Gregory Peck

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Gregory Peck in Cannes , 2000

Eldred Gregory Peck (born April 5, 1916 in La Jolla , California - † June 12, 2003 in Los Angeles , California) was an American actor .

The embodiment of mostly upright, honest and personable characters who often appear in the role of hero made him a famous film star in the second half of the 20th century . In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked him 12th among the 25 most important male screen legends in American film. On the 2003 list of the 50 greatest characters in American films, his role as Atticus Finch - defender of a black farm worker who was innocently accused of rape - in Who the Nightingale disturbs takes first place. For his performance in this film, Peck won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 .

life and work

Gregory Peck, 1973
Peck (third from left) with Elizabeth Taylor , 1981


Gregory Peck was born in 1916 in La Jolla, California, the son of an Irish pharmacist. His grandmother gave him the first name "Eldred", which he hated all his life, to avoid confusion with Peck's father (whose first name was also Gregory). Peck's parents divorced when he was three, so he grew up with his maternal grandmother. At the age of ten he was sent to a Roman Catholic military school in Los Angeles , California .

After graduation, he studied for a year at San Diego State University and then worked for a short time as a truck driver for an oil company. In 1936 he enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley Medical School preparatory course . He eventually switched to studying English and became a member of the university rowing team. As soon as he was recruited by the small theater of the university, he already took part in five performances in his senior year.

After graduation, Peck dropped the name "Eldred" in 1939 and went to New York City , New York , to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse . Often he had no money and even stayed in Central Park . In 1939 he worked at the World's Fair and as a guide for the NBC . Peck made his Broadway debut in Emlyn Williams Morning Star in 1942 , where he immediately appeared as the lead actor. As early as 1943 he played his last theater role under the direction of Max Reinhardt in Irwin Shaw's play Sons and Soldiers . He had been discovered by Hollywood talent scouts and received lucrative film offers.


Since many well-known film actors, such as Clark Gable , David Niven or James Stewart , served in the army during World War II , Hollywood was urgently looking for new actors during this time. Actors like Robert Mitchum , William Holden or Gregory Peck were given the chance to establish a successful film career during these years. Peck had been released from military service with a back injury sustained in college and was immediately available for important roles. Slim, dark-haired and with a stately height of 1.90 m, he was considered one of the most attractive film actors and embodied the ideal image of male beauty for many viewers. With just a few films, he established himself as a new star in the mid-1940s.

Peck's first film was Days of Glory , which hit theaters in 1944. The actor quickly made a name for himself as a versatile character actor and has been used continuously by Hollywood's leading directors. Between 1946 and 1963, Gregory Peck was nominated five times for the Oscar for best actor.

Alfred Hitchcock used Gregory Peck in the thrillers I Fight for You (1945) and The Paradin Case (1947), where he portrayed a traumatized psychiatrist and a British lawyer. Peck also later appeared in successful films in this genre, including A Bait for the Beast (1962), where he is challenged as an innocent family man by a psychopathic criminal ( Robert Mitchum ), and The 27th Floor (1965), where he played a man with memory loss.

As early as 1946, Peck took on his first western role and played under the direction of King Vidor in the lavish color film Duel in der Sonne , where he played the role of the villainous Lewt McCanles. Later, Peck hardly portrayed characters with negative connotations. Peck was one of the most popular western actors and was in films such as The Sniper (1950), Far Country (1958), That Was the Wild West (1962), Mackenna's Gold (1969) or Buried Die Wolves in the Canyon (1973). He was also in discussion for the lead role in the classic Twelve Noon , which was then played by Gary Cooper .

Peck was a popular lead actor in adventure films such as The Wilderness Calls (1946), The King's Admiral (1951) and Storm Voyage to Alaska (1952). His most famous role in this genre is that of the fanatical whale hunter Captain Ahab in John Huston's Moby Dick (1956). The actor was also in comedies like His Biggest Bluff (1953) or Why did I say yes? (1957) can be seen. The bittersweet love film A Heart and a Crown (1953), in which Peck falls in love with a young princess in the role of a hardened journalist, became particularly popular . The film, directed by William Wyler , developed into a classic in film history and made the hitherto unknown Audrey Hepburn an overnight star in the role of the princess.

Gregory Peck appeared regularly in war films, for example in Der Kommandeur (1949) or Flammen über Farost (1954). In this genre he had a great success in 1960 with the epic war adventure The Guns of Navarone (director: J. Lee Thompson ). The lavish and highly cast film - in addition to Peck, Anthony Quinn and David Niven , among others - described the course of an Allied commando company in World War II and became one of the greatest box office hits of the early 1960s.

Peck appeared repeatedly in films that dealt with social or political issues. In 1947 he was seen in Tabu der Rigechte , a film drama directed by Elia Kazan , in which the latent anti-Semitism of US society was discussed. In The Last Shore he was to be seen in 1959 under the direction of Stanley Kramer as the captain of a submarine, which is heading for the still uncontaminated Australia after a global nuclear war.

In 1962 Gregory Peck reached a career high point with the black and white film drama Who disturbs the nightingale (director: Robert Mulligan ). He played atticus Finch, a lawyer defending a young black man in racist Alabama in the 1930s. Based on the bestseller of the same name by Harper Lee , the film became a resounding success with critics and audiences and is considered one of the most important American film classics of the 1960s. Gregory Peck received the Oscar for best leading actor for his portrayal of the dedicated lawyer . This was the actor's fifth and final Oscar nomination.

