Born on April 5 1916 in La Jolla, California, Gregory Peck studied pre-med at the University of California, Berkeley. He began acting while at UC, and soon after, moved to New York to further his interest. Peck eventually won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. He also acted in Audrey Hepburn’s debut in ‘Roman Holiday’.
One of the most famous actors from the 40’s to the 60’s, Gregory Peck grew up in La Jolla, California, raised by parents Bernice Mae and Gregory Pearl Peck. Following high school, Peck attended military school and San Diego State College, and then enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of California, Berkeley. There, he became interested in acting, and after graduating from UC, he headed to New York City to continue studying the artform.
Making a living as an usher at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Peck made his Broadway debut in 1942, in ‘The Morning Star’. Though the film wasn’t well-received by audiences, Peck received critical acclaim for his acting. His career as an actor was beginning to blossom.
In 1944, Peck landed a role in his first Hollywood film, ‘Days of Glory’, playing a Russian guerrilla fighter. His fame grew following the film’s release, and continued to flourish later that year, with ‘The Keys of the Kingdom’, in which he played a missionary priest. The performance earned him an Academy Award nomination.
In 1947, Peck was again honored with an Oscar nomination, for his performance in ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’, a film about a reporter who pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and discovers prejudice and hatred in the process. Peck played the lead role, reporter Philip Schuyler Green. Later in the decade, Peck was seen in several well-received films, including ‘Spellbound’ (1945), ‘Duel in the Sun’ (1946) and ‘Yellow Sky’ (1948).
One of Peck’s best-known roles is that of Atticus Finch in 1962’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, a film based on the acclaimed book by Harper Lee, published in 1960. For his performance, Peck received an Academy Award. In 1976, he played Robert Thorn, the father of Harvey Stephens, in the popular horror film ‘The Omen’. He went on to act in ‘MacArthur’ (1977), ‘The Boys from Brazil’ (1978), ‘The Sea Wolves’ (1980) and ‘Other People’s Money’ (1980), among many other films, until retiring from acting in the 90’s.
When he wasn’t acting, Peck put his energy toward civic, charitable and political efforts, serving as chairman of the American Cancer Society, a board trustee for the American Film Institute, and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, among other roles.
In 1969, Peck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his humanitarian efforts, by President Lyndon Johnson. Thirty years later, in 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.
On June 12 2003, Peck died from bronchopneumonia while asleep at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87 years old. He was survived by his wife of nearly 49 years, Veronique Passani (they were married on December 31 1955), and their two children.