More than 50 years ago, author Harper Lee introduced the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and in turn the character of Alabama attorney Atticus Finch. The clear-eyed Southern gentleman was all you'd want in a member of the legal system: honest, devoted, merciful, invigorated by the very tenets of justice. In other words, none of the things people imagine when they think of the average lawyer. And it's because while Atticus Finch might pave the way for liberty in the fictional Maycomb, the real world is cluttered with, shall we say, counsellors of less vivid moral fiber. We're reminded of this by the latest news facing an 87-year-old Lee, who is suing her former literary agent, his wife, and his lawyer for allegedly harboring undue commissions to her classic novel.
Mockingbird's masterful novel painted a courtroom imbued with the fiery issues of racism, abuse, and murder. The present account facing Lee — the writer who changed the lives of every ninth grader with the illustrations of these all-important themes — involves reports of a few people who tried to deprive an ailing octogenarian Pulitzer winner her money. According to Bloomberg, Lee is suing agent Samuel Pinkus, whom she relieved of his position as her literary agent in 2007, for continuing to collect To Kill a Mockingbird royalties that would rightfully belong to her. Also implicated in the case are Pinkus' wife Leigh Ann Winick, and his lawyer Gerald Posner, whose involvement is linked to his having incorporated one of Pinkus' businesses.
Lee's legal representative, Gloria Phares, highlights the author's present medical condition as making her an easy target for Pinkus' alleged scheme. "Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see. Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright [to Pinkus]."
And so, we bemoan our real world defecit of Atticus Finches, knowing full well that we won't be hearing any righteous, awe-inspiring courtroom speeches in this or most other cases. Ah, to be 15 and enrapt in Lee's pages once more...
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Emmy Award-winning actor William Windom passed away Thursday at his home in Woodacre, Calif., at the age of 88. Windom's wife Patricia tells the New York Times that the cause of death was congestive heart failure.
In 1962, Windom made his feature film debut as the prosecuting attorney facing off against Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Then, from 1963-1966, Windom played the male lead — Minnesota congressman Glen Morley — in the situation comedy The Farmer's Daughter.
In 1970, Windom won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series for his performance as John Monroe in My World and Welcome to It, a TV show based on James Thurber's humorous essays and cartoons.
While My World earned Windom an Emmy, he is best known for his roles on Murder, She Wrote and Star Trek. Windom appeared in over 50 episodes of Murder, She Wrote from 1985-1996 as Dr. Seth Hazlitt, a good friend of Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher. Trekkies will remember Windom as Commodore Matt Decker in the 1967 "Doomsday Machine" episode of the original Star Trek.
Windom is survived by Patricia, his wife of 37 years, and his four children, Rachel, Heather, Hope, and Rebel, as well as four grandchildren.
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The film, starring Gregory Peck, has been digitally remastered and restored by Universal Pictures and the American Film Institute, and author Lee can't wait to see it.
She says, "I'm deeply honoured that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird by introducing it to a national audience. I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I'm proud to know that Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on."
The stars will join Morgan Freeman and Laura Dern on the first day of the issue, featuring the legend as Atticus Finch in the 1962 movie - which won him a Best Actor Oscar - at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Hollywood.
The ceremony will feature film clips highlighting Peck’s career interspersed with remarks from family and friends.
Stamps will be available to purchase from the U.S. Postal Service in the Academy’s lobby prior to the event on 28 April (11).
The stars hosting the celebration might seem random, but Stone, Freeman and Dern are all friends of the Peck family, and Maines is a close friend of Cecilia Peck, Gregory’s daughter, who produced Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing.
It's no easy thing to define the "black experience" in the United States, but if artists working in any particular medium have succeeded time and again, it's filmmakers. We wanted to take a deep dive into some of these films because its Black History Month, there have been tremendous contributions to cinema that shouldn't go unrecognized and well, we think it's important.
Highlighted below are some of what we feel are the most crucial and influential films that honor the hardships, triumphs and history of the black experience. In no particular order, here are 20 films that we believe helped define entire generations and continue to define great cinema.
Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece took audiences into the BedStuy neighborhood in Brooklyn on the single hottest day of the summer, just as racism and bigotry are boiling over until it all ends in violence. When the Italian American- African American prejudices overflow, Lee’s Mookie is left to make a split second, difficult decision. The film is considered to be one of the most controversial movies ever; debate swirls around whether or not Mookie actually does the right thing in the end, but Lee has noted that those who truly value life over property shouldn’t question Mookie’s choice.
