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GLINT


Ever since I learned that Gregory Peck passed away, you cannot wipe the smile off of my face. What am I going to do, sob? I didn’t know the guy. I’m smiling because I have not been able to stop thinking about the movies he made and how he was just positively super. There were the war classics, there was the Hitchcock, there was "Moby Dick." And of course, there was "To Kill A Mockingbird."

First of all, putting Mr. Peck off to the side for a moment, what a fucking book, right? And that was all she wrote, as far as Harper Lee was concerned, but what a debut and a swansong. What a legacy. Despite the crap-ass weather, I am still on this summer kick and this book is summer. Period. I remember I read it for the first time during the dog days one summer, and it had taken me forever to get around to it. Remember the cover? Those blocky red letters on a yellow background—it looked like a murder mystery potboiler or some such crap. No way. That summer, I would just hang with Phineas and those two teenagers who loose their virginity in that book by Judy Blume, thank you very much. But then you opened it up, while you were lying by the pool, feeling sweaty, and pissy because you’re prepubescent and sitting here next to your little sister and not over on the hill by the diving boards where the cool girls who are your brother’s age are laying out in bikinis and listening to The Cars and The Hooters on their boom box.

You opened it up and there was summer, a real summer. A southern, small town, lazy, curious, and strange summer. “A black dog suffered on a summer day.” I love that sentence which stabs you right between the eyes in, like, the second paragraph. It is summer distilled. (Maybe the only other book that does this quite as nicely is Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine.”) And the names in this thing! Scout, Atticus, Dill, Jem, Calpurnica, and, of course, Boo Radley. Jeeeez. Too much. How tickled were you that Scout got to call her father by his first name?

And that is why Gregory Peck kicks ass. Wait. Why? Because he took all these incredibly real, vivid words and made them more real. Now, the book-to-movie thing happens about 14 times every nanosecond now-a-days in Hollywood because they’ve run out of song titles (how fucking brain dead are you today?), products, TV series, and other movies that have already been made to base their current crop of films on. But in the golden age of Tinsel Town, things were different. Things were classy. This was before the GNP of a small nation was commonly expended on crassly unoriginal, bad moviemaking. The movies were actually a hell of a lot more entertaining before they cost a gobzillion dollars to make, and certainly before actors made gobzillions of dollars and looked and sounded so stupid. Therefore, I wildly applaud the old-movie-from-an-even-older-book kind of moviemaking.

Plus, there was this wacky crossover about everything, say about, pre-1965 in the entertainment biz. Look at popular music—there was really no such thing as a cover song back then. You like the song “Some Enchanted Evening?” No problem, it’s 1958—you can watch "South Pacific" on stage, on the screen, Dean Martin sings it, so does Perry Como, so does Tony Bennett. Nobody cares! “Fly Me to The Moon” sounds great no matter who’s behind the mike. With this same weird fluidity, movies merged with some of the classic greats in lit and drama. For me, Stanley Kowalski has morphed into Marlon Brando. I can never read “Of Human Bondage” again without seeing Bette Davis saucing it up as Mildred. And why would I want to?

Oh, right. And TKAM was also all about civil rights and that Southern obsession with scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing, to get out that bothersome human stain that ruins all their white gloves. That is also great and fascinating. Isn’t it weird that the century between 1864 and 1964 saw such little enlightenment and the National Guard reappeared in Dixie in that latter year once again as the “federal army?” Who doesn’t get chills when Gregory Peck/Atticus stands in the courtroom and says, “The courts are the great levelers in American society,” or whatever the hell he says? He’s not a lawyer, but he plays one in the movies, and I would rather have him represent me than Johnnie Cochran. Just like I’d page Hawkeye Pierce before I ever let one of those "ER" guys slice me with a scalpel. Suspension of disbelief is the kicker when it comes to good actors. Gregory Peck was the real deal. He was quality. He was Atticus Finch.


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