Tall, dark, and handsome screen legend Eldred Gregory Peck (1916-2003) was born on this day in La Jolla, California and discovered acting while studying pre-med.
"We're in the age of the antihero," he observed in 1997. "It's the fashion of the day. But I always say, if you want brain surgery, you don't want an antihero to do it."
Peck made his Broadway debut in Morning Star (1942) and is known for portraying characters with integrity and intelligence. His deep baritone voice and gentle strength made film-goers swoon.
Starring in over 50 films, Peck mastered a variety of genres, including Westerns, dramas, and romantic comedies. In the classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953), he helped launch Audrey Hepburn's career.
Peck won a best-actor Oscar as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), the pinnacle role of his career (1962). "I must have had at least 50 men over the years tell me that they became lawyers because of that film," Peck said. "They became determined to serve the cause of justice and fight against bigotry and intolerance."
"I feel the time they called me and told me they had a book for me to read was the luckiest day of my life," said Peck about the unforgettable role.
Peck played other memorable characters including Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1956) and Douglas MacArthur in MacArthur (1977).
"Overacting," he said, "is a self-indulgence, while underacting comes either through a lack of talent or a lack of courage."
Director Alfred Hitchcock reportedly dubbed the discreet star "the most anecdoteless man in Hollywood." Always the gentlemen, Peck said, "The one question that never fails is: 'Who's your favorite leading lady?' And of course I never answer it ... because some of these ladies are still alive and well."
"He has what Lincoln had," Anthony Quinn told People Magazine. "Reticent majesty."
More Film-Making Quotations
Discretion is the finest form of valor.