Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck

LOS ANGELES--Oscar® winner Gregory Peck, whose handsome face and distinctive voice carried him through more than a half century of Hollywood classics, died at his home here early in the morning of June 12. He was 87.

MSTies will remember his typically stoic performance in the 1969 film "Marooned," which was featured in episode 401- SPACE TRAVELERS. Peck's on-screen persona even had an influence on the early days of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Josh Weinstein told us in an interview that, when he and Trace Beaulieu were creating the roles of the "mad scientists" in the KTMA days, "Joel wanted Trace to do his Gregory Peck impression." Trace's "killer Peck" was also a feature of a host segment in episode 323- THE CASTLE OF FU-MANCHU.

Peck died peacefully, a spokesman told The Associated Press. Peck's wife Veronique was at Peck's bedside when he died. "She was with him, holding his hand, and he just went to sleep," he said. "He had just been getting older and more fragile. He wasn't really ill. He just sort of ran his course and died of old age."

Peck was born in 1916, in La Jolla, Calif., as Eldred Gregory Peck. His parents divorced when he still young, and his early childhood was spent shuttling between their two homes and that of his maternal grandmother. At 10 he was enrolled in a Roman Catholic military academy in Los Angeles. It was during college at the University of California at Berkeley that the acting bug bit--he would appear in five collegiate productions.

After graduation. Peck headed East, where he studied acting and took acting work wherever he could get it, slowly developing a reputation in summer stock theater and small roles. Peck was exempt from service in World War II because of an old back injury.

In the early 1940s, he made his Broadway debut in a play called "Morning Star." The play closed quickly, but not before Peck's charisma came to the attention of Hollywood talent scouts. He made his first film, "Days of Glory," in 1944, and was almost immediately a genuine movie star, under non-exclusive contracts to four studios; much to the dismay of studio heads at all four.

During his first five years in films, Peck received four Academy Award® nominations as best actor: "Keys of the Kingdom" (1944), "The Yearling" (1946), "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947) and "Twelve O'Clock High" (1949).

"Gentleman's Agreement" which won the Oscar® for Best Picture, was among Peck's personal favorites. Others included "Captain Horatio Hornblower," "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn, "The Guns of Navarone" and 1962's powerful "To Kill a Mockingbird," for which he at last won the Oscar® as best actor. He played Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defies public sentiment to defend a black man accused of rape.

In later years, he worked as much as he wanted to. In addition to "Marooned," in which he played cool-headed NASA administrator Charles Keith, there was "Amazing Grace and Chuck" (1987) and memorable turns as maverick author Ambrose Bierce in "Old Gringo" (1989) and as a humane company owner victimized by a hostile takeover in "Other People's Money" (1991).

Off-screen, Peck's name never hit the scandal sheets. Peck married his first wife, Greta, in 1942 and they had three sons. After an amicable divorce in 1954, he married Veronique Passani, a Paris reporter. They had two children.

He served as president of the Motion Picture Academy and was active in the Motion Picture and Television Fund, American Cancer Society, National Endowment for the Arts and other causes.

"I'm not a do-gooder," he insisted after receiving the Academy's Jean Hersholt humanitarian award in 1968. "It embarrassed me to be classified as a humanitarian. I simply take part in activities that I believe in."