Peck was born on April 5, 1916, in San Diego, California, to Bernice Mae "Bunny" (née Ayres; 1894-1992), and Gregory Pearl Peck (1886-1962), a Rochester, New York-born chemist and pharmacist. His father was of English (paternal) and Irish (maternal) heritage, and his mother was of English and Scots ancestry. She converted to her husband's religion, Catholicism, and Peck was raised as a Catholic. Through his Irish-born paternal grandmother Catherine Ashe (1864-1926), Peck was related to Thomas Ashe (1885-1917), who participated in the Easter Rising less than three weeks after Peck's birth and died while being force-fed during his hunger strike in 1917.
Peck (right) with his father c. 1930
Peck's parents divorced when he was five, and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother, who took him to the movies every week. At the age of 10, he was sent to a Catholic military school, St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles. While he was a student there, his grandmother died. At 14, he moved back to San Diego to live with his father. He attended San Diego High School, and after graduating in 1934, he enrolled for one year at San Diego State Teacher's College (now known as San Diego State University). While there, he joined the track team, took his first theatre and public-speaking courses, and pledged the Epsilon Eta fraternity. Peck had ambitions to be a doctor, and later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, as an English major and pre-medical student. Standing 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), he rowed on the university crew. Although his tuition fee was only $26 per year, Peck still struggled to pay and took a job as a "hasher" (kitchen helper) for the Gamma Phi Betasorority in exchange for meals.
At Berkeley, his deep, well-modulated voice gained him attention, and after participating in a public speaking course, he decided to try acting. He was encouraged by an acting coach, who saw in him perfect material for university theatre, and he became more and more interested in acting. He was recruited by Edwin Duerr, director of the university's Little Theater, and appeared in five plays during his senior year, including as Starbuck in Moby Dick. Peck would later say about Berkeley that "it was a very special experience for me, and three of the greatest years of my life. It woke me up and made me a human being." In 1997, Peck donated $25,000 to the Berkeley rowing crew in honor of his coach, the renowned Ky Ebright.
His stage career began in 1941, when he played the secretary in a Katharine Cornell production of George Bernard Shaw's play The Doctor's Dilemma. The play opened in San Francisco just one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams' The Morning Star in 1942. His second Broadway performance that year was in The Willow and I with Edward Pawley. Peck's acting abilities were in high demand during World War II because he was exempted from military service, owing to a back injury suffered while receiving dance and movement lessons from Martha Graham as part of his acting training.Twentieth Century Fox later claimed he had injured his back while rowing at university, but in Peck's words, "In Hollywood, they didn't think a dance class was macho enough, I guess. I've been trying to straighten out that story for years."
After about 50 plays in total, including three short-lived Broadway plays, four or five road tours, and the rest during summer theater, Peck was offered his first film role, the male lead in the war-romance Days of Glory (1944), directed by Jacques Tourneur, alongside top-billed Tamara Toumanova, a Russian-born ballerina. Peck portrayed the leader of Russian guerrillas resisting the Germans in 1941 who stumble across a beautiful Russian dancer (Toumanova), who had been sent to entertain Russian troops, and protect her by letting her join their group. During production of the film, Tourneur "untrained" Peck from his theater training where he was used to speaking in a formal manner and projecting his voice to the entire hall. Peck considered his performance in the film as quite amateurish and did not wish to watch the film after it was released. The film lost money at the box office, disappeared from theaters quickly, and was largely dismissed by critics.
At the time of release, film critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times assessed it as slow-moving and verbose adding that Peck's acting was stiff.[a] No other reviews from the time of release are able to be located. In recent decades, of the four reviews or comments on the film available from several recognized film critics/writers or prominent English-language publications or websites (Leonard Maltin, Christopher Tookie, David Thompson, Barry Monush, Michael Gebert, AllMovie, TV Guide, TimeOut, RadioTimes), opinions on the movie are mixed, with some of the sources saying it is too verbose or plodding,[b] but TimeOut saying "it's sober and surprisingly convincing, even making the romantic interludes with Toumanova unforced and natural. Quite beautifully directed."
Despite the film's lack of success, critics and audiences were in agreement that Peck had screen potential. Film historian Barry Monush wrote, "Peck's star power was evident from the word go." Hollywood movie producers became very interested in him, but rather than signing an exclusive long-term contract with one studio, he decided to freelance, signing non-exclusive contracts with four studios, including an unusual dual contract with 20th Century Fox and Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick. This enabled Peck to choose only roles that interested him and resulted in his landing roles in several big-budget films over the next few years.
Peck's second movie, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), features him as an 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest looking back at his undertakings during over half a century spent as a determined, self-sacrificing missionary in China. The film shows him aging from his 20s to 80 and he is in almost every scene. Peck received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor and the movie had three other nominations, including for cinematography. Although the film finished only 27th at the box office in North America for 1944, Jay Carr of Turner Classic Movies refers to it as Peck's breakthrough performance and writer Patrick McGilligan says that it "catapulted him to stardom."
At the time of release, Peck's performance was lauded by Variety and The New York Times, but those publications did not agree about the movie.[c] In the twenty-first century, reviews of The Keys of the Kingdom from six prominent sources continue to show mixed opinions with most discussing the film's length[d] with TV Guide noting, "At 137 minutes, it was a fat film...Even at that length, it moved at a medium pace and managed to make its points without moralizing...There were many excellent set-piece scenes...Lots of good work from several character people"RadioTimes says "it's a long, talkative and rather undramatic picture, but its success saved Peck's career after the weak showing of his first movie...strong supporting cast." Critics who give opinions of Peck's performance are usually very positive[e] with film critic Greg Orypeck observing that Peck renders "a sincere, believable performance ranging from soft-spoken compassion to almost retaliatory loathing."The Keys of the Kingdom is not viewed by many movie watchers today.
In The Valley of Decision (1944), an extravagant, sprawling romantic drama about intermingling social classes, Peck plays the eldest son of a wealthy steel mill owner in 1870s Pittsburgh who has a romance with one of his family's maids, who is played by Greer Garson, who had won the Academy Award for Best Actress two years prior. Garson plays the protagonist who tries to smooth relations between her friends and Irish family and Peck's, relations which get especially tense when the mill workers strike, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Upon release, reviews from The New York Times and Variety were somewhat positive, with Peck's performance described as commanding.[f] In recent years, the two reviews from prominent sources are fair[g] but many summaries of Peck's career and comprehensive movie review books or websites do not review the movie[h] and the movie is not viewed much today, despite the fact it was North America's biggest grossing movie of 1945.
Peck's next film was the first of two movies he would do with Alfred Hitchcock, the suspense-romance Spellbound (1945), opposite the previous year's Academy Award for Best Actress winner, the alluring Ingrid Bergman. Peck plays a man who is thought to be the new director of the psychiatric facility where Bergman's character works as a psychoanalyst, but he has amnesia and is having disturbing visions that suggest he may have murdered someone. Released at the tail end of 1945, Spellbound was a huge hit that ranked as the third most successful film of 1946. Frank Miller of Turner Classic Movies has written that the movie continued the rise of Peck into a Hollywood star and even "a major sex symbol." Producer David O. Selznick noted that during preview tests of the movie, the women in the audiences had big reactions to the appearance of Peck's name on the screen and that during the first few scenes he appeared in they had to be shushed to quiet down.Spellbound was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, although it was not in the National Board of Review's top ten films of the year.
Peck and Hitchcock were described as having a cordial but cool relationship. The Master of Suspense had hoped that Cary Grant would accept the male lead role in Spellbound and was disappointed when he did not. He accepted Peck in the role, but perceived him as a bit of a country boy, even though Peck had lived in urban California since his preteen years; Hitchcock tried to socialize with him by offering him friendly advice on things, such as on what color suits to wear and about fine wines and spirits. Hitchcock was not as forthcoming on advice for Peck's acting, saying to him "I couldn't care less what your character is thinking. Just let your face drain of all expression" even though Peck was a relatively inexperienced romantic leading man hungering for direction. Peck later said he thought he was too young when he first worked with Hitchcock and that Hitchcock's indifference to a character's motivation, which was important to Peck, shook his confidence. Peck clicked romantically with his screen and overnight partner Bergman, so their screen romance was convincing.
Spellbound was very well received by critics at the time, as was Peck's performance[i] with the New York Herald Tribune stating that it was a "masterful psychiatric thriller ... with compelling performances by Bergman and Peck". Critical opinion of Spellbound has been mixed in recent decades, with some critics calling it fascinating,[j] others suggesting it is okay,[k] but some questioning its realism,[l] with Patrick Legare of AllMovie commenting, the film "has a series of incredibly eerie dream sequences...the film's thriller elements, combined with a series of outstanding visuals, bring Spellbound within a notch of the director's best works" and "Gregory Peck is a strong male lead...Bergman steals the show as his love-struck shrink," but it uses "psychoanalytic ideas that are simplistic and obsolete to the point of becoming comical." Some other critics assert Peck's performance is sub-par with writers Paul Condon and Jim Sangster saying Peck "fails to elicit sympathy in the way he does so often in other films."[m]
In Peck's next film he played a pristine, kind-hearted father, opposite wife Jane Wyman, whose son finds and insists on raising a three-day-old fawn in 1870s Florida, in The Yearling (1946). Reviews upon release were very positive[n] with Bosley Crowther evaluating it as a film that "provides a wealth of satisfaction that few films ever attain."The Yearling was a box office success finishing with the ninth highest box office gross for 1947 and landed six Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, and Peck won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his good-humored and affectionate performance. In recent decades, it has continued to receive critical praise[o] with Barry Monush writing, it is "one of the best-made and most-loved family films of its day," and all the critics who comment on the performances assess them as strong.
Then Peck took his first "against type" role, as a cruel, amoral cowboy in the extravagant western soap opera Duel in the Sun (1946) with top-billed Jennifer Jones as the provocative, temptress object of Peck's love, anger and uncontrollable sexual desire. Their interactions are described by film historian David Thomson as "a constant knife fight of sensuality." Also starring Joseph Cotten as Peck's righteous half brother and competitor for the affections of the "steamy, sexpot" character of Jones, the movie was resoundingly criticized, and even banned in some cities, due to its lurid, sexual nature, even after some of the most sizzling scenes between Peck and Jones had been cut. The publicity around the eroticism of Duel in the Sun, one of the biggest movie advertising campaigns in history (focused on promoting the film's unbridled sexuality), and a new tactic of opening the movie in hundreds of theaters across the U.S. at once (including saturating the theaters in cities where it was opening),[p] resulted in the movie being the second highest-grossing movie of both 1947 and the 1940s overall.
Jones landed a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Duel in the Sun and some audiences are amazed at the passion in her performance, even though in TV Guide's review of the movie they describe it as "Jones' failing entry into the Jane Russell sex goddess sweepstakes."[q] Nicknamed "Lust in the Dust", the film received mostly negative reviews upon release,[r] such as Bosley Crowther writing that "performances are strangely uneven" and due to "the ultimate banality of the story and juvenile slobbering over sex" it "is a spectacularly disappointing job" which "has some flashes of brilliance in it" such as "eye-dazzling scenes of wide-open ranching and frontiering." In recent decades, most reviews from prominent critics and publications cite significant weaknesses but many acknowledge a certain bizarre entertainment value,[s] with Leonard Maltin describing it as "big, brawling, engrossing, often stupid sex-western...with memorable scenes." Opinions of those who comment on Peck's performance have been polarized.[t]
Critical successes and commercial lows (1947-1949)
Peck in 1948
Peck's next release was the modest-budget, serious adult drama, The Macomber Affair (1947), concerning a couple who go on an African hunting trip with their guide played by Peck. During the trip, the wife, played by Joan Bennett, becomes enamored with Peck, and the husband gets shot. Although the performers never left the United States, African footage was cut into the story. Peck was very active in the development of the film, including recommending the director, Zoltan Korda. The film received positive reviews[u] but was mostly overlooked by the public upon its release and in later decades, which Peck would later say disappointed him.
In November 1947, Peck's next film, the landmark Gentleman's Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, was released and was immediately proclaimed as "Hollywood's first major attack on anti-Semitism." Based on a novel, the film has Peck portraying a New York magazine writer who pretends to be Jewish so he can experience personally the hostility of bigots. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Peck for Best Actor, and won Best Film and Best Director, picks which the New York Film Critics Circle and the Golden Globes affirmed. It was also a hit, challenging for the position of top-grossing film of 1948 with $3.9 million, $600,000 behind the top film. Peck would indicate in his later years that this was one of his movies of which he was most proud.
Upon release, Gentleman's Agreement was widely praised for both its courageousness and its quality,[v] with Bosley Crowther saying "every point about prejudice...has been made with superior illustration" and it's "a sizzling film". Peck's performance has been described as very convincing by many critics, both upon release and in recent years.[w] In recent decades, some critics have voiced negative comments about the film,[x] such as film writer Matt Bailey writing "Gentleman's Agreement may have been an important film at one time, but was never a good film," and some assess Peck's performance as unconvincing.[y] However, Richard Gilliam of AllMovie asserts, "It is a solidly-made, well-crafted film, and if it seems tame or weak by today's standards then that is because we, both as a society and as individuals, know and understand much more today than we did in 1947," Some other critics fully agree with Gilliam, suggesting that expectations for movies are different today than in the mid-20th century.[z]
Peck's next three releases were each commercial disappointments. The first of these, the Paradine Case (1947), was his second and last film collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock. When producer David O. Selznick insisted on casting Peck for the movie, Hitchcock was apprehensive, questioning whether Peck could properly portray an English lawyer, something he would say again years later.The Paradine Case ended up being an unhappy production for both of them, not apparently through any actions of each other; Selznick desperately wanted a hit and ended up rewriting parts of the script after watching each day's film footage and in some cases directed Hitchcock to re-shoot scenes in a less Hitchcockian manner. In later years, Peck did not speak fondly of the making of the movie and when he was once asked which of his films he would burn if he could, he immediately named The Paradine Case.
