To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Director:  Robert Mulligan
Cast:  Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton
Plot:  Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won 3 Oscars - Best Leading Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction.  Nom. for 5 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score.  Nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).
Runtime:  129min
Rating:  PG for mature themes.

Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning novel 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was one of the greatest modern American literary works of the last century.  To make a film out of it would do it injustice.  A film will never capture the essence of a book, especially if the latter is a well-loved classic.  That was why screenwriter Horton Foote initially decided against adapting the book, for it might make a mockery out of everyone involved in the film.

All film lovers should thank their stars that Horton Foote finally changed his mind in the early 1960s.  Teaming up with director Robert Mulligan, Foote devised an Oscar-winning screenplay, which consequently resulted in an universally-accepted classic that was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three.  The black-and-white cinematography reflected excellently the sullen mood of a Depression-hit society.  Gregory Peck produced probably his best performance ever as both a loving father and a daring lawyer.

The best parts of the film revolve around the kids, all of whom have a surprising amount of maturity (even although they were first-timers).  Unexpectedly, To Kill A Mockingbird has moments of frightening suspense that's Hitchcockian.  

But ultimately, this is a story that is poignant, and sends out a message that prejudice mustn't be tolerated, and that the law doesn't always carry out justice because of it.  In a nutshell, quoting from renowned critic James Berardinelli, "To Kill A Mockingbird only failed to win a Best Picture Oscar because it was in the running against David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia."


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