversation With Gregory Peck’, a documentary.
In the decade of 1980s, Peck directed his interest towards television. He starred in the mini-series ‘The Blue and the Gray’, playing Abraham Lincoln. He was also seen in the Television film ‘The Scarlet and The Black’, along with Barbara Bouchet. In 1991, Peck was seen, along with Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam, in the remake of Cape Fear. In 1991, he retired from active film-making. However, he came out of retirement, for the last time, in 1998, when he starred in the remake of one of his most famous films, Moby ‘Dick’.
During his life, Peck served in a number of positions, apart from an actor, namely
President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1967)
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute (from 1967 to 1969)
Chairman of the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund (1971)
National Chairman of the American Cancer Society (1966)
Member of the National Council on the Arts (from 1964 to 1966)
Peck married Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen in 1942. The couple had three sons - Jonathan, Stephen and Carey Peck. The matrimony came to an end in December 1955, very amicably and without any controversy. The same year, Peck married Veronique Passani, a Paris news reporter, and continued to be with her till the end of his life. The couple had a son - Anthony Peck and a daughter - Cecilia Peck. From both his marriages, Peck had a number of grandchildren. Peck was close friends with French president Jacques Chirac.
Peck was scheduled to play the role of Grandpa Joe in the 2005 film ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. However, his untimely death, on 12th June 2003, did not let him complete his commitment. He died in his sleep, from cardio-respiratory arrest and bronchial pneumonia, at Torrance Memorial Medical Center (Torrance, California). During that time, only his wife was at his side. Peck was buried in a mausoleum, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, in Los Angeles, California.
1947 - Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama’, for ‘The Yearling’
1950 - NYFCC Award for Best Actor, for ‘Twelve O'Clock High’
1951 - Henrietta Award
1962 - Academy Award for Best Actor, for 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
1963 - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama, for 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
1967 - Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
1969 - Cecil B. DeMille Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom
1971 - SAG Life Achievement Award
1986 - Donostia Award, San Sebastian International Film Festival
1989 - AFI Life Achievement Award
1991 - Listed amongst ‘Greatest Male Stars of All Time’, by American Film Institute
1995 - Honorary César
1996 - Crystal Globe Award, for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema
1999 - Golden Globe Award for 'Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made of Television', for 'Moby-Dick'
1944 - Days of Glory, The Keys of the Kingdom
1945 - The Valley of Decision, Spellbound
1946 - The Yearling, Duel in the Sun
1947 - The Macomber Affair, Gentleman's Agreement, The Paradine Case
1949 - Yellow Sky, The Great Sinner, Twelve O'Clock High
1950 - The Gunfighter
1951 - Captain Horatio Hornblower, Only the Valiant, Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards (short subject), David and Bathsheba, Pictura: An Adventure in Art (documentary)
1952 - The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The World in His Arms
1953 - The Million Pound Note, Roman Holiday
1954 - Boom on Paris, Night People, The Purple Plain
1956 - The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Moby Dick
1957 - Designing Woman
1958 - The Bravados, The Big Country (also producer)
1959 - Pork Chop Hill, Beloved Infidel, On the Beach
1961 - The Guns of Navarone
1962 - Cape Fear, Lykke og krone (documentary), How the West Was Won, To Kill a Mockingbird
1963 - Captain Newman, M.D.
1964 - Behold a Pale Horse
1965 - Mirage
1966 - John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (documentary), Arabesque
1967 - Pähkähullu Suomi (Cameo)
1969 - The Stalking Moon, Mackenna's Gold, The Chairman, Marooned
1970 - I Walk the Line
1971 - Shoot Out
1974 - Billy Two Hats, The Dove (producer)
1976 - The Omen
1977 - MacArthur
1978 - The Boys from Brazil
1980 - The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse
1983 - The Scarlet and the Black
1985 - Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret(documentary)
1986 - Directed by William Wyler (documentary)
1987 - Amazing Grace and Chuck
1989 - Old Gringo
1991 - Other People's Money, Frederic Remington: The Truth of Other Days (documentary), Cape Fear
1993 - The Portrait
1994 - L'Hidato Shel Adolf Eichmann (documentary)
1996 - Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (documentary)
1999 - The Art of Norton Simon (short subject)
2000 - A Conversation With Gregory Peck (documentary)