Released at the tail end of 1947,The Paradine Case was a British-set courtroom drama about a defense lawyer fatally in love with his client. It had an international cast including Charles Laughton, Ethel Barrymore (who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination), and Italian beauty Alida Valli, as the accused, in her American film debut. The movie received good reviews from Bosley Crowther and Variety, both of which complimenting Peck's performance,[aa] but the public was not impressed, and The Paradine Case ended up only recouping half of the lavish $4.2 million it cost. In recent decades, the film has been described by most prominent critics as talky and slow-moving, although critics who comment on Peck's performance say he did a good job.[ab] Writers Paul Condon and Jim Sangster write "a somewhat predictable plotline mars a film that boasts some superb performances" adding "Peck is vulnerable yet believable in a role that requires significant delicacy of touch to maintain viewer's loyalty and interest."
Peck was next cast sharing top billing with Anne Baxter in the western Yellow Sky (1948), that being the name of the ghost town that Peck's group of bank robbers seek refuge in, and then encounter the spunky tomboy, Baxter, her grandfather, and their gold. Peck gradually develops an interest in Baxter's character, who in turn seems to rediscover her femininity and develops an interest in him. Reviews then and since, rate the film highly most of them citing excellent black-and-white cinematography, strong direction, and a very good screenplay,[ac][ad] with Variety writing upon its release, "the outdoor locations have been magnificently lensed. The director has put together an ace of a screenplay, given its dialogue rings true, and then proceeded with showmanly production guidance to make Sky a winner. The direction is vigorous, potently emphasizing every element of suspense and action and displaying the cast to the utmost advantage. There's never a faltering scene." Critics which commented on Peck's performance felt it to be solid.[ae] Some critics who rated the film highly do cite the ending involving Peck's character's conversion (critic A.E. Wilson wrote, he's "one of those agreeable bandits who need only a shave and the influence of a good woman to turn them into thoroughly decent citizens") as being slightly unbelievable,[af] or the romance as partly contrived, but Craig Butler of AllMovie asserts, the "beautifully detailed direction...even makes the love angle work." The public wasn't as receptive as the movie was only moderately commercial successful.
The year after, Peck was paired with Ava Gardner for their first of three movies together in The Great Sinner (1949), an opulent period drama-romance where a Russian writer, Peck, becomes addicted to the vice (gambling) while helping the ravishing Gardner and her father pay back their debts. The film received unfavorable reviews usually describing it as dull[ag] and the public was not interested, rendering it a commercial disappointment. In modern times, comments from four recognized film review sources are contradictory.[ah] Leonard Maltin labels it "Lavishly produced but murky, talky," but TV Guide says "this often gripping film" has strong performances, that "Peck is powerful", and that "the art and set direction are excellent with sumptuous re-creations of the high fashion gambling rooms, hotels and salons of 19-century Wiesbaden," but "has a contrived upbeat Hollywood ending." Many film guides do not list this movie.
Peck originally rejected his assignment to The Great Sinner, which was to be his last movie under his contract to M-G-M, and only eventually agreed to do it as a favor to the studio's production head. Up until shortly before filming began, blonde siren Lana Turner was to play the female lead, but she was in Europe on an extended honeymoon and when she did not travel back in time, was replaced by the brunette Gardner. Peck ended up becoming great friends with Gardner and would later declare her his favorite co-star. Peck always said he thought she was a very good actress even though he said she often spoke poorly of her acting abilities. Their friendship lasted the rest of Gardner's life and when Gardner died in 1990, Peck took in both her housekeeper and her dog.
Publicity shot of Gregory Peck in Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Later in 1949, Twelve O'Clock High (1949), the first of many successful war films in which Peck embodied the brave, effective, yet human, fighting man, was released. Based on real characters and events, Peck portrays the new commander of a U.S. World War II bomber squadron who is tasked with whipping the squadron into shape, but then breaks down emotionally because of the stress of the job. The National Board of Review ranked it in their top ten films of the year and it received four Academy Awards nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in a leading role (Peck,) with Peck winning that title from the New York Film Critics Circle.Twelve O'Clock High was a commercial success finishing tenth in the 1950 box office rankings.
Twelve O'Clock High received very strong reviews upon release,[ai] with Bosley Crowther describing it as a "top-flight drama" and as "tremendously vivid", and saying that it "has conspicuous dramatic integrity, genuine emotional appeal and a sense of the moods of an airbase that absorb and amuse the mind. And it is beautifully played by a male cast, directed by Henry King, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for Twentieth Century-Fox."Variety said the movie "deals soundly and interestingly with its situations" and unveils its plot "from a flashback angle so expertly presented that the emotional pull is sharpened." Film critics of the 1990s and since still hold a high opinion of it[aj] with TimeOut writing "One of Peck's best performances...A superb first half...King's control, the electric tension and the performances all hold firm (to its end)." Evaluations of Peck's performance, both in 1949 and in recent years, are glowing,[ak] including Bosley Crowther writing "High and particular praise for Gregory Peck...Peck does an extraordinarily able job in revealing the hardness and the softness of a general exposed to peril." Film historian Peter von Bagh considers Peck's performance "as Brigadier General Frank Savage to be the most enduring of his life."
Worldwide fame (1950-1953)
In the early 1950s Peck had lead roles in two westerns, the first being The Gunfighter (1950), directed by Henry King, who had directed Twelve O'Clock High. Peck plays an aging "Top Gun of the West" who is now weary of killing and wishes to retire with his alluring but pragmatic wife and his seven-year-old son, both of which he has not seen for many years. Peck and King did much photographic research about the Wild West Era and had discovered that most cowboys had mustaches, or even beards, had "bowl" haircuts and wore beat-up clothing, so Peck decided to wear a mustache in a film role for the first time to give his character greater period authenticity.The Gunfighter did fair but disappointing business at the box office, earning $5.6 million in receipts, the 47th most for 1951. Twentieth Century Fox's studio chief Darryl Zanuck blamed Peck's mustache for turning potential young female film-goers off, because most of them wanted to see usual handsome, clean-shaven Peck, not the authentic-cowboy Peck. Peck later said when the studio's president saw some footage with him wearing mustache two weeks into the shoot, he wanted to re-shoot everything, but balked when he was told the cost, which was actually double the real cost as the production manager had been persuaded by Peck and King to inflate the amount. Jeremy Arnold of TCM says the mustache causing the poor box office of the film is probably an exaggeration, "but it's possible that the overall sparse, understated, antihero grunginess of The Gunfighter was not what Peck fans wanted to see in 1950."
The Gunfighter, which is a psychological western, a character study with little action, received "solid reviews" upon release, with some critics "raving over it"[al] and Peck's performance "bringing him some of his best notices." Bosley Crowther wrote, that it is "one of the tautest and most stimulating Westerns of the year ... Good writing, good direction and good acting provides some of the slickest, sharpest drama you will get in this type of film ... [with] a lot of incidents of humorous, dramatic, sentimental and even poignant quality [its] an intriguing film which actually says a little something about the strangeness of the vainglory of man. And through Peck's fine performance, a fair comprehension is conveyed of the loneliness and the isolation of a man with a lurid name ... played shrewdly by Peck ... an arresting and quite exciting film." The movie has grown in critical appreciation over the years and "is now considered one of the all-time classic westerns"[am] A number of critics particularly cite its realistic portrayal of the West in the late 19th-century[an] and its excellent cinematography and direction.[ao]TV Guide writes, "An arresting, superbly produced and downbeat Western photographed in black and white, it presents an unglorified view of the Old West as a grim, dirty and decidedly desperate place ... Henry King's direction is outstanding, holding the action tautly drawn, while Arthur Miller's high-contrast cinematography is highly suggestive." Critics of recent decades uniformly praise Peck's performance,[ap] with David Parkinson of RadioTimes saying "Peck gives a performance of characteristic dignity and grit."TV Guide says "The Gunfighter was as a seminal movie in the western's move away from action cliches towards more psychological depth."[aq]
The other western which Peck was cast in, this one against his will, was Only the Valiant (1951), a low-budget movie, for which Peck disliked the script and would later label as the low point of his career. Peck's non-exclusive contract with David O. Selznick permitted Selznick to sell his services to other studios, and Selznick sold his services to Warner Bros for this movie after he ran into financial difficulties. The plot of the movie is a very common one: "an unpopular, strict leader gathers together a rag-tag group of men and leads them on an extremely dangerous mission, turning them into a well-oiled fighting machine by the end and earning respect along the way." In this variation of the plot, Peck portrays a U.S. army captain and the mission is to protect an undermanned army fort against the attacking Apache. The romantic interest of Peck in the movie, and after-hours as well, was lesser-known, troubled Barbara Payton.Variety's review said "In this cavalry yarn ... great pains have been exerted to provide interesting characters. Peck makes the most of a colorful role." It did fair business at the box office earning $5.7 million in receipts which was 35th for the year. This little-remembered picture, is not included in most film guides, and today receives mixed reviews from the three prominent sources that have issued comments of it, although Peck's acting is assessed as impressive.[ar]
Also released in spring 1951 in the United Kingdom (fall 1951 in North America), was Peck's first movie of four in eight years portraying a commander at sea. Based on a popular British novel, Captain Horatio Hornblower features Peck as the commander of a warship in the British fleet during naval battles against the French and Spanish in the Napoleonic Wars, a commander who also finds romance with Virginia Mayo's character in between the swashbuckling. Peck was attracted to the character, saying, "I thought Hornblower was an interesting character. I never believe in heroes who are unmitigated and unadulterated heroes, who never know the meaning of fear." The role had been originally intended for Errol Flynn, but he was felt to be too old by the time the project came to fruition.Captain Horatio Hornblower was a box office success finishing ninth for the year in the UK. and seventh in the North America.
Some reviews in 1951 lauded Peck's performance as Captain Horatio Hornblower, with Bob Thomas of the Associated Press saying Peck provided "the proper dash and authenticity as the remarkable nineteenth-century skipper" and Variety writing "Peck stands out as a skilled artist, capturing the spirit of the character and atmosphere of the period. Whether as the ruthless captain ordering a flogging as a face-saving act for a junior officer or tenderly nursing a woman through yellow fever, he never fails to reflect the Forester character." In the twenty-first century, reviews of Peck's performance range from somewhat negative to very positive.[as] Richard Gilliam of AllMovie argues, it is "an excellent performance from Gregory Peck" elaborating that "Peck brings his customary aura of intelligence and moral authority to the role," but David Parkinson of the RadioTimes asserts "Gregory Peck plays Hornblower as a high-principle stuff shirt and thus confounds director Raoul Walsh's efforts to inject some pace." The reviews of the movie upon its release were good to very good[at] with Variety giving the most positive review saying it's "a spectacular success" and "effervescent entertainment with action all the way. It is an incisive study of a man who is dispassionate, aloof and remote, yet is often capable of finer feelings ... The major action sequences have been lensed with great skill." Critical opinion today ranges from rating it as average to excellent with some critics asserting the romance or psychological study components detract from the well-filmed adventure components.[au]
An even bigger-budget movie featuring Peck, his third directed by Henry King, was released in North America a month before Captain Horatio Hornblower. David and Bathsheba, a lavish Biblical epic, was the top-grossing movie of 1951. The two-hit-movie punch elevated Peck to the status of Hollywood mega-star.David and Bathsheba tells the story of David (Peck), who slew Goliath as a teenager; and, later, as beloved King, becomes infatuated with the luscious Bathsheba, played by Susan Hayward; and then, after much soul searching, sends her soldier husband into a certain-death battle. He then divorces the first wife of his harem, which allows him to engage with the equally-willing Bathsheba, after which God devastates the kingdom; and only after much devastation does David seek atonement from God.
Peck's performance in David and Bathsheba was evaluated upon release by Bosley Crowther "as an authoritative performance,"Variety said "Peck is a commanding personality...he shades his character expertly,", and Bob Thomas said "Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward lend great credibility to the title roles." In recent years, Jerry Butler of AllMovie argues, if Peck "is a trifle stiff, he supplies the requisite power and charisma," Radiotimes says "Peck manages to exude nobility,"TV Guide says the movie is "awash with juice thanks to the force supplied by the three leads," and Leonard Maltin says the movie has "only fair performances." In 1951, the critics gave David and Bathsheba positive reviews, generally saying it avoided excessive spectacle[av] with Bob Thomas writing it "is a Biblical epic of immense scope...written and performed with dignity and restraint...There are some dull spots and David could have used some of Samson's excitement. But David is more satisfying work and a tribute to its makers." By contrast, in recent decades, some critics do assert it is overblown and also dull and generally give it negative to slightly positive reviews.[aw] Craig Butler of AllMovie says, "The script is predictably overblown, filled with the kind of bombast and stilted melodrama that is to be expected. It's ridiculous, yet in its own strange way it works...The direction is big and broad...yet ultimately rather sterile. But there's plenty of spectacle to fill the eyes, with gorgeous costumes, delicious cinematography and fabulous sets...[ax]David also has a stellar cast...Susan Hayward is a delight as the luscious adulterous...throw in some nifty battle scenes, and the result is good if occasionally dawdling." Eddie Dorman Kay asserts it "paled in comparison to other large-scale melodramas," which could be the reasons for its low level of viewing in recent decades.
Peck was back in a seafaring adventure-romance in his next movie, The World in His Arms (1952), directed by Raoul Walsh, who had also directed Captain Horatio Hornblower. Peck portrays a seal-hunting ship captain in 1850 San Francisco who romances a Russian countess played by Ann Blyth and ends up engaging a rival sealer played by Anthony Quinn in a sailing race to Alaska. In 1952, three prominent critics/publications gave it positive reviews[ay] with Variety enthusing it contained "some of the best sea footage ever put on film" and Bob Thomas stating "The story puts the accent on action...there is an overdose of action. It all ends up to exciting and colorful stuff with no strain on the thinking matter." In the twenty-first century, not all prominent film critics or publications have commented on the film, but all four that do give it positive reviews, three trumpeting the thrilling sailing race.[az]TV Guide comments "Strong period adventure...Superb sea footage, lots of action and a robust relationship between Peck and Quinn combine to make this highly enjoyable." Craig Butler of All Movie also commented that Peck is "a superb actor, who brings enormous skill to the part, but who simply lacks the overt derring-do and danger that is part of the role." The film was moderately successful but more so in the UK than in North America.