As a private citizen, Peck was known for his liberal views, and in the 1960s he became increasingly involved in politics. He campaigned alongside Martin Luther King for black rights in the United States and publicly criticized the Vietnam War . In 1970, however, he turned down an offer from the Democrats to run as a rival candidate for Ronald Reagan for the election of California governor. In 1980 he made public appearances free of charge for the economically troubled Chrysler Corporation in order to prevent the loss of thousands of jobs.

Gregory Peck was able to record further successes with the thriller comedy Arabesque (1966) and the SF drama Lost in Space (1969), in which he was seen as head of the NASA space agency . In 1976 he caused a sensation when he was directed by Richard Donner in the horror film The Omen , which became a big box office success. To date, no high-ranking Hollywood star has appeared in a film of this genre.

In 1977 Peck played the title role in the biopic MacArthur - Hero of the Pacific , in 1978 he appeared in The Boys from Brazil in the unfamiliar role of Nazi criminal Dr. Josef Mengele in appearance. In 1980, Peck starred alongside Roger Moore and David Niven in the war film The Sea Wolves are Coming .


In the early 1980s, Peck largely withdrew from the active film business and could only be seen in four feature films and five TV productions until his death. In 1991 Other People's Money , he acted as an honest entrepreneur "old school" who defends himself against an unscrupulous company buyer ( Danny DeVito ). In Cape Fear , Martin Scorsese's 1962 remake of A Lure for the Beast , he appeared in a guest role as a criminal defense attorney defending psychopathic villain Max Cady ( Robert De Niro ) in 1991 .

The 82-year-old Gregory Peck made his last appearance in 1998 in the lavish TV film Moby Dick , in which Patrick Stewart was seen in Peck's former star role as Captain Ahab. Peck himself played the preacher Mapple, played by Orson Welles in 1956 , in a cameo at the beginning of the film .

In 1989, Gregory Peck received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute .

Gregory Peck spent his final years in seclusion and died on June 12, 2003 at the age of 87 at his Los Angeles home of complications from pneumonia. Peck found his final resting place in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.


The synchronization of Peck was done by various well-known German voice actors. For example, Paul Klinger , Wolfgang Lukschy or Martin Hirthe did this several times. He was also spoken by Heinz Engelmann , Curt Ackermann and Wolf Ackva .

Private life

Gregory Peck was first married to Greta Kukkonen (1911-2008) since 1942 and had three children with her. This marriage ended in divorce in 1955. Since 1955 he was married to Veronique Passani (1932–2012) for the second time. He had met the French journalist during an interview and married her the day after the divorce from his first wife. This marriage, which lasted until Peck's death, had two children. Jonathan Peck, his son from his first marriage, committed suicide in 1975 suicide . Peck described this as the greatest tragedy of his life. Cecilia Peck , his daughter by second marriage, and his grandson Ethan Peck are also actors.


Awards (selection)

Academy Awards in the " Best Actor " category
  • 1946 - Nomination for the Key to the Kingdom of Heaven
  • 1947 - Nomination for The Wilderness Calls
  • 1948 - nomination for taboo of the righteous
  • 1950 - Nomination for The Commander
  • 1963 - Award for Who disturbs the nightingale
Golden Globe Award
  • 1947 - Award in the category " Best Actor - Drama " for The Wilderness Calls
  • 1951 - Award as "Most Popular Male Actor Worldwide"
  • 1955 - Award as "Most Popular Male Actor Worldwide"
  • 1963 - Award in the category “Best Actor - Drama” for Who disturbs the nightingale
  • 1964 - Best Actor - Drama nomination for Captain Newman
  • 1978 - Best Actor - Drama nomination for MacArthur - Hero of the Pacific
  • 1979 - Nomination in the category "Best Actor - Drama" for The Boys from Brazil
  • 1999 - Award in the category “ Best Supporting Actor - Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie ” for Moby Dick
Further awards


  • Tony Thomas : Gregory Peck. His films - his life . Heyne, Munich 1979.
  • Michael Esser (Ed.): Gregory Peck: Hommage . Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation, Berlin 1993.
  • Adolf Heinzlmeier : Gregory Peck. The upright American. , in Adolf Heinzlmeier, Berndt Schulz, Karsten Witte: The immortals of the cinema. Volume 2: The glamor and myth of the stars of the 40s and 50s . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-596-23658-4 , pp. 195-201.
  • Michael Freedland: Gregory Peck. A biography . New York 1980.
  • Gary Fishgall: Gregory Peck. A biography . New York 2002.
  • John Griggs: The Films of Gregory Peck . Citadel Press Inc., US, hardcover 1984, paperback 1990.
  • Lynn Haney: Gregory Peck. A charmed life . New York 2004.
  • Linde, Fred: GREGORY PECK - reflections on a Californian aristocrat - an obituary , in: Menschen und Medien - Zeitschrift für Kultur- und Kommunikationpsychologie, Berlin 2003.
  • Michael Munn: Gregory Peck . Robert Hale Ltd 1999.

Web links

Commons : Gregory Peck  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The grave of Gregory Peck