Gregory PeckGregory Peck died at age 87 last night. He will always be the dashing writer, Joe Bradley, or the father we all wished we had, Atticus Finch, in Gothamist's heart.

Coverage from Yahoo! News and Variety's obituary:

Gregory Peck dies at 87
Thesp won best actor award for 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
By Richard Natale

If Hollywood needed to cast a hero, it often didn't look any further than Academy Award-winning actor Gregory Peck, one of the most popular and durable leading men of the post-WWII era, and in recent years, one of the more well-respected senior industry spokesmen. The venerated, deep-voiced thesp died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Peck burst on the Hollywood scene in leading roles and remained a star throughout his career, culminating in his best actor award for his role as a small-town Southern lawyer in the 1962 "To Kill a Mockingbird." Last week, his character Atticus Finch was name the American Film Institute's leading cinematic hero of the last 100 years.

Peck's vehicles were A-studio projects all the way. As in the case of Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound," Henry King's "The Gunfighter" and "Twelve O'Clock High" and William Wyler's "Roman Holiday," Peck's tall, lanky good looks and laconic delivery were up to the task.

He was among the last of a breed of glamorous matinee idols who were emblematic of the major studios' star system -- though Peck was never actually allied with any one studio -- like Clark Gable (MGM) and Gary Cooper (Paramount) or Humphrey Bogart (Warner Bros.). After him came Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman and Robert De Niro, products of the Method school, although Peck studied and advocated the Stanislavski style. But by comparison to their "hot" emoting, Peck was stoic (though some critics contended he was too wooden).

What he did possess, say his champions was a solid, self-effacing and quintessentially American quality -- equal parts Grant Wood and the Arrow Collar Man. Those qualities improved with age, and long after the leading roles stopped coming on a regular basis, Peck was an excellent ambassador for Hollywood in political and charitable endeavors.

A native of La Jolla, Calif., Eldred Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916, the only child of a pharmacist, and after his parents divorced, he was moved to St. Louis and San Francisco for a time before returning to La Jolla. He attended a Catholic military academy, San Diego High School and then UC Berkeley. He was going to study medicine according to his father's wishes, but proved to have no facility and switched to the humanities, including joining the drama club.

After school he headed for New York, where he worked as a barker in the 1939 World's Fair. On scholarship, he studied for two years at the Neighborhood Playhouse, along with such actors as Tony Randall and Eli Wallach, while doing occasional modeling on the side. An exercising accident resulted in a spinal injury (he wore a back brace for six years) that disqualified him from the armed forces. This proved an advantage to his acting ambitions since most other able-bodied young men were off fighting.

Peck's first professional work was with the Cornell-McClintic company, and his first Broadway appearance was a notable one in Emlyn William's "Morning Star." It was through his champion, actress Katharine Cornell that he met his first wife, Greta Konen, a Finnish-born woman who was Cornell's hairdresser and cosmetician. They were married in 1942.

He co-starred opposite Tamara Toumanova in his first film, the 1944 "Days of Glory," which was poorly received but brought him to the attention of the major studios. He was signed by Darryl Zanuck to play the role of a priest who ages from 18 to 80 (he was then 28) in an adaptation of A.J. Cronin's "The Keys of the Kingdom."

The part earned him an Academy Award nomination and the interest of MGM's Louis B. Mayer. When Peck refused to sign aboard for seven years, he said Mayer wheedled, cajoled and even cried. "I've never say anything like that before, and I never have since," said Peck. After Peck agreed to work at MGM (but not under contract), Mayer stopped crying and ushered in his next appointment.

At MGM he starred in "Valley of Decision," "The Yearling" (which brought him a second Oscar nominations) and "The Great Sinner."

In between he had the lead opposite Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock's "Spellbound," which made him a major star. "Spellbound" (1945) was produced by David O. Selznick, who also starred him in the lust-in-the-dust Western "Duel in the Sun" as the curiously rather passive object of Jennifer Jones' obsession. Another Hitchcock/Selznick production followed, "The Paradine Case," in which he was so miscast as an English barrister (Hitchcock wanted Laurence Olivier) that Hitchcock had a major falling out with the producer and severed their fruitful relationship.

His left-leaning political sentiments were stirred by the 1947 "Gentleman's Agreement," which addressed the problem of anti-Semitism in America. He agreed to do the film despite reservations about director Elia Kazan's suitability and the relatively tame handling of the subject matter (which, even so, was considered too touchy by the other major studios). It brought him a third Oscar nomination and won the best picture Academy Award.

Along with co-star Dorothy McGuire, Selznick, Jennifer Jones and Mel Ferrer, Peck established the La Jolla Playhouse, which was in existence for the next six years and in which Peck himself appeared in "The Male Animal," "Light Up the Sky" and "Angel Street.

In 1947, Peck appeared before the California State Un-American Activities Committee and listed every organization to which he'd ever sent a check or allowed the use of his name, saying he'd do it again for the same reason he had helped them in the first place -- because each had promoted a worthy cause. He was presented with an "official" document from the committee saying he was innocent of being pro-Communist.

Over the next several years he copped yet another Oscar nomination, this time for "Twelve O'Clock High," and starred in what many consider his finest performance, in the 1950 "The Gunfighter" (which led him to turn down "High Noon" because the subject matter was too similar). "Roman Holiday" was his first romantic comedy. He always claimed that good comedies rarely came his way, because they were offered to Cary Grant first.

Throughout the rest of the 1950s, even the failures (John Huston's innovative "Moby Dick" in which Peck played the obsessed Captain Ahab) were valiant ones, and his successes, like "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit," "The Big Country" and "Designing Woman" were respectable enough to make him a major box office presence.

Peck was not averse to risk-taking, as proven by "Moby Dick" and the 1959 "On the Beach," Nevil Shute's nuclear doomsday saga. He also lent his talents to big studio projects which he co-produced like "The Guns of Navarone" and the less successful 1962 "Cape Fear," which was remade by Martin Scorsese in 1991 and in which Peck took a small role.

He finally won his Oscar for "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a single father and lawyer who defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.

Although he continued as a popular star in such films as "Arabesque" (1966), "The Omen" (1976, and a huge hit), "MacArthur" and "The Boys From Brazil" (1978, in a rare appearance as a villain), Peck's era largely ended with the demise of the studio system.

The actor worked only occasionally after that, such as "The Old Gringo" (he replaced Burt Lancaster in the ''89 pic) and "Other People's Money" (1991). He ventured occasionally into TV, such as the 1982 mini "The Blue and the Gray" (as Abraham Lincoln) and the 1993 "The Portrait," in which his daughter Cecilia Peck played his onscreen offspring.

In 1989 he received AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1991 was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California with the Bill of Rights award. He was also feted by the Lincoln Center Film Society and the Kennedy Center.

In the mid-1950s, he divorced his first wife and married Veronique Passani, the daughter of a French architect. They had two children, Anthony and Cecilia. He also has two surviving children from his first marriage, Carey and Stephen. Another son, Jonathan, predeceased him.

Services were pending.

Date in print: Fri., Jun. 13, 2003