About a year after David and Bathsheba was released, Peck was on theater screens with Susan Hayward again and directed by Henry King again, in another top-grossing adventure-romance movie (ranking fourth for 1952). This time Ava Gardner plays his great love, while Hayward has a much less sensual role than she had as Bathsheba.The Snows of Kilimanjaro, based on an Ernest Hemingway short story, stars Peck as a self-concerned writer looking back on his life, most longingly his romance with his delectable first wife (Gardner), while he slowly dies from an accidental wound while on an African hunting expedition and his current wife (Hayward) nurses him. Upon release, Bosley Crowther and Variety both gave the movie positive reviews and praised the technicolor cinematography that enabled the characters to have convincing scenes in several European and African locales, including with wild animals.[ba] The majority of the modern critics or publications which have reviewed the movie agree the cinematography is high-quality [bb] with Craig Butler of All Movie saying "Visually...Kilimanjaro is a feast, with the camera capturing the full beauty of its often-stunning locations and also finding emotion in the "character" scenes," adding "The art direction is lovely." Most modern reviewers do have negative comments about the screenplay with TimeOut saying "the film tends to ramble" and Craig Butler arguing it is "not really Hemingway, but not quite a real-world either," whereas TV Guide asserts "the script is a seamless blend of the screenwriter's and Hemingway's styles." Most reviewers over time praise Peck's performance with TV Guide saying the story is "enacted with power and conviction by Peck," although David Shipman feels Peck's facial expressions were too bland to portray the writer, therefore, overall, not recommending the movie.
Peck's next movie was his "first real foray into comedy" and he was working with director William Wyler, who had not made a comedy since 1935, and co-starring with Audrey Hepburn, a 24-year-old newcomer in her first significant film role; yet it turned out as a "genuinely magical romance that worked beyond all expectations" and made Hepburn an overnight star.Roman Holiday (1953) has Peck playing a reporter who ends up escorting a young princess (Hepburn) on a whirlwind 24-hour tour of Rome after she sneaks out of her high-security hotel while on a tour of European capitals.Roman Holiday was a commercial success finishing 22nd in the box office in 1953, its first calendar year of release, but continuing to earn money into 1955 with "modern sources noting it earned $10 million total at the box office". It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, with Hepburn winning for Best Actress, a pick which the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) echoed, a rare occurrence; Peck was nominated for a BAFTA for Foreign Actor. At the Golden Globe awards held in early 1955, Peck and Hepburn were named the World Film Favorite Award winners for their respective genders; Peck had also won the award in 1950.
As had been the case with several movies before, Peck's role in Roman Holiday had originally been offered to Cary Grant, who turned it down because the part appeared to be more of a supporting role to the princess. Peck had the same concern, but was persuaded by Wyler that the on-site filming in Rome would be an exceptional experience, and accepted the part, even eventually insisting that Hepburn's name be above the title of the film (just beneath his) in the opening credits. Peck later said he was not just being nice when he insisted on that, saying he had told his agent "I'm smart enough to know this girl's going to win the Oscar in her first picture, and I'm going to look like a damned fool if her name is not up there on top with mine."
Upon release of Roman Holiday, Bosley Crowther's review said "Peck makes a stalwart and manly escort...whose eyes belie his restrained exterior;" the Hollywood Reporter's review stated "Peck turns in another of his outstanding performances playing the love-smitten reporter with intelligence and good-humored conviction;" and, Variety said Peck "figures importantly in making the picture zip along engrossingly." All three also gave the movie very strong reviews,[bc] with Variety observing William Wyler "times the chuckles with a never-flagging pace, puts the heart into laughs...and points up some tender, poignant scenes in using the smart script and cast to the utmost advantage." In recent decades, a small proportion of critics have expressed some doubts, with Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader positing William Wyler "lays out all the elements with care and precision, but the romantic comedy never comes together - it's charm by computer.". Christopher Tookey is more positive saying Roman Holiday "may look old-fashioned, ponderous and too much like a travelogue, but in the 1950s it seemed fresh and enchanting...Wyler's direction lacks the light touch or satirical imagination which might have made this a classic; but it's still modestly entertaining," adding that Peck "is less tree-like than usual and turns in one of his most charming performances." The majority of prominent critics had very positive comments about the film,[bd] such as Tony Sloan of RadioTimes evaluating it as a "sublime film" with a "charming love story," and as "immaculately directed," adding "written and played with style and grace, this is a film to treasure, both for its endearing action and its marvelous performances." Rebecca Flint Marx of AllMovie writes, "Roman Holiday has "Peck at his most charismatic" and declares it "one of the films' most enduring romances" which is "not just a romance between the two lead characters, but a love affair between the camera and the city."
Overseas and New York (1954-1957)
With his acclaimed performance in The Gunfighter, Peck was offered the lead role in High Noon but turned it down because he did not want to become typecast as a Westerns actor. Peck then based himself out of the UK for about eighteen months between 1953 and 1955. This was because new US tax laws had drastically raised the tax rate on high-income earners, but the tax amount due would be reduced if you worked outside the country for extended periods. As a result, in addition to Roman Holiday filmed in Rome, his three following films were shot and set in London, Germany and Southeast Asia.
The film shot in London was another comedy, The Million Pound Note (1954), based on a Mark Twain short story. Peck was later said to have loved making the film because "it was a good comedy opportunity", "no expense was spared on the best and sometimes ornate interior sets," and "he was given probably the most elegant wardrobe he had ever worn in film." Peck plays a penniless American seaman in 1903 London who is given a one million pound bank note by two rich, eccentric brothers who wish to ascertain if he can survive for one month without spending any of it. Peck is able to get posh digs, is feted by high society, has success in the stock market, and finds a romantic partner but can it last?. When released, reviews of the movie were mixed and the film performed only modestly at the box office.
Three prominent reviewers all lauded The Million Pound Notes's production, such as the Edwardian horse-and-buggy era settings, but each had some other reservations. The New York Tribune lamented "it cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a breezy satire on human vanity or a fancy period romance" and that Peck's "touch with comedy is light, but guarded, almost suspicious." Bosley Crowther felt it lacks "bounce and buoyancy...to make it spark with humor (or) glow with warmth and charm" so it "ambles along very nicely...having some mild, gracious fun.Variety's concern was "the yarn suffers from the protracted exploitation of one basic joke." In modern times, the three prominent film publications/websites that provide substantive reviews all give positive comments.[be] Adrian Turner of RadioTimes praised it as a "lovely comedy" which "has a lot of charm and gentle humor, owing to Peck's evident delight in the role and the unobtrusive direction" adding it has a "witty script."
Berlin and Munich were the filming locations for Night People (1954), which had Peck portraying a US army military police colonel investigating the kidnapping of a young American soldier. Peck later stated that the role of was one of his favorites, because his lines were "tough and crisp and full of wisecracks, and more aggressive than other roles" he'd had. When released, Variety described it as "a top-notch, exciting cloak-and-dagger thriller" with the director getting "a clean triple for his smart handling of production, direction and scripting." Bosley Crowther felt it was a "first-rate melodrama" with "some very good color-camera work", adding that the director keeps the characters moving "at breakneck speed...never becoming complex" and "does not resort to such devices as character and mood subtleties" resulting in "a picture that is plenty of fun to watch." Despite decent reviews overall, the film did poorly at the box office.
Next, Peck was in Sri Lanka and then back in the UK for the shooting of his second movie as a North American bomber commander who has strong emotional problems during WWII, The Purple Plain (1954). Peck's role is as a Canadian squadron leader whose wife had been killed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on London in 1941 and four years later in Burma he has become a killing machine with no regard for his own life, although a love affair with an alluring, young Burmese beauty helps him regain the will to live. When his bomber is shot down by the Japanese and crash lands in a desert with purple-hued soils (the "Purple Plain"), he and his crew have a long, arduous journey back to British territory.The Purple Plain was hit in the UK where it was tenth in box office grosses for the year and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film; however, it was a box office flop in the U.S.
The Purple Plain opened to solid reviews with Variety labeling it a "fine dramatic vehicle" that "vividly establishes the atmosphere," while Bosley Crowther wrote, "the extent of Peck's agony is impressively transmitted...in vivid and unrelenting scenes." In recent years, the movie "has become one of Peck's most respected works," with Leonard Maltin assessing it as absorbing, Adrian Turner of RadioTimes calling it "a classy production" which is "impressively shot", and David Thomson rating Peck's performance as excellent. Craig Butler of AllMovie describes The Purple Plain as a "feature-length character study revealing character subtly" through "evocative and stirring visuals" that advance "both the story and our understanding of the lead character," elaborating that "Peck is astonishing, giving the layered, intense yet nuanced performance that deserves major awards."
Peck's popularity seemed to be on the wane in the U.S. That was not the case in the UK though, where a poll named him the third most popular non-British movie star. Peck did not have a film released in 1955.
Peck bounced back in the U.S. with a movie set in Downtown New York, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), in which he portrays a married, ex-soldier father of three who mulls over how to proceed with his life after he starts a lucrative speech-writing job, has some other complications arise in his life, and is increasingly haunted by his deeds in Italy during WWII. Peck's wife was played by Jennifer Jones, a reunion from Duel in the Sun, and during the filming of a scene where the spouses argue Jones clawed his face with her fingernails, prompting Peck to say to the director "I don't call that acting. I call it personal." The movie was successful finishing eighth in box office gross for the year despite contemporary reviews being mixed.
In 1954, reviews of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit were disparate.[bf] Bosley Crowther espoused it as, "a mature, fascinating and often quite tender and touching film" positing that "The film runs for two and a half hours and, except for two somewhat long war flashbacks, every minute is profitably used" in particular citing a scene between Peck and his boss, played by Fredric March, saying "this sequence takes time, but it is one of the most eloquent and touching we've seen" adding "all the actors are excellent." John McCarten of The New Yorker said "if it were an old-fashioned serial, I'm sure we might have been able to tolerate it. In one massive, dose, though, it's just too damned much."Variety's review voiced some concerns about the acting, including Peck's, but said, "Frederick March is excellent, and the scenes between him and Peck lift the picture high above the ordinary." In recent years, critics have had similar, but more moderated comments about The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.[bg] Craig Butler of AllMovie says, "a powerful film...there's some brilliant dialogue and character sketching from Nunnally Johnson, who directs with a sure hand" adding "there are a few sections where...the tone gets a little too preachy" and "Although Jennifer Jones is disappointing (a fact that mars the effectiveness of the film), [Peck] gets extremely solid support" from everyone else. He concedes "it's also undeniable that a good 20 minutes could and should have been chopped away." Adrian Turner of RadioTimes evaluates it as "An overlong, self-important yet compelling melodrama."
Two recent reviewers who comment on Peck's performance describe it as excellent, with Craig Butler of AllMovie declaring, "the role fits (Gregory Peck) as if it had been tailor-made for him. Peck's particular brilliance lies in the quiet strength that is so much a part of him and the way in which he uses subtle changes in that quietness to signal mammoth emotions. He's given ample opportunity to do so here and the results are enthralling...an exceptional performance". Adrian Turner of RadioTimes refers to "the excellent Peck" and states Peck plays "the appealing flawed hero."
Peck next starred in a role that he was unsure he was right for but was persuaded by director John Huston to take on, that of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1956), a film adaptation of "Herman Melville's famous story of a man's dark obsession to kill a whale" off the northeastern U.S. Coast. The movie had the ninth highest box office of the year in North America, but cost $4.5 million to make (more than double the original budget) so it lost money, and was considered a commercial disappointment. Peck also almost drowned twice during filming in stormy weather off the sea coasts of Ireland and the Canary Islands and several other performers and crew members suffered injuries. John Huston was named best director of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review for Moby Dick, but did not receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director.
In 2003 Barry Monush wrote, "There was, and continues to be, controversy over his casting as Ahab in Moby Dick." Upon opening, Variety said: "Peck often seems understated and much too gentlemanly for a man supposedly consumed by insane fury." Bosley Crowther's review asserted that Peck "holds the character's burning passions behind a usually mask-like face. We could do with a little more tempest, a little more Joshua in the role. Peck spouts fire from his nostrils only when he has at the whale." However, The Hollywood Reporter argued, "Peck plays it...in a brooding, smoldering vein, but none the less intensely and dynamically." In modern times, critics have said Peck is: "often mesmerizing" (Barry Monush); "stoic" and "more than adequate" (Brendon Hanley of AllMovie); " "lending a deranged dignity" to the role (Leonard Maltin); "not half as bad as some alleged, and actually suggesting the ingrained, heroic misanthropy" (David Thompson); a "lightweight Ahab"(Timeout); "neither pitiable or indomitable"; and never "vengeance incarnate" (David Shipman); "miscast, completing lacking the required demonic presence" (Adrian Turner of RadioTimes);" and, "miscast" (TV Guide). Huston always said he thought "Peck conveyed the exact quality he had wanted for the obsessed seaman." Peck himself later said "I wasn't mad enough, not crazy enough, not obsessive enough - I should have done more. At the time, I didn't have more in me." He also noted he thought he "played it too much for the richness of Melville's prose, too vocal a performance" and should have played it with a cracked voice as if his vocal cords were gone.
Assessments of Moby Dick have also been diverse. In 1956 Bosley Crowther wrote, the movie is a "rolling and thundering color film that is herewith devotedly recommended as one of the great motion pictures of our times," "the drama is set up on strong, realistic incidents," "space does not possibly permit us to cite all the things about this film that are brilliantly done, from the strange subdued color scheme employed to the uncommon faithfulness to the details of whaling that are observed," and "it cannot be done better, more beautifully or excitingly." In the same year, Variety, opined the movie is "more interesting than exciting" and "does not escape the repetitiousness that often dulls chase movies." In recent years, most reviews are favorable[bh] with TV Guide asserting it is "one of most historically authentic, visually stunning and powerful adventures ever made," but some reviews are negative, with Adrian Turner of RadioTimes positing, it "has some wonderful scenes but must be counted as a noble failure. The great whale always looks phony."
Peck's next movie was a romantic comedy, and being allowed to choose his leading lady, chose Lauren Bacall, who was actually happy to be busy because her husband, Humprey Bogart, was gravely ill at the time.Designing Woman (1957) is about a fashion designer and a sports writer, who meet in California on vacation, and, although Peck's character already has a romantic partner back home in New York, have a brief torrid affair and hastily get married, only to find out when they are back home that they have wildly different lifestyles, outlooks, interests and friends. While the movie was mildly successful in North America and elsewhere, grossing $6.4 million in North America, 35th for the year, it did not cover its cost. Upon release, Variety said it is "deftly directed" and "cleverly brings together the worlds of Haute couture, sports (particularly boxing), show business, and the underworld. Bacall..is excellent...Peck is fine as the confused sportswriter" and added that all the other actors/actresses give top-notch performances. Bosley Crowther said the film was moderately funny with a poor ending.[bi] In recent years, the few reviews from prominent critics or websites are generally positive [bj] with TV Guide exclaiming the director, screenwriter and "a heck of a supporting cast have done the impossible; they've made...the famous stoneface...Peck, somewhat funny. Bacall gives an especially good performance. The very funny script took the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay...it is pure entertainment with no underlying message." Some movie review books or websites do not include this movie.
