I've been thinking about writing something on Gregory Peck. He was one of the finest actors of classical Hollywood, a man of many talents who could play many different roles, so I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some of the characters of his I have come to admire.
And yes, I am in part ripping off Alex Withrow of And So It Begins. He does sheets like this all the time. I just hope he doesn't mind me borrowing his style for the moment.
James "Stretch" Dawson in Yellow Sky (1948)
Blimey, I really need to see this wonderful western again. You've probably never heard of Yellow Sky, but it is a surprisingly enjoyable little film loosely drawing off of Shakespeare's The Tempest (also features a woman wearing pants and wielding a shotgun). Peck plays the leader of a ruthless gang of outlaws who after spending time in a ghost town manages to find redemption.
Joe Bradley in Roman Holiday (1953)
We've got some dramatic roles here, so why not balance it out with Peck doing comedy. Here was quite the character, a man who spends a whole day in conflict between his personal feelings and his professional work. On the one hand, he has the opportunity to get a first-hand one-on-one story interviewing a princess and her certainly takes it. On the other, he becomes closely acquainted with the princess and starts to understand the pressure upon her. He can choose to take on the greatest assignment of his career or do the right thing giving the princess her day of freedom from the press.
Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1956)
This is going to be one of the more obscure choices, but according to IMDB Peck was unsure if he was right for the role (he felt he was too young). However, I personally don't know that a better choice could have been found for a literary character as iconic as Ahab. The character doesn't even look much like Peck (though he still has the distinct voice), and here we see him going against his usual type.
Peck was usually known to play the good guy, but here we see an anti-hero. More specifically, a man who never seems to be all there (literally in this case, on account of his missing leg) and has a very clear goal right from the start: to find and ultimately kill the white whale responsible for crippling him. Peck gets plenty of soliloquys to himself, but he always manages to capture the essence of the bitter, (literally) broken man who is gradually consumed by his obsession with revenge.
James McKay in The Big Country (1958)
Another great western role from Peck, but a very different one. In contrast to his outlaw personality in Yellow Sky, here he works more in a fish-out-of-water sense, as a sea captain who moves out west unaccustomed to life in the desert and caught in a violent feud between two farming families. Peck's role is very much a link between the audience and the world of the film, as it is through his eyes we see events unfold, and it is ultimately his experience as a sea captain that gives him the out of the box thinking to help bring an end to the long-standing rivalry.
Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Right from the moment we see him, we know Finch is such a great guy. There is something to be admired about a man who is able to by himself resist the pressures of a bigoted society and stand up for what he believes is right. This is a man who takes on a legal case that he knows full well he has no chance of solving, but that doesn't stop him from trying and honestly making an effort.