To Kill a Mockingbird is a film based on Harper Lee’s novel by the same name. The film is directed by Robert Mulligan and stars Mary Badham as young ‘Scout,’ and Gregory Peck as her father, Atticus Finch. Robert Duvall has a small, yet very significant role in the movie.
Look how boring that poster is. As a culture of movie watchers, we’ve come a long way in creating more enticing movie posters. The poster screams kid movie to me, yet the poster states this movie is inappropriate for kids. Ironically, isn’t Harper Lee’s book considered young adult literature? With this type of marketing, I’d have expected the movie to be a yawn-fest in the theater. On the contrary, the film grossed five-times its production cost. (Once again, I thank Wikipedia for access to that historical information.)
Speaking of history, did you know that To Kill a Mockingbird is considered one of the 25 best American films ever made? –Really? There are only 24 movies better than this one? I find that hard to believe. Perhaps the movie translates the nature of the book perfectly, and that is where all the praise come to play, but I doubt that.
Please, before you throw curses and rotten food at me, I did think To Kill a Mockingbird was good, just not ‘the top-25 in America’ good. Someday, I’ll make Shortbus list of 25 greatest American movies, and maybe To Kill a Mockingbird will get on the list. Casablanca, Psycho, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Unforgiven—there’s five. I bet I can find 20 more movies that are better than Mockingbird, but I’m not here to kill the mockingbird.
As a timepiece, this movie is monumental. Its relevance to the influence of Hollywood on American culture is huge. Think back to 1960 in America and the budding Civil Rights movement for blacks. In 1962, Hollywood released a story about a white lawyer defending a black man in the predominantly white town of Maycomb, Alabama. (Maycomb is a town of Harper Lee’s imagining.) Hollywood didn’t start the fire, but they certainly added a fair bit of fuel. Think about Brokeback Mountain and Milk, then realize what Hollywood has done for the gay-rights movement.
From the film’s beginning, we see Atticus Finch as an ideal man, the archetypal hero of strong moral fortitude. An early scene shows a farmer bringing a sack of hickory nuts to the home, and Atticus’s daughter, ‘Scout,’ asks why. Atticus explains to his daughter that the farmer was poor, and this was the only mean of compensation available to him. Atticus recognizes the pride of the farmer by accepting this payment for his services. It is a character-defining scene.
Narration of the story comes from Scout. Her observations begin innocently as games played with her brother Jem. The goofy neighbor kid named ‘Dill,’ C-Jane informed me that Dill represented Truman Capote–Harper Lee’s friend since childhood. The movie centers around the children learning first-hand the ugliness of racism and the truly noble spirit of their father, Atticus. (Who the children call ‘Atticus,’ and by no other designation but as an equal.)
A little deeper into the story, Atticus Finch accepts the case of a black man who has allegedly raped a white teenage girl. Atticus believes the American Judicial System is one of fairness, a system of law which warrants all men equal and worthy of fair representation. Does the black man get a fair trial? You’ll have to watch and see what happens for yourself.
To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing movie, and it inspires me to want to read the book. Watching the movie now, in our time, it reflected how our understanding of what defines a real ‘hero’ has dissolved. Atticus is the hero, and he didn’t blast his enemies with an Uzi, he never raised his hand, let alone his tone of voice; he merely behaved like a man should behave. Perhaps this was why the story is told through the viewpoint of a young girl, so that all the characters could be defined in the absolutes of black and white, with clear cut lines of right against wrong. Or, maybe men were defined differently fifty years ago. This is definitely a movie worth seeing.