Reflections on violence (1958-1959)
Peck's next movie, the western The Bravados (1958), reunited him with now 72-year-old director Henry King after a six-year gap. In their six films together, King was able to draw out some of Peck's best performances, most often in characters who appeared strong and authoritative but had inner demons and character flaws that could destroy them; only one character Peck played under King's direction could be considered, on balance, a good person, that of Bomber Commander Frank Savage in Twelve O'Clock High. Finnish film writer Peter von Bagh wrote, some collaborations produce routine results, but that with Peck and King the collaboration "was primed to an ever greater creative pitch and turned out to be mutually rewarding." Only their last film together, the succeeding years' Beloved Infidel (1959), was not either a critical or commercial success. Peck once said "King was like an older brother, even a father figure. We communicated without talking anything to death. It was direction by osmosis." Peck also said "he provided me with a one-man audience, in whom I had complete trust...If I played to him and he liked it, then I was fairly confident I was on the right track."
In The Bravados, Peck's character spends weeks pursuing four outlaws whom he believes raped and then murdered his wife. He succeeds in tracking them down and kills three of them in vengeance, but a climactic twist leaves his character agonizing over whether he is any better a person than the fugitives. Upon its opening, A.H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote, the movie "is executed intelligently in fine, brooding style against eye-filling, authentic backgrounds, so its basically familiar ingredients glisten with professional polish", that "the general tautness of the yarn is accentuated by a tightly written script," and that "the producers have given their essentially grim "chase" equally colorful and arresting treatment." The film was a moderate success, finishing in the top 20 of the box office for 1959. In recent years, The Bravados has received very mixed comments as has Peck's performance,[bk] with TimeOut asserting that it has "good performances and excellent 'scope camerawork" and "the action sequences are fine," but that Peck's "crisis of conscience..is worked out in perfunctory religious terms;" and TV Guide stating Peck's cowboy's "moment of truth is a powerful one and he gives it all the value it deserves, although much of his acting up to then had been lackluster."
Peck decided to follow some other actors into the movie-production business, organizing Melville Productions in 1956, and later, Brentwood Productions. These companies would produce five movies over the following seven years, all starring Peck, including Pork Chop Hill, for which Peck served as the executive producer. These and other films Peck starred in were observed by some as becoming more political, sometimes containing a pacifist message, with some people calling them preachy, although Peck said he tried to avoid any overt preachiness.
In 1958, Peck and his good friend William Wyler co-produced the western epic The Big Country (1958), although it was not under Peck's production company. The project had numerous problems, starting with the script, as even after seven writers had worked on it, Wyler and Peck were still dissatisfied. Peck and the screenwriters ended up rewriting the script after each day's shooting, causing stress for the performers, who would arrive the next day and find their lines and even entire scenes different than for what they had prepared. There were strong disagreements between Wyler, as the director, and many of the performers, including with Peck, as Peck and Wyler had different views about the need for 10,000 cattle for a certain scene and about re-shooting one of Peck's close-ups; when Wyler refused to do another take of the close-up, Peck left the set and had to be persuaded to return. Peck and Wyler did not speak again for the rest of the shoot and for almost three years afterward, but then patched things up. Peck would say in 1974 that he had tried outright producing and acting at the same time and felt "either it can't be done or it's just that I don't do it well," adding that he did not have the desire to direct.
The story for The Big Country involves Peck, a peaceful city slicker, coming west to live with his fiancée and getting in the middle of a violent feud between two cattle-ranching families over access to water on a third party's property, with Peck eventually being forced to physically fight back. Peck has two romantic interests in the movie, one being Jean Simmons, and Charlton Heston is one opponent he must deal with. The movie was a big hit, finishing fourth at the box office in North America for 1958 and second in the UK.
At the time of release, reviews for The Big Country ranged from moderately negative to moderately positive, in most cases based on whether the author prioritized character depth and fulsome expression of a message or construction of interesting scenes and cinematography of the landscape; opinions on Peck's performance were also disparate.[bl] In recent decades, critical opinion of The Big Country has generally risen although there is still disagreement; many prominent critics and publications describe the cinematography as excellent, some laud Peck's performance, and some cite the film as too long.[bm]Timeout describes it as "One of those Big Westerns...which aren't so much epic as long. Finely crafted, though, with some marvelous camerawork...and a vague message about violence," Tony Sloman of the RadioTimes says "Unfairly neglected today, this major western is a film of truly epic dimensions...Thanks to the combination of top director William Wyler and a superb cast...the film is never tiresome, despite its length. It also features a great theme tune...when heard in context, the music rightfully lifts this distinguished movie to the realm of screen classic" and "Gregory Peck was particularly suited (to the role) - he was one of the few actors whose innate pacifism rang true."
Peck next played a lieutenant during the Korean war in Pork Chop Hill (1959), which was based on a factual book about a real battle. Peck portrays a lieutenant who is ordered to use his 135-man infantry company to take from the Chinese the strategically insignificant Pork Chop Hill because its capture would strengthen the U.S.'s position in the almost-complete armistice negotiations.
As executive producer, Peck recruited Lewis Milestone of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) to direct, and although many critics label it as an anti-war film, it has also been stated that "as shooting progressed it became clear Peck and Milestone had very different artistic visions." "Peck wanted a realistic but relatively conventional war movie, whereas Milestone envisioned a more thoughtful reflection on the futility of war." Peck later said the movie showed "the futility of settling political arguments by killing young men. We tried not to preach; we let it speak for itself." Despite solid reviews, the film did only fair business at the box office.
Most critics, both upon Pork Chop Hill's opening [bn] and in recent years,[bo] agree that it is a gritty, grim and realistic rendering of battle action.TV Guide's modern review says it "depicts the heroic battle in such stark detail that the viewer can almost smell the acrid fumes of cordite and taste the dust blown from the dead ridge" labeling it as "an authentic and memorable cinematic experience." Three critics who comment on Peck's performance are laudatory,[bp] with Variety saying Peck's performance is "completely believable. He comes through as a born leader, and yet it is quite clear that he has moments of doubt and of uncertainty."
Peck's second release of 1959 had him opposite Deborah Kerr in Beloved Infidel which, based on the memoirs of film columnist Sheilah Graham, portrays the romance between Graham (Kerr) and author F. Scott Fitzgerald (Peck) during the last three years of his life, towards the end of which Fitzgerald was often drunk and became verbally and physically abusive. Bosley Crowther assessed it as "generally flat and uninteresting" with a "postured performance of Gregory Peck...his grim-faced, monotony as a washout is relieved in a couple of critical scenes by some staggering and bawling as a drunkard, but that is hardly enough."Variety said "It is a film in which the characters go mostly unexplained and this makes for superficiality which deprives them of sympathy. What's more, the acting, while excellent and persuasive in parts, is shallow and artificial in others. Problem is primarily with Peck who brings to Fitzgerald the kind of clean-cut looks and youthful appearance that conflict with the image of a has-been novelist." Reviews from five prominent scribes in recent decades are similar with all five, including Barry Monush, Leonard Maltin Tony Sloman of RadioTimes, TV Guide and Craig Butler of AllMovie all saying, Peck was blatantly miscast,[bq] with TV Guide specifying that because of their physical differences (tall vs. short, and dark-haired vs. fair-haired) and Craig Butler saying "Peck was an extremely talented actor, but there is nothing in his personality that matches the qualities associated with Fitzgerald. As a result, Peck is totally at sea." David Thomson writes the role left Peck "hopelessly adrift", although TV Guide says his effort was noble. The movie is little known today.
Peck next starred in Hollywood's first major movie about the implications of nuclear warfare, On the Beach (1959), which co-starred Ava Gardner in their third and final film together. Directed by Stanley Kramer and based on a best-selling book, the movie shows the last weeks of several people in Australia, where it was filmed, as they await the onset of radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs. Peck portrays a U.S. submarine commander who has brought his submarine and crew to Australia from the North Pacific Ocean after they realized that nuclear bombs have been detonated in the northern hemisphere. He has a romance with Gardner's character before and after doing a submarine run to San Francisco to see if there are any survivors and, finally, he and his crew decide to travel to Alaska to see if it is uncontaminated. The film was named to the top ten lists of the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. It was successful at the North American box office finishing eighth for the year, but due to its high production cost it lost $700,000.
Upon opening, many reviews of On the Beach were very positive[br] with Newsweek assessing it as "An extraordinary movie...the year's most devastating picture, and one of the best," and Bosley Crowther enthusing "this deeply moving picture" contains "some vivid and trenchant images that subtly fill the mind of the viewer with a strong appreciation of his theme," and "Kramer has brilliantly directed a strong and responsive cast." It is also reported that a significant number of critics questioned the realism of all the people in the movie, both those featured, and society at large, behaving so normally while facing imminent death.[bs] In recent decades, critical opinion of On the Beach is mixed with some prominent critics asserting the script is poor,[bt] but some critics saying the acting, especially Peck, and cinematography are excellent, and that, overall, the film is powerful.[bu] For example, Craig Butler of AllMovie writes, it "is a very flawed but intensely powerful film...problematic is the cliched, almost soap-operatic relationship between Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner and the somewhat melodramatic handling of other sections of the film. In spite of this, however, there's an overwhelming, desperate bleakness that perfectly captures the sense of hopelessness that is central to the story...The cast helps tremendously. Peck has rarely been more stalwart...Even decades after its release, Beach is a harrowing and devastating experience."
Second commercial and critical peak (1960-1964)
After having no movies released in 1960, Peck's first release of 1961 was the big-budget ($6 million) WWII adventure The Guns of Navarone, in which his six-man British and Greek commando team, which also includes David Niven and Anthony Quinn, undertakes a multi-step mission to destroy two seemingly impregnable cliff-top German radar-controlled artillery guns on the Greek island of Navarone. The team of specialists (Peck is the mountain climbing expert) need to destroy the guns so British ships can evacuate across the Aegean Sea two-thousand trapped British soldiers. Derived from a fact-based novel, subplots during the mission include finding a traitor in their midst, personal differences and bad history between characters, and debates about the morality of warfare. The movie was a huge hit becoming the top-grossing movie of 1961, and became "one of the most popular adventure movies of its day." It landed seven Academy Award nominations, including for best picture, director, and screenplay, winning for best special effects, while at the Golden Globe Awards it won for Best Dramatic Movie. It also won the BAFTA for Best British Screenplay.
Several actors, including Cary Grant (who at 50 was deemed too old), James Mason, and William Holden (who asked for too much money), were considered for Peck's leading role before Peck was hired (at the same price that William Holden had asked for, plus a percentage of the box office). During filming, Peck said the fact his team seems to defeat "the entire German army" approached parody, concluding the only way to make it work was for all the performers to "play their roles with complete conviction." Director J. Lee Thompson had to balance the story and script preferences of three big-name actors, and did incorporate many of the dialogue and character development suggestions of Peck, such that Peck was so impressed he offered him the job of directing the next film he was producing, Cape Fear. Peck and Niven became good friends during the filming and Peck gave the eulogy at Niven's funeral many years later. Niven developed a severe infection from a split lip inflicted during the filming of storm scenes in a water tank and had to be hospitalized for several weeks, which delayed filming to the point the production was almost abandoned.
Most reviews of The Guns of Navarone in 1961 were positive as illustrated by it being named the best picture of the year in Film Daily's annual poll of critics and industry reporters.Variety, The New Yorker, and Bosley Crowther all said it was a thrilling action drama, although The New Yorker acknowledged the story was "preposterous" and Crowther commented it could have used more character development and human drama.[bv] In recent decades, most prominent critics or publications give it positive reviews[bw] such as Matthew Doberman of AllMovie observing, "The Guns of Navarone is proof that excitement and drama have always owed more to good storytelling than to computer graphics and hurtling asteroids. A classic underdog war tale, the film boasts strong human drama and emotional involvement thanks in larger part to the compelling performances" and adding it contains "realistic tension". By contrast, two prominent critics, Tony Rayns of TimeOut and Christopher Tookey, argue the ongoing dialogue about the morality of warfare detracts from the story, and Mike Mayor in Videohound's War Movies says the plot is sometimes clunky, although both Tookey and Mayor still give the movie a positive review. The Guns of Navarone is considered to be one of the great WWII epics. Comments on the performances, both then and recently, generally say the whole cast was compelling, although Paul V. Peckly of The New York Herald Tribune had written, "Peck may seem at times a trifle wooden and his German accent too obviously American.... but his not too introspective, somewhat baffled manner is manly and fitted to the role he plays," while Tony Rayns of TimeOut asserts it's David Niven "who steals the acting honours here as a cynical explosives expert whose laid-back attitude is put to the test when the mission starts to go awry."
Peck's next film, both as an owner of Melville Productions and as a star, was Cape Fear (1962), wherein upon being released from prison after serving eight years for a sexual assault, Max Cady, played by Robert Mitchum, heads to the home city of the witness whose testimony convicted him, that being the lawyer played by Peck, where he threatens to get back at Peck through his wife and daughter, and meticulously, but fully within the law, terrorizes the family. Peck was anxious to have Mitchum in the role of Cady, but Mitchum declined at first and only relented after Peck and Thompson delivered a case of bourbon to Mitchum's home. Many cuts were made to the movie to satisfy the Production Code Administration in the US, including replacement of the word "rape" with "attack", and removal of a reference to Peck's daughter and wife as being "juicy". Even more cuts (161) were needed to satisfy censors in Britain which resulted in the version being released there being six minutes shorter than the North American version. The film grossed only $5 million at the North American box office which was 47th for the year.
