“I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.” (Nelle Harper Lee)
To Kill a Mockingbird is a faithful adaptation of one of the 20th century’s most important American works of literature. It is also a masterpiece in its own right. This is one of those rare productions where everything is in place – a superior script, a perfect cast, and a director (Robert Mulligan) who has a clear vision and achieves what he sets out to do. To Kill a Mockingbird is universally recognized as a classic, and the label is well deserved.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is an upright lawyer with unimpeachable ethics. A widower, Atticus has the responsibility of caring for his two children – his 10 year-old son, Jem (Phillip Alford), and his six year-old daughter, Scout (Mary Badham). Jem and Scout are typical children, spending their time going to school and playing outside. And they have a weird fascination with the Radley house down the street, where the mysterious Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) lives. Boo is the local Bogeyman, a figure who never emerges from his house, but about whom a monstrous legend has developed. As with all such fearful tales, the stories about Boo equally frighten and attract Jem and Scout.
When Atticus takes the case of Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, some of the townsfolk turn against him, especially Bob Ewell (James Anderson), the racist father of the so-called victim. For Atticus, unlike many of the inhabitants of Maycomb, Tom’s situation is about justice, not skin color.
Although Atticus presents a strong case that proves Tom’s innocence, the charged man is nevertheless found guilty by a jury that is unwilling to take the word of a black man over that of a white one. Justice is not served, and a tragedy results.