2010 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you are unfamiliar with this classic, which won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, read here, and the affiliated links. But basically, it’s about a young white girl named Scout, a/k/a Jean Louise – the “tomboy” narrator of the tale – growing up in a U.S. Southern town in the 1930s with her older brother Jem, whose lawyer-father Atticus Finch ends up defending a black man accused of raping a white woman, and the repercutions the trial has on all involved, indeed on the whole town. The case was almost certainly inspired by the Scottsboro Boys trials of the 1930s in Alabama, where nine black teenagers allegedly gang-raped two white women, a crime that never actually occurred.
The story is probably best known through the popular 1962 movie adaptation starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as the accused, Tom Robinson, and Mary Badham as Scout, Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The film also featured a young Robert Duvall, in his film debut, as the mysterious and misunderstood Boo Radley, a role some have compared to his part in the 2010 film Get Low.
The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but lost to the epic Lawrence of Arabia. It won three awards: Peck for Best Actor Award (his first Oscar win, fifth nomination); Horton Foote for Best Adapted Screenplay; and the team of Art Directors/Set Decorators. Hear one of the most famous speeches from the movie, as well as its musical theme from the Oscar-nominated score by Elmer Bernstein.
From Wikipedia: In 1995, the film was listed in the National Film Registry. It also ranks twenty-fifth on the American Film Institute’s 10th-anniversary list of the greatest American movies of all time, and #1 on AFI’s list of best courtroom films. In 2003, AFI named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.
Earlier this year, I got a chance to see a play adaptation of the story at Capital Rep in Albany. While not as strong as the movie – how could it be? – it was nonetheless enjoyable.
For the 50th anniversary, CBS Sunday Morning reported on the celebratory events taking place in Harper Lee’s hometown. Notably absent was the reclusive Ms. Lee herself, who never wrote another book because she felt it could never be as good as her first one.
A marathon reading to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s classic novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – To Kill A Saturday – and raise funds for Literacy Volunteers of the Greater Capital Region will take place on Saturday, November 6, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Townsend Park Bakery LLC, 238 Washington Ave., Albany, NY. Rumor has it that I will be one of the readers.
And now for something completely different: Mockingbird – Carly Simon and James Taylor.