Bosley Crowther and Variety both gave Cape Fear solid reviews.[bx] Crowther said, "A cold-blooded, calculated build-up of sadistic menace and shivering dread is accomplished with frightening adroitness" and Variety observed, "As a forthright exercise in cumulative terror Cape Fear is a competent and visually polished entry." Both lauded Mitchum's performance with Crowther saying he played the villain with a cheeky and wicked arrogance, and both expressed satisfaction with Peck's performance, although Variety noted he could have been a little more stressed by the occurrences. Other reviews were mixed due to the movie's disturbing nature with Brendan Gill of The New Yorker being especially appalled arguing, "It purports to be a thriller but is really an exercise in sadism, and everyone concerned with this repellent attempt to make a great deal of money out of a clumsy plunge into sexual pathology should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. What on earth is Gregory Peck doing in such a movie?" In recent decades, reviews from six prominent film publications are positive to very positive with all of them citing Robert Mitchum's performance as excellent and half of them specifically mentioning the music as very effective.[by] Allan Jones of RadioTimes writes, "... this gripping and tension-laden original thriller... Great shocks increase the climatic suspense, with Mitchum giving a portrayal of villainy that's unforgettable vicious and sadistic. Director J. Lee Thompson's skillful use of light and shadow enhances the uncomfortable mood, while Bernard Herrmann's score counterpoints the growing dread with deft precision."Timeout asserts "director Thompson isn't quite skillful enough to give the film its final touch of class (many of the shocks are just too planned)." Two of these critics commented on Peck's performance in Cape Fear, both saying it was solid with TV Guide saying "Peck is careful not to act the fear; he's an interesting foe for Mitchum."
Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Peck's next role was in the 1962 film adaptation of the Harper Lee novel Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. In a small town in Alabama in the 1930s, Scout, a six-year-old girl, and Jem, her ten-year-old-brother, see and live events before, during and after their widowed father's passionate trial defense of a black man wrongly accused of the sexual assault of a white woman; Peck plays their kind and scrupulously honest lawyer father, Atticus Finch. Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, which was his fifth and last time nominated. The film received seven other Academy Award nominations including for Best Picture, Director and Cinematography, also winning Adapted Screenplay and Art Direction. At the Golden Globes, Peck won for Best Actor in a Drama and the film was nominated for Best Film and Director. It did not make the National Board of Review's Top 10 list. It was nominated for Best Film at the BAFTAs.[bz] The film grossed $22.9 million at the North American box office which was sixth most for the year. In 2003, Atticus Finch as portrayed by Gregory Peck was named the greatest film hero of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute. Peck would later say "My favorite film, without any question."
When producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan approached Peck about taking the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Peck agreed to read the book. In The Films of Gregory Peck by John Griggs, Peck is quoted as saying, "I got started on it and of course I sat up all night and read straight through it...I called them at about eight o'clock in the morning and said 'When do I start?'" He also said that more than it being a fine novel. "...I felt there was something I could identify with without any stress or strain...And I felt that I knew those two children."[ca] Peck did eventually request changes so that film deviated somewhat from the book, mainly showing more scenes of Peck in the courtroom than were in the original rough cut, thus shifting the focus away from the children, who had been the focus of the book, and more towards Atticus Finch.[cb] In order to obtain maximum realism, sets were built on Universal's back lot which very closely matched 1930s Monroeville.[cc] Location scouts traveled all around Los Angeles to find homes that looked the same as those in the neighborhood where Lee grew up in Monroeville and then dismantled, transported and reassembled them on Universal's back lot, plus an exact replica of Monroeville's courtroom was constructed.
The reviews of 1962 in four prominent publications each described Peck's performance as excellent. Variety wrote that the role was especially challenging for Peck but that he "not only succeeds, but makes it appear effortless, etching a portrayal of strength, dignity and intelligence."[cd] The Hollywood Reporter said "Peck gives probably the finest performance of his career, understated, casual, effective."Time posited "Peck, though he is generally excellent, lays it on a bit thick at times - he seems to imagine himself the Abe Lincoln of Alabama." Reviews in recent decades have similarly lauded Peck's performance,[ce] with Film Monthly observing, "Gregory Peck's performance as lawyer Atticus Finch is just as beautiful, natural, and nuanced as the movie itself." Barry Monush describes Peck's performance as "the summit of his career" adding "Peck [is] magnificent as the gentle lawyer who gives equal attention to his motherless children and to a hopeless court case. This was one of the finest examples of great acting through understatement." Both Michael Gebert and Andrew Collins of Radiotimes refer to Atticus Finch as the role that defined Peck's career.
Variety, The New York Herald Tribune, Saturday Review and the Hollywood Reporter all unreservedly described the film as excellent[cf] while Bosley Crowther[cg] and Time gave it positive reviews, but pointed out some flaws, and the Village Voice gave it a negative review. James Power of the Hollywood Reporter labeled it "One of the finest pictures of this or any other year" adding "Produced with care by Alan J. Pakula and directed with true brilliance by Robert Mulligan, the Universal picture is a genuine experience, so penetrating and pervasive it lingers long after the last image has faded ... The two children are nothing short of phenomenal. Untrained, they respond to direction like bright young animals, alert, sensitive, plastic ... The rest of the cast is also fine, playing with a realism that stimulates life without distorting it ... the gentle score ... is superb, letting the action speak, only underlining with tangent emotion."Time magazine said "Mulligan and scenarist Horton Foote have translated both testament and melodrama into one of the year's most fetching and affecting pictures ... Mockingbird has nothing very profound to say about the South and its problems. Sometimes, in fact, its side-porch sociology is simply fatuous ... the Negro is just too goody-goody to be true." The Village Voice wrote, "... this is not much of a movie even by purely formal standards. Horton Foote's script is a fuzzy digest of Harper Lee's Pulitzer best-seller, while Robert Mulligan's direction is slavishly faithful to the elliptical style of Miss Lee's action sequences ... A reader can always catch up on a mystifying action a page or two later, but a moviegoer wants to see what is happening while it is happening. When the Negro is shot (off-screen) for attempting to escape, Peck is so upset that by some inverted logic understood only by Liberal Southerners, he deplores the Negro's impetuousity ... It never seems to occur to Miss Lee, Mr. Foote, or Mr. Mulligan, as it occurred to someone sitting behind me, that the Negro's reported escape is as malodorous as his unjust conviction."
A physically powerful man, he was known to do a majority of his own fight scenes, rarely using body or stunt doubles. In fact, Robert Mitchum, his on-screen opponent in Cape Fear, told about the time Peck once accidentally punched him for real during their final fight scene in the movie. He felt the impact for days afterward. Peck's rare attempts at villainous roles were not acclaimed. Early on, he played the renegade son in the Western Duel in the Sun, and, later in his career, the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in The Boys from Brazil co-starring Laurence Olivier.
His last prominent film role also came in 1991, in Other People's Money, directed by Norman Jewison and based on the stage play of that name. Peck played a business owner trying to save his company against a hostile takeover bid by a Wall Street liquidator played by Danny DeVito.
A life-long Democrat, Peck was suggested in 1970 as a possible Democratic candidate to run against Ronald Reagan for the office of California Governor. Although he later admitted that he had no interest in being a candidate himself for public office, Peck encouraged one of his sons, Carey Peck, to run for political office. Carey was defeated both times by slim margins in races in 1978 and 1980 against Republican U.S. Representative Bob Dornan, another former actor.
Peck revealed that former President Lyndon Johnson had told him that, had he sought re-election in 1968, he intended to offer Peck the post of U.S. ambassador to Ireland - a post Peck, owing to his Irish ancestry, said he might well have taken, saying, "[It] would have been a great adventure". The actor's biographer Michael Freedland substantiates the report, and says that Johnson indicated that his presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Peck would perhaps make up for his inability to confer the ambassadorship. President Richard Nixon, though, placed Peck on his "enemies list", owing to Peck's liberal activism.
Peck was outspoken against the Vietnam War, while remaining supportive of his son, Stephen, who fought there. In 1972, Peck produced the film version of Daniel Berrigan's play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine about the prosecution of a group of Vietnam protesters for civil disobedience. Despite his reservations about American general Douglas MacArthur as a man, Peck had long wanted to play him on film, and did so in MacArthur in 1976.
In October 1942, Peck married Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen (1911-2008), with whom he had three sons: Jonathan (1944-1975), Stephen (b. 1946), and Carey Paul (b. 1949). They were divorced on December 31, 1955.
During his marriage with Greta, Peck had a brief affair with Spellbound co-star Ingrid Bergman. He confessed the affair to Brad Darrach of People in a 1987 interview, saying: "All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that's where I ought to stop...I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work."
On New Year's Eve in 1955, the day after his divorce was finalized, Peck married Véronique Passani (1932-2012), a Paris news reporter who had interviewed him in 1952 before he went to Italy to film Roman Holiday. He asked her to lunch six months later, and they became inseparable. They had a son, Anthony Peck (b. 1956), and a daughter, Cecilia Peck (b. 1958). The couple remained married until Gregory Peck's death. His son Anthony is an ex-husband of supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. His daughter Cecilia lives in Los Angeles.
Peck's eldest son, Jonathan, was found dead in his home on June 26, 1975, in what authorities believed was a suicide.
Peck had grandchildren from both marriages. One of his grandsons from his first marriage is actor Ethan Peck.
Peck was Roman Catholic, and once considered entering the priesthood. Later in his career, a journalist asked Peck if he was a practicing Catholic. Peck answered: "I am a Roman Catholic. Not a fanatic, but I practice enough to keep the franchise. I don't always agree with the Pope... There are issues that concern me, like abortion, contraception, the ordination of women...and others." His second marriage was performed by a justice of the peace, not by a priest, because the Church prohibits remarriage if a former spouse is still living, and the first marriage was not annulled. Peck was a significant fund-raiser for the missionary work of a priest friend of his (Father Albert O'Hara), and served as co-producer of a cassette recording of the "New Testament" with his son Stephen.
Peck also received many Golden Globe awards. He won in 1947 for The Yearling, in 1963 for To Kill a Mockingbird, and in 1999 for the TV mini-series Moby Dick. He was nominated in 1978 for The Boys from Brazil. He received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1969, and was given the Henrietta Award in 1951 and 1955 for World Film Favorite - Male.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Gregory Peck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard. In November 2005, the star was stolen, and has since been replaced.
Peck donated his personal collection of home movies and prints of his feature films to the Film Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1999. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by printed materials in the Gregory Peck papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.
^Specifically Bosley Crowther faulted the screenwriter for "letting his story progress so fitfully and loading his characters with dialogue rather than stirring deeds," said "the director failed to make the best of what he had," and said "Gregory Peck comes recommended with a Gary Cooper angularity and a face somewhat like that modest gentleman's, but his acting is equally stiff."
^Adrian Turner of RadioTimes says "it's never more than a B-picture" but is "efficiently directed." Hal Erickson of AllMovie says, "The actors speak in long, lyrical monologues about freedom, sacrifice and the indomitability of the human spirit: fascinating at first, the excess verbiage begins to wear on the viewer after three or four reels;" but there is "a reasonably spectacular climactic battle sequence." Leonard Maltin described it as "sincere, but plodding."
^Variety described the movie as "a cavalcade of a priest's life, played excellently by Peck, what transcends all the cinematic action is the impact of tolerance, service, faith and godliness." Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Much of the dialogue that is cautiously arranged between and among these people is tedious, since it lacks real depth or point," but Peck "gives a quiet and forceful performance."
^Leonard Maltin appraises it is "long but generally good." Barry Monush says, it is overlong. Craig Butler of AllMovie says, it has "some inattentive pacing (which) makes for some fairly dull patches throughout...and there's an abundance of stilted dialogue." Film critic Greg Orypeck writes, "Against the current trend for quite different films, The Keys of the Kingdom is all things today's films aren't - slow-moving, patient, expository, with long scenes of dialogue and character building," noting that "some viewers may think the film sentimental, which maybe it is, but (one particular scene) scene is most moving and it's only one of many like it in an inspiring film."
^TV Guide describes Peck's performance as excellent while Craig Butler says "he gives a commanding performance, full of his usual quiet dignity and intelligence, and spiked with stubbornness and an inner fire that make the character truly come alive."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, "the early phases of the picture are rather studiously on the "cute" side" and "the middle phases are also somewhat artificially contrived...but the final phase...does have authority and depth;" Peck's performance is "quietly commanding."Variety said the tale "is movingly dealt with" and that "Peck has the personality and ability to command attention in any scene."
^Leonard Malton says it is polishedTV Guide says it is "huge (and) sprawling... the realism of the sets is a tribute to the art directors and set decorators...three out of five stars."
^Newsweek's review evaluated the film as "a superior and suspenseful melodrama;" Bosley Crowther of The New York Times said it is a "moving love story" and "a rare film," that "the manner and quality of story-telling is extraordinarily fine", "the firm texture of narration, the flow of continuity and dialogue, the shock of the unexpected, the scope of the image - all are happily here" and that Peck's performance "restrained and refined, is precisely the proper counter to Bergman's exquisite role;" and, Variety said "Alfred Hitchcock handles his players and action in a suspenseful manner, and except for a few episodes of much scientific dialogue, maintains a steady pace in keeping the camera moving" adding that Peck "handles the suspense scenes with great skill."
^Leonard Maltin assesses it as absorbing and unique;TV Guide says it is intriguing and "although heavy on dialogue, it is not without some brilliant visual touches;" Barry Monush calls it decent; and, Christoper Tookey describes it as "a fascinating psychological thriller...with a plot which never quite delivers the killer punch" although "the cinematography is extraordinary."
^RadioTimes says it has a "melodramatic plot and a lot of psychobabble. Not even the dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali could enliven the turgid script...There are enough masterly touches to prevent the attention from straying too far".TimeOut writes, "Hitchcock embellishes it with characteristically brilliant twists, like the infinite variety of parallel lines which etch their way through Peck's mind. The imagery is sometimes overblown...but there are moments, especially towards the end, when the images and ideas really work together." 
^Arthur Beach says "The hero of the film suffers from amnesia, a guilt complex, split personality and a form of paranoia...with all that the matter with him, his psychiatrist sweetheart...snaps him out of it in what appears to be little more than three days." Paul Condon and Jim Sangster write, "At many points during Spellbound we find ourselves watching with increasing incredulity that someone as intelligent as Constance (Bergman's character) can be so repeatedly stupid, fawning over her new boss, falling inexplicably in love with him" when "the object of her affection is so lacking in any appealing personality."
^Writers Paul Condon and Jim Sangster writing in their book "The Complete Hitchcock", Christopher Tookey says the "film suffers from the wooden Peck in the lead role." and RadioTimes refers to "the robotic performance of Gregory Peck."
