A Sneak Peek at the Special Edition of LIFE "To Kill a Mockingbird"
A View from the Balcony
Harper Lee poses in the balcony of the courthouse in Monroeville, AL, the sole piece of architecture in the book’s Maycomb that she tried to render accurately from real-life Monroeville. Readers will remember that it was from this perch that Jem and Scout viewed the trial.
Harper and A.C. Lee
A.C. Lee, pictured here in 1961 with daughter Harper, was a lawyer, Alabama state legislator, and the real-life model for the character of Atticus Finch.
The Debut of Dill
As author Melissa Fay Greene writes in the Life special edition, “The debut of Dill is simply one of the great introductions in American literature.” The character was, of course, based on Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote. Here, Scout, Jem, and Atticus (Mary Badham, Philip Alford, and Gregory Peck, respectively) speak with new neighbor Dill (John Megna).
A Lasting Friendship
Though she would make few more films, Badham and Peck, pictured here on set in 1962, would remain friends until the end of his life in 2003.
The Youngest Nominee
Here Peck greets Birmingham native Badham at the airport. Badham was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal (the youngest-ever nominee at that point), but lost to another child actor, Patty Duke. Badham said, “I was so relieved when Patty Duke won the award for The Miracle Worker because everyone had these wonderful thank-you speeches, and I didn’t have a clue what I was going to say. Atticus won Best Actor, which was just fantastic.”
Boo and Scout
We now know him as the great Robert Duvall (here with Badham in the famous front porch scene), but Boo Radley was his first major role. He was cast at the urging of screenwriter Horton Foote.
Peck and the glamorous Sophia Loren at the Oscars. The American Film Institute would go on to name Atticus Finch as the greatest film hero of all time.
On the Set with Scout
Badham on the set in California. Director Robert Mulligan, as quoted in The New York Times during filming in 1962, “You have to explain the scene to children in terms they can understand, but you can’t overdirect them. They’re extremely natural, and you’ll lose it if you start telling them what to do.”
Harper Lee in 2007
Though quite famously shy, here in 2007 Lee greets a high school student who has just finished portraying Scout in a production of To Kill a Mockingbird in Montgomery, AL. Closer to home, the Monroe County Heritage Museum has produced the play every spring for the last twenty-six years.
Sharing Her Words
Harper Lee reads to children, including Badham and Alford on her right. In her piece for the forthcoming Life special edition, Greene encourages us to revisit the oft-assigned novel: “In having learned to read Mockingbird with an eye toward thesis, argument, conclusion, topicality and the group project due this coming Friday, you missed the fun. Which, in any case, you were too young to appreciate.”
The Power of a Book
As Mark Childress wrote in a 1997 piece for Southern Living, Lee’s book “spent 80 weeks on the bestseller lists, won the Pulitzer Prize, and went on to become a first-rate Hollywood movie, which led to the biggest event in the history of Monroeville: the day Gregory Peck came to town.” Here, he enjoys a meal with Harper Lee at the Wee Diner in Monroeville.
As a young law student, Lee attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she wrote for the campus humor magazine The Rammer-Jammer. Pictured here in 1947, the following year Lee would go on to attend Oxford University in England as an exchange student.
The Mobile Premiere
The film would be nominated for eight Oscars, ultimately winning three: Peck’s for acting, Horton Foote for the screenplay, and a nod to the set decoration. The Alabama premiere of the film was held in Mobile, with Alford, Badham, and Lee headlining the festivities.
Peters' Proud Achhievement
Born George Fisher in New York City in 1929, Brock Peters is perhaps best known for his role as the falsely accused Tom Robinson, but fans of the original Star Trek movies will recognize him as Admiral Cartwright. Said Peters of working on To Kill a Mockingbird, “It certainly is one of my proudest acheivements in life, one of the happiest participations in film or theatre I have experienced.”
The Book and Hollywood
As The New York Times concluded in its original review of the novel from July 10, 1960, “...some of the scenes suggest that Miss Lee is cocking at least one eye toward Hollywood. Movie-going readers will be able to cast most of the roles very quickly, but it is no disparagement of Miss Lee’s winning book to say that it could be the basis for an excellent film.”