HoF: Atticus Finch

It is Wednesday and I’m back as I said I would be. I’m sure the half dozen of you are extremely happy now.

Yesterday was a good movie day for me. In the morning there was To Kill a Mockingbird followed immediately by The Queen on AMC. Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite movies. This was my first time seeing The Queen and it was as good as I thought it would be. Finally at night, TCM finished up it’s month long tribute to Akira Kurosawa with Ran (Said like you’re supposed to Iran, not “And I ran, I ran so far away”), what many consider his final masterpiece. I’m hard pressed to disagree with that. Ran, based on Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” is insanely good.

I’ve been thinking about things I can do on this blog. I don’t want it to be just a review site. I’ve already done a top ten (which I’m thinking will become a weekly feature on Fridays), but I wanted to mix it up. I decided that on the final Wednesday of each month, I would do an Hall of Fame sort of deal. This will consist of actors, actresses, characters, directors, and so on. While watching one of the three movies I previously mentioned, I couldn’t think of a better one to start out with.

Atticus Finch

As Played By Gregory Peck

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch

My first exposure to Atticus Finch came in my English class during my freshman year of high school. We were to read Harper Lee’s novel of the same title then watch the movie afterward. Just like most students that age, I didn’t really care. Afterall, it was just a book and just a movie, right? I came to like the book the further along we went through it. In fact, it became one of the favorite books I ended up reading during my high school years. I know I’m not the only one that has come to feel this way. We then began watching the movie which instantly turned off some of the class (due to it being in black and white), but I loved it from the start. All the characters were played so well, most notably Atticus.

One thing I’ll always remember was my teacher introducing the movie saying, “Atticus is played by Gregory Peck, a great actor and I happen to think he’s mighty fine,” which of course got a giggle from the class. However, it’s hard to argue against her judgment. Peck, as we all know, is an outstanding actor. The man looks like Clark Kent (something that might have been intentional) in the role. However, he’s an hero for the real world. The looks of Clark Kent with the strength and morality of Superman rolled into one.

Atticus is an humble, upright widower that we all wish we can be like. He is honest (sometimes brutally so), but has extreme patience for his two children (Jem and Scout). He has to teach them hard lessons sometimes, but is gentle while doing so. He tells Jem, his eldest, at one point, “there’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.” He wants to set a good example to his children. He wants them to not be like the biased society around them. He wants them to be good people.

In a world of black and white (the movie takes place in Alabama in the early 1930s), Atticus doesn’t see color, he sees the world in right and wrong. When a black man named Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman, it is Atticus that takes the case. He warns his children that there may be some ugly talk over him defending a black man, but he doesn’t want them to fight over it. Scout asks him if the people of town don’t think he should be defending Tom, why is he doing it? His response is:

“for a number of reasons. The main one is that if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town. I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do somethin’ again.”

It’s not that Atticus is being paid to do it. He’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of his color or what others may think of it. The black community of the town sees this and gains respect for Atticus. As he leaves the courtroom after the verdict, the black people in the courtroom (in the balcony, segregated from the white people naturally) all rise. The pastor even tells Scout (she and her brother were up on the balcony) to, “stand up. Your father’s passing,” in my favorite line of the movie.

Despite the name calling and ugly talk (even being spat on the face at one point), he stands up to everything around him to do what he feels is right. For that, the American Film Institute voted Atticus as the greatest hero in movie history (even topping the likes of Indiana Jones and James Bond). He is all we can hope to be. Do I think I would do what he does in the movie? I would like to think so, but one could never be sure. But Atticus is always sure, never wavering for a second. For that, he’s the first entry into this blog’s Hall of Fame.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back on Friday with another Top 10 of some sort. I’ll figure it out in the next couple of days.

Until then…

PS: Miss Hamberger, if you’re out there somewhere, thank you.

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