^Jac. D. Grant of the Hollywood Reporter wrote, it provides "an emotional experience seldom equaled."Variety said it is a "heart-warming story", that its "underlying power is impressive," and that "the underplaying is sometimes too static, but just as interest lags, the director injects another highlight." A.E. Wilson of The Star (England) wrote, "the film is acted with rare perfection." Bosley Crowther also wrote, "The strong bond of trust and wistful longing which exists between the boy and his "Pa" required the most sensitive tuning in order to ring sharp and true" and "the love of the lad for a pet lawn, which his father understands, had to be tenderly developed to appear wholly genuine."
^It's been described as "a huge success" and "a remarkable film that truly is for the entire family" by TV Guide; as "exquisitely filmed...with memorable performances" by Leonard Maltin; by Dan Jardine of AllMovie as, "teetering on the brink of sentimentality at times" but "the honesty of the performances and the beauty of the photography procure a place for The Yearling in cinematic history. by Tom Hutchinson of RadioTimes as a "lovely and loving story (which) takes its strength from an understatement of dramatic events and the underplaying of the actors. Veteran director Clarence Brown shapes it into a tale that touches the heart while never patronizing the mind. Sentiment without sentimentality."
^Bosley Cowther wrote, "There's a new sales technique in film business which has been rather cleverly evolved from scientific audience researching. It is this: If the public "want to see" for forthcoming picture samples higher than the reactions of test audiences, you sell your picture in a hurry before the curious have a chance to get wise. That, we suspect, is one reason why David O. Selznick's "Duel in the Sun...was launched yesterday not only at the Capitol on Broadway but in thirty-eight (count 'em) houses of the Loew's circuit in and around New York."
^ Her surreptitious boyfriend, and later husband, David O. Selznick, the movie's producer, "tried to present Jones in a new sexier image" in "the quest...to make Jones the screen's greatest star." Jones was uneasy about her character's brazen sexuality--as were the film censors.
^The Movie Guide says it was "universally drubbed" by the critics, while Frank Miller of Turner Class Movies says it had "pretty awful reviews", and Stephen Watts of The Sunday Times said it "fluctuates between the repellent and the ridiculous".Variety wrote, "The familiar western formula reaches its highest commercialization ... (the movie) is raw, sex-laden pulp fiction ... The vastness of western locale is splendidly displayed in color...too much at times considering the movie's length" and Jones and Peck overact in some scenes.
^It is described by Christopher Tookey as "vulgar, melodramatic and overblown" but as having "a certain bizarre appeal"; by David Shipman as "vilely acted by all"; by TV Guide as having an "accent on sex, heavy-handed and often repugnant," and being "undeniable hooey but also candy box entertainment;" by film critic Ronald Bergen as being "demented, delirious" and "visually resplendent;" and by Brendon Hanley of AllMovie as "wacky, grandiose and famous for its sexual innuendo" with "performers mostly relegated to the background." Tony Sloman of RadioTimes writes, "Pull up an armchair for a wonderful wallow in one of the wackiest melodramas ever made...The infamous finale is simultaneously ludicrous and stunning...the use of Technicolor is especially striking...As sexy, exciting and stupid as Hollywood gets, this is a real one-off, full of many pleasures," although Jones and Peck's roles "must surely have embarrassed them in hindsight."TimeOut says "Luridly beautiful, with stunning passages jostling near-bathos in patchiness...it has a rare power and a great supporting cast. The climax has an absurdist magnificence that defies criticism."
^David Parkinson of the BFI says, Peck "credibly holds his own against the scene-stealing veterans" in the movie; Bosley Crowther says Peck makes "the renegade brother a credibly vicious and lawless character;" but Christopher Tookey says "Peck is as lively as the average coffee table;" and Variety wrote that Peck overacted in some scenes.
^Variety wrote, "African footage is cut into the story with showmanship effect, and these sequences build up suspense satisfactorily", "scenes in which lions and water buffalos charge...will stir any audience." and while it has some "unreal dialogue", the film's "action is often exciting and elements of suspense frequently hop up the spectator;" Bosley Crowther wrote, "[The movie is] a tight and absorbing study of character," and "the hunting scenes, incidentally, are visual knockouts" but, it has a "contrived conclusion...(that is) completely stupid and false;" and Time Magazine said it was a "brilliantly good job-the best job yet of Hemingway to the screen."
^The New York Herald Tribune described it as a "brilliant blow against racial and religious intolerance".The Daily Mirror assessed it as "the most explosive picture of the year" and "one of the most exciting and punch-laden pictures you've ever seen."Variety wrote, the movie "provides an almost overwhelming emotional experience", is "memorable for numerous vivid impelling passages", has "great dramatic depth and force", "is a credit to the screen" and that the screenplay, direction and cinematography are all excellent, but acknowledged it has "some disappointing or confusing scenes."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, "the role is crisply and agreeably played by Gregory Peck;"Variety said, Peck "is quiet, almost gentle, progressively intense and resolute, with just the right suggestion of inner vitality and turbulence."TV Guide says Peck gives "a convincing portrayal" and refers to "the excellence of Peck;" Richard Gilliam of AllMovie says, "the performances...are quite good, especially (that) of Peck;" Tom Hutchinson of RadioTimes says "it's one of Peck's finest performances."
^Christopher Tookey says "Once considered courageous and powerful, now it looks terribly slow, preachy and melodramatic. More evidence...the socially important film of today is the deservedly forgotten film of tomorrow;" Michael Gebert writes, "In retrospect, rarely has so much praise been lavished on such an inconsequential film...Coming on the heels of the Holocaust, it seems almost obscene to lavish so much attention on such a minor, upper-class aspect of anti-Semitism"TimeOut says "sentimental and muddled...it wears its heart on its sleeve rather than offers any analysis of the problem...looks remarkedly dated in places. Good performances, however, particularly from Garfield and Holm."
^George Aachen commented "Peck's amateurishly mannered performance with its wearisome trick of delivery and inflection, makes (the movie) seem even more unrealistic," and John Howard Reid wrote, "The glum humorless Peck is in every scene bar one-though he does not hold the monopoly on strained acting."
^Leonard Malton says "sincere...then daring approach to the subject matter is tame now." Barry Monush observes it is "a film looked upon as very mild dramatic fare by modern audiences, but one that much good in its day."TV Guide writes, "today it looks like heart on a sleeve, but the film is a landmark film" and "remains a classic crusading film." David Sterritt, of TCM, says the film "ranks with the best of the "problem pictures" made by Hollywood in the wake of WWII...it comes across as smart, incisive and engrossing drama, and although times have changed since 1947, the subject it so boldly tackles remains timely and relevant to this day." Tom Hutchinson of RadioTimes asserts "An eye-opener in its day...(it) still has the power to compel...is successful in showing that subtle malaise is barely recognized as such by the people who sustain it...members of the cast produce work of...high quality." In 2017 Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote, "Gentleman's Agreement is still a riveting movie, intriguing, a little exasperating, alternately naive and very sharp."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, the movie is "one fitfully intriguing tale, smoothly told through a cultivated camera. It isn't a too-well-written story...it goes into Old Bailey Courtroom and stays there for most of the film. Courtroom action tends to get weary...Hitchcock has made the most of a difficult script and has got as much tension in a courtroom as most directors could get in a frontier fort. Gregory Peck is impressively impassioned as the famous young London barrister who lets his heart, cruelly captured by his client, rule his head."Variety wrote, "high dramatics...Hitchcock's penchant for suspense and unusual atmosphere development get full play. There is a deliberateness of pace, artful pauses and other carefully calculated melodramatic hinges upon which he swings the story and players. Peck's statue as a performer of ability stands him in good stead among extremely tough competition."
^Leonard Maltin said "talk, talk, talk in complicated, stagy courtroom drama;" Barry Monush labeled it "dreary," Patrick Legare of AllMovie commented, it is "talky, slow-moving...with a lack of any sustained action" and "Peck gives respectable performance;" Jay S. Steinberg of TCM, laments it has "a rather verbose narrative that never quite builds dramatically...but with instances that reveal the director's visual flair" and as featuring "earnest and engaging performances."Time Out says "Bleak in its message (those who love passionately inevitably destroy the object of their desire), the movie only half works. The intricate, triangular plot is finally overburdened by the courtroom setting."TV Guide says "Hitchcock tried mightily but didn't quite overcome the rambling, overlong script."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, "Guns blaze, fists fly and passions tangle in the best realistic Western style. William A. Wellman has directed for steel-spring tension from the beginning to the end." The story is kept "on the surface level of action and partly contrived romance. At this popular level they have made it tough, taut and good...it's classy and exciting while it lasts"
^TV Guide writes, "The unlikely ending doesn't injure this brilliantly filmed and directed Western, which qualifies as one of the best of the genre. The high-contrast black-and-white photography is stunning...Dialogue is all the more telling for being sparse, the story is carried visually. The music is fine, beginning the action of each scene, then fading as stark realism takes hold and natural sounds are heard." Craig Butler of AllMovie writes, "crackling good screenplay...with memorable dialogue and clearly drawn characters...beautifully detailed direction that doesn't skimp on suspense or action and that even makes the love angle work...aided by stark, almost expressionistic cinematography, a feast of black-and-white images that carry on their own considerable emotional weight" and "a marvelous cast." Christoper Tookey says "...a superior Western...Wellman's atmospheric direction (making effective use of natural sound) and Joseph's MacDonald's stark cinematography make it something special. Lamar Trotti's screenplay is one that could be usefully studied by aspiring screenwriters; it makes minimal use of dialogue, yet won an award from America's Writers Guild."TimeOut says, "A fine Western, harshly shot...(the) screenplay develops WR Burnett's source story with the Tempest in mind, the subtler analogies serving to provide resonances...the conflict similarly resolves strangely, at its violent climax, into a sense of conciliation. Beautifully cast and characterized." Leonard Maltin states, "Exciting western...Similar in atmosphere to Wellman's classic The Ox-Bow Incident."
^Variety said, "Peck shines as the outlaw leader and matching dramatic stride by stride with him is Baxter."TV Guide writes, "Peck is thoroughly believable in a part which contrasts greatly with many of his others." Craig Butler writes, Peck is "a solid leading man with a villainous side."
^TV Guide refers to "the unlikely ending."TimeOut says "the conflict similarly resolves strangely...into a sense of conciliation." Christopher Tookey says "The film is better at the beginning than later on...when Peck becomes too much of a goodie-goodie to be credible."
^TCM states this; the New York Herald Tribune called it "pompous and dull entertainment", while Time Magazine lamented that "the rich, exuberant flow of dialogue, incident and atmospheric characteristic (of the novel it is based on) has been chocked to a pedestrian trickle;" and Bosley Crowther labeled it "as a dreary picture" with "the actors entrapped by a weak script and fustian direction."
^Margarita Landazuri of TCM says "The Great Sinner" may not be faithful to Dostoevsky (the author of the sourcebook), but it is high-gloss MGM, with some excellent performances that make it well worth watching."TimeOut says "the script unceremoniously culls episodes and characters from Dostoevsky's youth...Unfortunately, this prestigious MGM production is heavy-going and overdone."
^Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote, "It is one of the best treatments of WWII but not without its defects. These include its length and some old war picture cliches. But the acting (especially Peck) and direction approach greatness."
^Aubry D. Arminio of AllMovie says, "The story of Peck's General Savage remains one of the most fair and celebrated accounts of leadership...Twelve O'Clock High is a sincere and realistic war film."TV Guide says "Firm film, peak Peck...in addition to fine acting, Twelve O'Clock High features some gorgeous camerawork and one of the most horrifying aerial attack sequences ever put on film...the subsequent devaluation of King's work is a gross injustice." Leonard Maltin says "Taut story...Peck has never been better." Michael Gebert declares it the best film of 1949. and Christopher Tookey writes, it is "probably the best picture about the pressures which war imposes on those at the top." Tom Hutchinson of RadioTimes says "To watch Gregory Peck crack under the strain of high command...is as alarming as the collapse of the Statue of Liberty: he's such a monument to liberal integrity...It's all a wonderful example of ensemble acting."
^see also modern reviews; Variety wrote, "Peck gives the character much credence as he suffers and sweats with his men." David Thomson says Peck is "quite riveting".TV Guide says "Peck gives a flawless performance." Barry Monush says "Peck does his best work yet to date."
^Variety's website's condensed review says "There's never a sag or off moment in the footage...despite all the tight melodrama, the picture finds time for some leavening laughter. Gregory Peck perfectly portrays the title role, a man doomed to live out his span killing to keep from being killed. He gives it great sympathy and a type of rugged individualism that makes it real" and TCM's Jeremy Arnold says Variety's original review also called it "dynamic potent drama... Packs a terrific dramatic wallop that has seldom been equaled in any type of picture." TCM also says another The New York Times reviewer wrote, it has "rare suspense and a tingling accumulation of good, pungent western atmosphere."
^Ronald Bergen says it "has gained in critical appreciation over the years and is now considered one of the all-time great westerns" Christopher Tookey says "It's gained in critical respectability over the years." Brian Whitener of AllMovie says, "often imitated by other Westerns, its morally difficult, and compelling tale make it one of the most important films produced in the 1950s."
^"Ronald Bergen says "It was rare in painting an authentic picture of the late 19th century West." Christopher Tookey says it "paints an authentic picture of the 19th century and a burgeoning small-town community." David Parkinson of RadioTimes comments it's a "simmering western about the stark realities of frontier life ... Veteran director Henry King expertly strips away the glamour of the gunfighter to reveal a lonely man who regrets his past, but knows that killing is his only future."
^George Aachen said "A taut, suspenseful script directed with style and photographed with just the right drab realistic atmosphere, and acted by a group of players who are as natural, as weary, as vengeful, as friendly, as indignant, as cowardly and as idly curious as the script requires them to be ... [with its] dramatic and moving story, its flesh-and-blood characters, its realistic sets and its atmospheric direction make it is one of [the director's] best."Time Out says "A superb Western ... tough, bleak ... Magnificently directed and shot, flawlessly acted by Peck and a superb cast, government by an almost Langian sense of fate, it's a film that has the true dimensions of tragedy."
