Gregory Peck was one of the world's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. His performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times.
Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916 in the San Diego, California neighborhood of La Jolla, the son of Gregory Pearl Peck, a New York-born chemist and pharmacist, and his Missouri-born wife Bernice Mary "Bunny" Ayres Peck. Gregory was of Irish, English, and Scottish ancestry. Gregory's parents divorced by the time he was six years old; his maternal grandmother, Catherine Ashe, raised him for the next few years, often taking him to the movies.
In October 1942, Gregory married Finnish-born Greta Kukkonen, with whom he had three sons, Jonathan, Stephen, and Carey Paul. They were divorced on December 30, 1955. On December 31, 1955, the day after his divorce was finalized, Gregory married Veronique Passani, a Paris news reporter. They had a son, Anthony, and a daughter, Cecilia.
While studying medicine at University of California at Berkeley, he was cast in some productions and fell in love with acting. After graduating, he won a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. It was then that he dropped "Eldred" and started going by his middle name, "Gregory". Due to a back injury he sustained while participating in dance classes with Martha Graham there, he was unable to participate in World War II. He supported himself as an usher at Radio City Music Hall and as a concession barker at the 1939 World’s Fair. He made his Broadway debut in "The Morning Star" in 1942. Soon after, he made his way in Hollywood and was on the path to stardom.. His career spanned more than 60 films from the forties to the two thousands. He was nominated for an Academy Award five times. His biggest box office hit was "The Omen" in 1976. Gregory's favorite role was also the one he was best known for, Atticus Finch in "To Kill A Mockingbird", which was also his favorite film and the film for which he won his Oscar. Even the author of the novel the movie was based on felt the role was perfect, saying, "Atticus Finch gave Gregory Peck an opportunity to play himself."
In the late 1950s, Gregory formed his own production company, noted for movies like "The Big Country" and "Cape Fear".
Gregory remained devoted to live theatre throughout his life, founding the La Jolla Playhouse in 1947 with Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. He was also the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967-70. He was an inaugural member of the National Council on the Arts and the Founding Chairman of the American Film Institute. He was National Chairman of the American Cancer Society and raised record-breaking contributions. He also devoted himself to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which provides health care to members of the entertainment industry. For his public service, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar, in 1967.</ref name=peck/>Gregory was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1970, Gregory received the Screen Actors Guild award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the ideals of the acting profession.” In 1989, he received the AFI Life Achievement Award, followed by the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991 and the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1998.
On June 12, 2003, Gregory died in his sleep at home from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87. His wife, Veronique, was by his side. Gregory is entombed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum in Los Angeles, California.
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