The latest addition to the Legends of Hollywood commemorative stamp series is an image of Gregory Peck in his Oscar-winning role as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." The image choice is especially fitting since, of all the characters Peck portrayed, the small-town widower lawyer was closest to his heart. And, in 2003, the American Film Institute ranked Atticus Finch the number one movie hero in American film.
The stamp was unveiled in an unusually celebratory ceremony last Thursday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills. Since Peck, a five-time Oscar nominee, was a longtime member of the Academy and served as its president, the organization hosted the event. The U.S. Postal Service set up a counter in the lobby of the Academy building so visitors could buy first-day issues of the stamp.
Peck family friend Sharon Stone emceed the ceremony. Speakers included the actor's widow, Veronique Peck, and his children, along with former senator Christopher Dodd, now president of the Motion Picture Association of America; actors Morgan Freeman and Laura Dern; and (via video) director Martin Scorsese. They spoke of the beloved actor's talent, generosity, and care and concern for others. One of the sweetest moments came when Stone read a poem titled "Where Are You?" written by the Pecks' eight-year-old granddaughter.
The program included a screening of scenes from the La Jolla native's best known films, including "Mockingbird," "Roman Holiday," "Gentlemen's Agreement," "The Gunfighter," both versions of "Cape Fear" (1962 and 1991) and "The Guns of Navarone."
Many notables were in the audience, among them actors Sidney Poitier and Sally Kellerman, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, director and former Academy president Arthur Hiller and Mary Badham, who played Finch's daughter Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and still lectures about the film worldwide.
The program concluded with a scene from a documentary, "Conversations with Gregory Peck," produced by Peck's daughter Cecilia, in which he was asked how he'd most like to be remembered. First of all, he said, as a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and second, as a good storyteller.
The Gregory Peck stamp is the first in the series to be issued as a Forever stamp.
Mary Daily, a journalist and teacher, is senior writer for UCLA Communications & Public Outreach