^TV Guide says "Peck is dazzling." Leonard Malton says "Peck is most effective." Christopher Tookey says "Peck underacts effectively". Ronald Bergen says "Peck brings gravitas to the role of a man who cannot escape his past." Luccia Bozzola of AllMovie says, Peck's performance is "laconic yet deeply felt".Time Outsays his role was "flawlessly acted by Peck."
^Lucia Bozzola of AllMovie says, it is "a notable predecessor to the revisionist emphasis on the end of the Westerner (and the West) in the 1960s and 1970s ... [it is] lauded for ... its adept psychological examination of the unwanted results of myth-making violence." Leonard Malton says "classic psychological Western. Catch this one!" Jeremy Arnold of TCM says it is "seen as a key forerunner to the dark psychological westerns of the later 1950s."
^The New York Times had no review of this movie; Time Out says "The often brutal physical confrontations show the kind of edge [the director] could deliver when he put his mind to it, and a sinewy, unsympathetic Peck impresses."TV Guide writes "Though a disappointing Western with a routine plot, it is somewhat redeemed by its star and a solid supporting cast. The script never rises about the intelligence of a B western and the production design is obviously artificial, but the cast makes all the difference ... Peck turned in a decent performance and pulled the film out of the doldrums." Leonard Maltin says it is "unusually brutal." Craig Butler of AllMovie asserts, it "is a fairly routine Western, but it does boast a fine cast that makes it quite watchable ... [the] script is much too familiar and written with far too little imagination ... [it has] a by-the-numbers plot. Gordon M. Douglas' direction doesn't overcome the deficiencies in the screenplay; his work is efficient and competent, but rather more is needed here .... Peck is in great "cards to the vest" form here, and he holds the film together with his sheer star power."
^Mark Bourne of the DVD Journal asserts "Gregory Peck would be nobody's first choice for the role... but he looks so comfortable barking orders ... providing leadership ... or lovingly ministering Virginia Mayo back to health... that we ease into the characterization with him."TV Guide says "Peck's a touch sober for a credible swashbuckler ...[but is] full of valiant guff" in the role.
^Bob Thomas said it "is excellent adventure stuff ... the dialogue and action can be stilted at times. But there is enough eye-catching excitement and color to offset that." Bosley Crowther said it has "plenty of action ... It may be conventional action, routine in pattern and obviously contrived, with less flavor [of the books] in it than of the workshops of Hollywood. However, it should please those mateys who like the boom of the cannon and the swish of the swords."
^Mark Bourne of DVD Journal says the film has "excellent cinematography and ship-battles effects ... The film looks terrific and moves with strong winds in the sails. Peck gets the necessary support from a fine ensemble crew of character actors ... that the script kindly remembers to need entertaining things to do and say. The often lush cinematography..includes striking work [that] captures Peck and Mayo in golden-toned shots that are warm and romantic without being 'romancy' or trite."TV Guide writes "Walsh's direction has no time to linger. Guy Green's camerawork and Robert Farnon's jolly score are helpful." Leonard Maltin assesses it as an "Exciting, well-produced sea epic." Richard Gilliam of AllMovie argues it "features several nicely staged battle sequences... If the film has a flaw. it's that it spends too much time on Hornblower's uninteresting relationship with Barbara Wellesley (Virginia Mayo); the scenes seem tacked-on, detracting from the naval drama."Time Out says it "is as much a study of the heroic spirit as an action romp. Director Raoul Walsh seems more interested in their inner life and emotional vulnerability, which makes for an oddly limpid (but often quite beautiful) and non-dynamic work." David Parkinson of the RadioTimes observes "this sprawling, handsome but flat feature suffers from too many shifts in emphasis between action-adventure and psychological study. What should have been stirring spends too much time becalmed."
^Bosley Crowther asserted the film provided "a reverential and sometimes majestic treatment of chronicles that have lived three millennia" that "avoids pageantry and overwhelming concocted spectacle...the rest of the cast is entirely overshadowed by (Peck's) role...Having been mounted artistically, an age-old tale now takes on colorful dimensions...for all its verbosity and occasional slickness and sensuality (it) makes its points with feeling and respect."Variety said "This is a big picture in every respect...Expert casting throughout focuses on each characterization" with each performer doing strong work except for Hayward.
^Barry Monush describes the film as a "character-driven biblical spectacle in which Peck did a lot of soul searching." Hal Erickson of AllMovie says, "respectable, slightly stodgy...the film's lavish production values compensate ever so slightly for the long-winded script." Leonard Maltin states "Good production values but generally boring script; only fair performances."TV Guide says "Big-budget Biblical yucky muck...Typical lavish Hollywood Biblical treatment, but awash with juice thanks to the force supplied by the three leads."RadioTimes says "More of a plodding, pompous moral debate than an epic, Henry King's movie eschews a lot of the DeMille-style orgies and battles on would expect. There is a cleverly staged flashback to David's famous fight with Goliath...Hayward is ravishing in a Kansas farmgirl sort of way."
^Variety said "a hearty, salty action film well-trouped by a good cast" and "some of the best sea footage ever put on film." Bosley Crowther wrote, "A couple of handsome down-east schooners, racing furiously through a wind-swept sea...pretty much steal a robust show from Gregory Peck, Ann Blyth and other mortals. And this is no whit of discredit to the mere actors in this lively film; they are faced with uneven competition in this drama...(it's loaded) with muscular and romantic action of the juiciest and easily playable sort...the action spills forth without clear reason...the characters presented make more motion and color than they make sense. Gregory Peck as the venturesome hero is only a shade more restrained than Anthony Quinn who plays a Portuguese captain as though he were animated by hot feet and rum."
^Craig Butler of AllMovie says, "Although it has its ups and down, The World in His Arms is generally a good action-adventure-romance yarn. Chief among its assets is the thrilling sea race that is the centerpiece of the film...Credit goes to the director Raoul Walsh...there's so much spirit and heart in this sequence that you can practically touch it...If the rest of the film were as exciting as this section, it would be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, this isn't the case - but fortunately, much of the rest of the film is still quite good and at its worst, it's still average...Quinn plays the part as if he were born to it. Ann Blyth does well as the love interest, and looks lovely." Leonard Maltin describes it as an "Unlikely but entertaining tale." Ben Sachs of Chicago Reader comments "This is not a classic, but it's loads of fun, thanks in part to Walsh's brisk pacing and infectious sympathy for rugged, macho types...Quinn boisterously (overacts) as only he can...even when the story gives way to high seas spectacle, the drama remains stubbornly life-sized."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, "Thanks to a skillful combination of some sensational African hunting scenes, a musical score of rich suggestion and a vivid performance by Gregory Peck (it is) a handsome and generally absorbing film (and) a taut, eye-filling film. The flow of romances...is exquisitely colorful, alluring and loaded with heavy sentiment. But a stubbornly analytic viewer will still be moved to inquire what all this chasing about with women demonstrates or proves?...(the filmmakers) have not made a clearly convincing film. However, they have made a picture that constantly fascinates the eyes and stimulates the emotions...the overall production in wonderful color is full of brilliant detail and surprise and the mood of nostalgia and wistful sadness that is built up in the story has its spell...Peck, by the force and vigor of his physical attitudes, suggests a man of burning temper and melancholy moods."Variety commented "the script broadens the short story considerably without losing the Hemingway penchant for the mysticism behind his virile characters and lusty situations. Ava Gardner makes the part of Cynthia a warm, appealing, alluring standout. Peck delivers with gusto the character of the writer...Susan Hayward is splendid. The location-lensed footage...add(s) an important dress to the varied sequences. The African lensed backgrounds are brilliant, as are those on the Riviera and in Spain."
^Craig Butler of AllMovie opines, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro has not aged well over the years...The screenplay (is) in a bit of a no man's land, not really Hemingway, but not quite the real world either. Visually, however, Kilimanjaro is a feast, with the camera capturing the full beauty of its often-stunning locations and also finding emotion in the 'character' scenes. The art direction is lovely...Gardner and Peck create the appropriate romantic chemistry...the direction is uneven...there's still enough here to engage most fans of romance movies."TV Guide wrote, "this story works splendidly under King's sure directorial hand and is enacted with power and conviction by Peck...This beautifully photographed film...features a magnificent score by Herman that captures all the exotic locales profiled. Gardner is excellent...the script is a seamless blend of the screenwriter's and Hemingway's styles."TimeOut says "the film tends to ramble and seems particularly uneven in its mixture of back-project wildlife footage, studio and location work." Leonard Maltin says "Peck finds his forte." Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader says "overstuffed. There is some exquisite Technicolor photography, but director Henry King never moves the action beyond respectful superficiality."
^Milton Luban of the Hollywood Reporter said the movie "proves a charming, laugh-provoking affair that often explodes into hilarity. With Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn turning in superb performances, Roman Holiday is 118 minutes of sheer entertainment" elaborating that it has a "delightful screenplay that sparkles with wit and outrageous humor that at times comes close to slapstick" and that the "cinematographers do a fine job of incorporating Roman landmarks into the storyline." Bosley Crowther observed it was "a natural, tender and amusing yarn" with "laughs that leave the spirits soaring."
^Leonard Maltin labels it "Utterly charming".TV Guide praises it as "Charming, wistful and frothy" and says it "has enough adventure and excitement to satisfy, and the faintly bittersweet note of the ending is made deliciously palatable by its artistic rightness." Joshua Klein says "Peck and Hepburn are excellent...Rome's landmarks help enhance the already magical story. Just as essential is the enjoyable script."TimeOut succinctly states "near-perfect rom-com."
^Hal Erickson described it as "satisfying" with humor that makes the audience's laughter cascade.TV Guide enthuses "This delightful comedy is convincingly acted by Peck...the direction is full of vitality and the movie provides consistent humor and delightful situations...is beautifully photographed and the Victorian-era sets are impressive...a rewarding satire on human greed and British traditions."
^Bosley Crowther also wrote, the main character "possesses the humble, stoic valor one associates with Gregory Peck, who - by most fortunate coincidence - is present to pay the role;" the director has arranged events "in a seemingly scattered yet clear and forceful way...he has, in short, a full, well-rounded film. To do this he had to take his sweet time;" the director "has wisely paced his film at a tempo that gives them plausible time to deliberate;" "the expensive production gives proper setting to this intelligent film;" and, "The critical scene in which the hero tells his wife of his Italian child is also a long mordant passage that strikes sparks every second of the way." Harrison's Reports called it "one of the most absorbing pictures of the year," with "exceptionally fine" acting. Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "As a sociological document, a particular view of the contemporary American middle-class, the film is uneasily fascinating. Otherwise, this is a characteristic best-seller adaptation, over-long, over-loaded with production values, padded out with flashbacks to the war years, and efficiently impersonal in its approach".Variety indicated "Peck is handsome and appealing, if not always convincing. It's only in his romantic sequences with Marisa Pavan, who plays his Italian love, that he takes on a warmth and becomes believable. Playing opposite Peck as his wife is Jennifer Jones, and her concept of the role is faulty to a serious degree. Jones allows for almost no feeling of any real relationship between her and Peck...Frederick March is excellent, and the scenes between him and Peck lift the picture high above the ordinary."
^Leonard Maltin's review had no evaluative comments. TV Guide calls it "surprisingly engrossing if shallow and overlong" and "Totally hallow trash with a hysteria-prone Jennifer Jones...So slickly dished up, though, you can feel yourself sliding around on the sofa." Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader describes it as "lush" adding "The film may seem mediocre now (it did back then) but it probably speaks volumes about the period."
^TimeOut says "the great white whale is significantly less impressive when lifting bodily out of the sea to crush the Pequod than when first glimpsed one moonlit night...a pitifully weak Starbuck. But there are marvelous things here...[such as] nearly all the whaling scenes. Lent a stout overall unity by...the intelligent adaptation (and) by color grading which gives the images the tonal quality of old whaling prints..it is often staggeringly good.;" Brian Cady of TCM describes it as "the most accurate and probably the quintessential movie version of Melville's book;" Barry Monush evaluates it as an "under-rated attempt to film the un-filmable;" Brendon Hanley of AllMovie writes, "director John Huston acquitted himself well...the muted colors..give the film an original, washed-out look perfectly suited to the story's era. Equally impressive is the old boat Huston selected for the Pequod and his recreation of a mid-1800s rustic fishing village. The screenplay is more than adequate." and, Leonard Maltin says "moody version...fine scenes throughout;"
^Crowther noted the movie tries "to generate the same kind of verve and generally sardonic humor [as an old Spenser Tracy-Katharine Hepburn film]...it does, too, at least, in certain stretches...Also, some of the verbal exchanges between Peck and Bacall have a nice little splash of wit about them. Good dialogue has been written by George Wells. The direction..keeps things moving tolerably along until the end, when it bursts into a splurge of ostentation that is silly and in somewhat doubtful taste."
^Leonard Malton writes "chic comedy reminiscent of the great Hepburn-Tracy vehicles. Bacall and Peck do their best," and Bruce Elder of AllMovie writes, "With the very slight plot one can only deduce...that the "real" point of Designing Woman was the issue of masculinity. This, in turn, may explain why Designing Woman remains an amazingly obscure film, given its two high-profile stars and director-it's "about" issues and ideas that aren't easy to discuss or delineate, and is far more challenging and sophisticated than its plot description would indicate."
^ Leonard Maltin says it is "compelling;" Hal Erickson of AllMovie labeling it, "as grim and compelling as The Gunfighter;" film writer Peter Von Bagh asserts Peck's performance conveys an "ethical and charismatic radiance", Adrian Turner of the RadioTimes opines the movie "isn't imbued with the emotional conviction it needs from either Peck or the usually capable director Henry King," "TV Guide also says "Outstanding in the film are color shots of gorges and precipitous mountains."A.H. Weiler of The New York Times had also said "Peck lends conviction to a role that could be a stereotype,"
^Bosley Crowther wrote, "The Big Country does not get far beneath the skin of its conventional Western situation and its stock Western characters. It skims across standard complications and ends on a platitude even if the verbal construction and pictorial development of (complications/incidents) are measured, meticulous, robust and ringing with organ tones".Monthly Film Bulletin argued the efforts to convey a peace message were "superficial and pedestrian" adding that "the pivotal character of McKay, played on a monotonously self-righteous note by Peck, never comes alive. It's mainly due to the power of the climatic canyon battle, and Burl Ives' interesting playing as Rufus, that this remains a not unsympathetic film."Variety said it is "armed with a serviceable, adult western yarn...The camera has captured a vast section of the southwest with such fidelity that the long stretches of dry country, in juxtaposition to tiny western settlements, and the giant canyon country in the arid area, have been recorded with almost three-dimensional effect" and "As a peace-loving easterner, Peck gives one of his better performances," with the other actors also giving strong performances.Harrison Reports declared it was "a first-rate super western, beautifully photographed" and added, "It is a long picture, perhaps too long for what the story has to offer, but there is never a dull moment from start to finish and it holds one's interest tightly throughout."
