Instrumental in steering Hollywood cinema through some of its most troubled years, Gregory Peck was initially inspired by a weekly treat of a visit to the pictures. Nonetheless, it would be years before he’d see his own gifts with the craft come to fruition.

Moving to New York after graduating, the following years would prove difficult for Peck. Often sleeping rough in Central Park, he’d perform in plays in exchange for hot meals. Peck’s bad luck peaked when his first broadway touring performance opened — just two weeks before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour. In the end this worked to Peck’s advantage; his exemption from military service due to injury made him incredibly valuable. With most young men enlisted, he suddenly became a big fish in a much smaller pond.

Critics of his early performances would insist upon his supposed lifelessness, but soon the legendary performances emerged, and Peck was nominated for ten Academy Awards in the first five years of his career. It was his fifth nomination, and personal favourite, that won him Academy recognition: his acclaimed portrayal of Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Today, he’s remembered as one of the finest young actors to emerge during wartime.

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