Happy Birthday Gregory Peck: Celebrating the Hollywood Icon

by Jennifer Shea
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Acting legend Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916 and died on June 12, 2003 at age 87. In between, he rose to stardom as one of the great actors of his generation.

Peck became a star during Hollywood’s Golden Age. But his career stretched over six decades, during which time he acted in more than 80 films.

Peck won an Oscar in 1963 for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He also won three Golden Globes for “The Yearling,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Moby Dick,” as well as the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1969. Further, Peck took home a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1989 and a Special Award from the Cannes Film Festival that same year. He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. And he won the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991, according to IMDb.

Gregory Peck Was Beloved for His Portrayals of Honorable Men

Peck did try to play a few unsympathetic roles, such as an evil Nazi in “The Boys from Brazil.” However, most people remember him for his portrayals of upstanding characters.

“If maybe five, six, or seven times in my very long career the pictures had something to say and people could carry home with them, and added to the point of view that’s woven into a dramatic story, something they can chew on a bit and maybe change their attitude toward a social issue… well I like that,” Peck once said, per CBS News.

In 1971, Peck revealed that his agent had warned him against playing a magazine writer covering anti-Semitism in 1947’s “Gentleman’s Agreement,” on the grounds that “anti-Semitism runs very deep in this country.” But Peck went ahead with the movie anyway. And “Gentleman’s Agreement” went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture and to do very well at the box office.

Peck received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1969 for his humanitarian contributions.

Actor Led a Busy Life Offscreen

Peck was very active outside his onscreen career, as well. He was chairman of the American Cancer Society, a trustee for the American Film Institute and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, according to Biography.com.  

The actor married twice, first in 1942 to Greta Kukkonen, with whom he had two children, Stephen and Carey. They divorced in 1954. On New Year’s Eve in 1955, he married Veronique Passani, with whom he also had two children, Anthony and Cecilia.

Peck passed away with Veronique by his side in June of 2003.

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