^Michael Betzold of AllMovie writes, "Staggering vistas and grandiose story make this an emblematic Western, though its emotions are transparent." Leonard Maltin says it is "overblown...the score has become a classic." Ronald Bergen describes it as "rousing epic" with "both sweep and substance" listing the "exciting opening sequence involving a carriage chase" and several action scenes as being highlights. Barry Monush enthuses Peck is "excellent as a man of integrity in a fine western."TV Guide argues it is "A huge, sprawling western with just about everything: brilliant photography, superb music, an intelligent script and excellent performances. If you hate westerns, you'll still enjoy this picture because the story could have taken place...anywhere...strong personalities clash. It's too long, true. Sharper editing was needed."
^Bosley Crowther wrote, the battle scenes "as directed by Lewis Milestone, an old war-film hand, are realistic and effective" and "all represented expertly...but the awesome and lasting impressive feature is that enemy "voice" (from battle speakers) articulating all the resentments and misgivings of the American troops" and "the audacity to produce such a grim and rugged film, which tacitly points to the obsoleteness of ground warfare, merits applause."Variety wrote, "Pork Chop Hill is a grim, utterly realistic story that drives home both the irony of war and the courage men can summon to die in a cause they don't understand for and an objective which they know to be totally irrelevant. The accent on the combat is such that...the other men barely emerge as people. They look real, they sound real."
^Leonard Maltin writes "gritty...with an impressive cast." Scott McGee of TCM says the film is "told with a hard-nosed style of harsh realism and fluid action" and "it was the sure-handed direction of veteran Lewis Milestone that determined the impact of Pork Chop Hill." Tony Sloman of RadioTimes writes "This is the definitive Korean War movie...Bleak and glum, it boasts a superb all-male cast headed by Gregory Peck at his glummest...the action sequences are terrific."TimeOut writes "It details (quite brilliantly) the bloody assault on a hill of no particular value...impressive with fine performances." Barry Monush writes it "emphasizes gritty action over characterization."
^TV Guide writes "Peck is outstanding as the resolute but compassionate commander." Bosley Crowther wrote, "Gregory Peck is convincingly stalwart..."
^Leonard Maltin writes "Ill-conceived casting of Peck makes (the film) more ludicrous than real; lush photography is the only virtue of blunt look at cinema capital." Barry Monush said that Peck was "blatantly miscast." Tony Sloman of RadioTimes decrees it is "sunk by the staggering miscasting of Gregory Peck...the CinemaScope photography is stunning but to no avail." Craig Butler of AllMovie says, "Beloved Infidel is soapy, less than satisfying...it oversimplifies a relationship rather more complex than (what is shown)...Gregory Peck gives a performance that is so far off the mark as to be embarrassing. Peck was an extremely talented actor, but there is nothing in his personality that matches the qualities associated with Fitzgerald. As a result, Peck is totally at sea...incapable of pulling off either of the big drunk scenes the role requires. By contrast, Deborah Kerr is in peak form...there's also some yummy photography...this is not enough to make up for the film's fatal flaws...but it does make the film watchable."TV Guide says "Top production and stars give this one all they're worth but it could have been better...Peck is miscast (he is dark-haired and towers well over six feet, whereas Fitzgerald was 5'7" and fair-haired), but he plays the role nobly...It's a sad, almost wasted film which dwells not on Fitzgerald's courage and magnificent talent, but on his failure..." 
^Variety evaluates it as "a solid film of considerable emotional, as well as cerebral, content" but adds "the fact remains that the final impact is as heavy as a leaden shroud...All the personal stories are well-presented. The cast is almost uniformly excellent. Peck and Gardner make a good romantic team." The Hollywood Reporter enthused the film was "brilliantly executed".
^Australian film writer Philip Davey says that at the time of release many critics "criticized the perceived "unrealistic" sedate behavior of characters facing certain death...and, in some cases, the absence of a religious element." The Hollywood Reporter enthused the film was "brilliantly executed," but is reported to have "wondered at length why none of the characters showed any interest in religion as the world ends." Arthur Knight of Saturday Review observed "it is...difficult to believe that all [people] would remain as calm and self-possessed as the people have been here...There is no looting, no licentiousness, no desperate last-chance fling."
^Christopher Tookey says "It is hard to see why this incredibly turgid, cliche-ridden, melodramatic film garnered the critical acclaim it did."TimeOut says "Fine photography but the script is a typically numbing affair, and the cast, aside from Peck...seem totally out of their depth."
^TV Guide says it is "Flawed but moving" and "Though it occasionally goes over the top with melodrama and lacks some technical credibility, (it) remains a powerful, well-acted, deftly photographed film." Leonard Maltin says "Thoughtful...with fine performances by all."
^Variety said it was a "spectacular drama... and even, with its flaws, should have patrons firmly riveted throughout its lengthy narrative" adding that all the actors "turn in worthwhile performances", it has "terrific special effects and several socko situations" and that "a wonderfully directed and lensed storm segment and the final boffo climax nail-biting are just a few of the nail-biting highlights." Bosley Crowther opined, "more emphasis is placed on melodrama than on character or credibility," that the characters are "all such predictable people you're likely to get bored with them before the guns are blown up", and "One simply wonders why Foreman... didn't aim for more complex human drama." He goes on to write it is a "robust action drama" and "For anyone given to letting himself be entertained by scenes of explosive action and individual heroic display, there should be entertainment in this picture for there is plenty of it... Even though the picture runs more than two hours and a half, it moves swiftly and gets where it is going. J.Lee Thompson has directed it with pace."The New Yorker's film critic declared, it was "one of those great bow-wow... movies that are no less thrilling because they are so preposterous" confessing he "was held more or less spellbound all the way through this many-colored rubbish."
^TV Guide says it is a "stirring spectacle" and "great adventure.... handled well by veteran director J. Lee Thompson, with strong cast support and excellent production values that make it all lavish, rich and often breathtaking" despite its "cliched story, hackneyed characters and triumph-over-impossible-odds-finale." Jeremy Aspinall of RadioTimes comments "This classic wartime adventure... maintains tension despite the film's epic length" also complimenting the acting. Ronald Bergen describes it as a "rip-roaring adventure" that is "spectacularly filmed" and "one of the best of its type". Tony Rayns of TimeOut assert, "the ongoing debates about the morality of warfare that are scattered through (the movie) only serve to drag out the action climaxes." Christopher Tookey describes it as an "Old-fashioned but effective war movie, which would have been improved further by cutting some of the chat." Mike Mayo in Videohound's War Movies writes, behind the "... often clunky mechanics of plot lies solid craftsmanship... director J. Lee Thompson... handles the story with a finer touch... the production [has] a realistic, lived-in look that's more associated with "serious" black-and-white World War II movies than with escapism."
^Bosley Crowther wrote "A cold-blooded, calculated build-up of sadistic menace and shivering dread is accomplished with frightening adroitness... Technically, it's a good job. Mr. Webb has prepared a tough, tight script and Mr. Thompson has directed in a steady and starkly sinister style. And Mr. Mitchum plays the villain with the cheekiest, wickedest arrogance and the most relentless aura of sadism that he has ever managed to generate. Mr. Peck is taut and tenacious."Variety said "As a forthright exercise in cumulative terror Cape Fear is a competent and visually polished entry... There is nothing... which might provide some insight in Mitchum's behavior. Peck, displaying his typical guarded self, is effective, if perhaps less distraught over the prospect of personal disaster than his character might warrant... Mitchum has no trouble being utterly hateful."
^ Timeout writes "This superbly nasty thrilboasts great credentials... Mitchum as the sadistic villain, Peck as the epitome of threatened righteousness... whooping music by Bernard Herrmann. If director Thompson isn't quite skilful enough to give the film its final touch of class (many of the shocks are just too planned), the relentlessness of the story and Mitchum's tangibly sordid presence guarantee the viewer's quivering attention."TV Guide says "Unforgettable villainy. Suspenseful and very frightening, thanks to Robert Mitchum's lethally threatening performance and the frightened reactions of a pro cast... J. Lee Thompson directs at a clip, until the drawl toward the bayou climax, where the minutes feel like hours, and your heart sits in your throat. Peck is careful not to act the fear; he's an interesting foe for Mitchum." Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader ".... better than the Scorsese remake - above all for Robert Mitchum's chilling performance... though its arguable still some distance from deserving its reputation as a classic." Brendon Hanley of AllMovie says Mitchum's role "comes in second in the sinister sweepstakes only to his chilling performance... in Night of the Hunter... Mitchum's Cad is... an untouchable, unstoppable, unrepentant corrupter of innocence... all with a sadistic smirk... Director J. Lee Thompson... significantly scaled back his scope for this drama, and even the fight scenes at the end have a subdued, almost still aspect." Christopher Tookey sums up, "Straightforward, unpretentious yarn with memorable performances (especially from Robert Mitchum) and a fine Bernard Herrmann score."
^Peck was not Universal Studios' first choice to play Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird; Rock Hudson was slated to play the part until Pakula and Mulligan became involved in the production and immediately thought Peck would be preferable. The three of them traveled to Monroeville, Alabama, to meet Harper Lee's father, and found the basis for the story to be accurate.
^After viewing a rough cut of the finished film, Peck wrote a memo to Universal, that included a statement "Atticus had no chance to emerge as courageous or strong" and amongst other things, requested that more footage of himself be inserted in place of some footage of Scout and Jem. As Peck's production company was footing a substantial portion of the production costs, most of his requests were fulfilled and the court room scenes cover about 30% of the film's length.
^The initial aim was to shoot the film in Monroeville, Alabama; however, the town neighborhoods of the 1930s no longer existed, and the Monroeville Courthouse's courtroom had very poor acoustics which would make filming there very difficult. Mulligan took hundreds of photographs of homes and gardens in the South to capture its atmosphere. Production designer Henry Bumstead went to Monroeville for a tour of the town neighborhoods where she grew up from Leer to take in its atmosphere and Leer also provided some photographs of her neighborhood from the 1930s. Universal had location scouts find clapboard houses from the right time period with the appropriate deteriorating appearance and the homes they found were just about to be demolished for a freeway. The Finch house was painstakingly put together with the pieces of several of the homes. Production designers went to Monroeville to take photographs and measurements of the actual courtroom.
^Variety's full analysis was "For Peck, it is an especially challenging role, requiring him to conceal his natural physical attractiveness yet project through a veneer of civilized restraint and resigned, rational compromise the fires of social indignation and humanitarian concern that burn within the character. He not only succeeds, but makes it appear effortless, etching a portrayal of strength, dignity, intelligence. Another distinguished achievement for an actor whose taste and high standards of role selectivity is attested to by the caliber of his films and performances throughout his career."  Bosley Crowther stated Atticus Finch was "played superbly by Gregory Peck".
^TV Guide says "Peck's peak....since its release, this....film has been warmly received by audiences responding to....the heroic image portrayed by Peck, a shining example of citizenship and affectionate fatherhood." Dan Jardine of AllMovie asserts "Oscar-winner Gregory Peck is ideal casting as Atticus, for his Lincoln-like integrity and intelligence perfectly serve the role. Peck hammers home the film's achingly authentic, timeless, and resonant plea for humanistic tolerance: The best way to understand another's problems is to get into his or her skin and walk around in it.Empire Magazine says "Peck gives a career-best turn, but true to the source, is understated enough to let the kids shine." Cara Frost-Sharratt asserts the "....casting of Peck was clearly a stroke of genius."
^Variety wrote the "novel has been artfully and delicately translated to the screen. Universal's To Kill a Mockingbird is a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years ... Two youngsters just about steal it away [both] make striking debuts as Peck's two irrepressible, mischievous, ubiquitous, irresistibly childish ... Most noteworthy is the manner in which [the director] instills and heightens tension and terror where they are absolutely essential ... he has done a masterful job of determining points-of-view from which Russell Harlan's camera witnesses the story's more frightening incidents ... The physical appearance and other production facets of the film merit high praise ... [the] haunting score-fundamentally wistful, sweet and childlike in the nature of its themes, but behind which there seems to lurk something morbidly chilling, something imminently eerie."Saturday Review said the film "is so full of small excellences that it requires the somewhat solid presence of Gregory Peck to remind us that it was made in Hollywood at all." and The New York Herald Tribune said "The story may seem slightly sentimental ... but its stature and lasting substance stem from the beautifully observed relationship between father and children and from the youngsters' perceptions of the enduring human values in the world around them."
^Bosley Crowther observed, "There is so much feeling for children in the film ... so much delightful observation of their spirit, energy and charm ... that it comes as a bit of a letdown at the end to realize that, for all the picture's feeling for children, it doesn't tell us very much of how they feel ... Horton Foote's script and the direction of Mr. Mulligan may not penetrate that deeply, but they do allow Mr. Peck and little Miss Badham and Master Alford to portray delightful characters. Their charming enactments of a father and his children in that close relationship that can occur at only one brief period are worth all the footage of the film ... a rewarding film."
^https://www.allmovie.com/movie/roman-holiday-v41976/ Also says with "Rome at its most photogenic, Roman Holiday remains one of the most popular romances that has ever skipped across the screen...an enormously enjoyable romp...Director William Wyler's use of Rome is one of the best examples of how a location can become a leading character in a film. The effect of using the actual city in the film was eye-popping."
^https://www.the-numbers.com/market/1956/top-grossing- grossed $10.8 million but rentals were below 4.8 million as by rentals it was not in the top ten according to Kay, Eddie Dorman (New York, 1990). "Box Office Champs: The Most Popular Movies from the Last 50 Years", M & M Books.
^Grimes, William (June 13, 2003). "Gregory Peck Is Dead at 87; Film Roles Had Moral Fiber". The New York Times. Gregory Peck, whose chiseled, slightly melancholy good looks, resonant baritone, and quiet strength made him an unforgettable presence in films like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentleman's Agreement, and Twelve O'Clock High, died early yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.