Gregory Peck was once asked what he wanted to be remembered as. His reply, “A good storyteller.”
The other day TNC (Turner Classic Movies channel) had a Gregory Peck festival, and played one of my favorite flicks, To Kill A Mockingbird, a story by Harper Lee. It has held up well over the years. Scout (Mary Badham) is as charming as ever.
To fill spaces between features, TNC often uses related documentaries. This time they had a hour-and-a-half doc filmed around 1998-99, when Gregory Peck took a nostalgic, one-man show to theaters around the world, playing to full houses. At 83 then, he presented an impressive, stately, white-haired, bearded figure.
When asked about working with Audrey Hepburn, who was just beginning her career ca. 1960, he told a story about when they filmed Roman Holiday. As he was on the way to Rome for location shooting, he stopped off in Paris where he was interviewed by a reporter, Veronique.
After the month’s shoot in Italy, he had some time to kill before his next assignment in Germany, so he flew to Paris, called up the newspaper and asked for Veronique.
“Who shall I say…?”
Over the paging system he could hear, “Veronique, Gregory Peck calling.” He heard the click of her heels as she came to the phone.
Could he see her for lunch? There was a long pause. But asked again, and she reluctantly accepted. During lunch, he asked why she had hesitated. She said, “A scheduling conflict. I had an interview planned and had to cancel it.”
“I am sorry. Nobody important, I hope?”
“Albert Schweitzer at Jean Paul Sartre’s house.”
In the documentary, after relating that tale, Peck stood up and said, “I’d now like you to meet my wife of 40 years, Veronique,” who joined him on stage.
Another person introduced to the contemporary audience was Mary Badham; they had remained friends since she was little Scout.
The documentary crew and his family followed him as he toured. His daughter was visibly pregnant, and they discussed naming the kid. A few months later, we are in the delivery room. The new arrival’s name is Harper Daniel Peck.
Obviously, To Kill a Mockingbird was still a big part of his life.
RIP, Gregory Peck (1916-2003).