This 1977 television miniseries showed viewers the devastating history of slavery in America as they’d never seen it before. LeVar Burton stars in the film based on acclaimed author Alex Haley’s history of his ancestors. The story follows Haley’s fourth great grandfather, Kunte Kinte, as he is ripped from his home, brought to America and sold into slavery. As the story continues Kunte Kinte and his children and grandchildren endure separation and violence as well as many historical events such as the Civil War and Emancipation. Haley ends the miniseries with a short narration and photo montage connecting himself directly to history and the ancestors whom the film depicts, truly personalizing history by pairing faces and names with a time that most only ever encountered in textbooks.
Driving Miss Daisy
This 1989 film presents the southern prejudices in the late 1940s while proving that race and religion could overcome those elements. In Georgia, 72 year old Daisy already knows the cold front of religious prejudice in the South. When she has a driving mishap and is forced to hire a driver, she learns the true impact of racism in the region. Miss Daisy’s friendship with Hoke (Morgan Freeman) improves and grows over time, and through his experiences her eyes are opened to the overtly discriminatory society. The film explores the prejudices that plagued Jewish Americans and Black Americans and shows the beginning of society’s upward turn when Daisy attends a dinner where Martin Luther King Jr. is speaking.
Gone With The Wind
The classic film from 1939 tells the dramatized tale of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era from the Southern point of view. The film is also credited with giving a role to the first African American person to ever win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel. It was the biggest film of its time, and its premiere highlighted the staunch racism that had yet to be resolved in the US. McDaniel and other black actors were barred from the premiere due to remaining Jim Crow laws, and if it had not been for McDaniel’s request that he attend, Clark Gable would have boycotted the premiere. McDaniel’s Oscar win and her non-admittance to her own film premiere drew attention to the archaic prejudices that managed to survive and this attention helped to move towards abolishing them.
Boyz 'N the Hood
Much like Do the Right Thing did for Brooklyn, this 1991 film chronicled the lives of a group of friends in South Central Los Angeles as they dealt with violence in their neighborhood. It starts with this message: "1 in 21 American black males will be a victim of murder. Most will be killed by other black males." The group of friends navigate gang life and their own big dreams but by the end of the film, blood has been shed and some of those dreams have been cut short. The film was praised for its striking look at a harsh reality and made director John Singleton the youngest person and first African American to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Cicely Tyson is praised for her performance in this 1974 TV miniseries, based on the book by acclaimed author Ernest J. Gaines. The film tells the story of a woman in the South who is born into slavery, witnesses the Civil War but lives long enough to eventually become a part of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1962 at age 110. The miniseries preceded Roots, and was a landmark in the art of prosthetic makeup as the film depicted Jane aging from 23 to 110.
To Kill a Mockingbird
This literary classic turned iconic film is a story that almost every American should know – it’s been required reading for high school students almost every year since its publication. Gregory Peck lends his talents to the role of Atticus Finch, a 1930s Southern lawyer who defends a wrongly accused black man from his undeserved rape charge and the prejudices of the time. Many criticize the film and the novel for their lack of depth amongst the black characters, but what the 1962 film did accomplish was evoking the long history of racial injustice and crippling prejudices that continued to plague the US while its audience was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Jackie Robinson Story
This 1950 biopic can’t not be included on this list. It tells the story of Jackie Robinson through his own eyes, as it stars Robinson as himself. The film follows his struggle in the sports world as he moves up from the minor leagues and becomes the first African American Major League Baseball player ever. Even though racial segregation was rampant at the time of its release, the film did remarkably well in the box office, making steps toward eventual changes in the long-standing societal prejudices.
This classic 1971 film is often credited as the father of the Blaxploitation film genre. John Shaft is a private eye hired by a crime lord to bring back his kidnapped daughter and the action film draws on elements of film noir while still forging its own genre. Shaft is hugely culturally significant; it’s preserved in National Film Registry and is considered one of the best films of 1971. It was also a landmark film in that is cost only half a million dollars to make, but earned over $13 million. The pop culture effects of Shaft are countless, and can still be seen all over television and movies today.
This 2004 film captures the life of Ray Charles, one of the most significant musicians of the 20th century. Jamie Foxx delivers an Oscar-winning performance while sharing Charles’ legacy with a new generation. Not only did Charles pioneer his hybrid style of music (gospel, country, jazz and orchestral) but he revolutionized the music world by fighting segregation in jazz clubs and fighting for artists’ rights within the music business. He also overcame his own demons as his musical genius allowed to become one of the most beloved musicians of all time.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Screenwriter William Rose created an ideal subject for Spencer Tracy’s liberal upper class patriarch to criticize: a charming and educated African American doctor who wishes to take his daughter’s hand in marriage. Sidney Poitier’s sterling John Prentice made it difficult for Tracy’s Matt Drayton to judge him on any other ground but his skin color and this helped the Oscar-winning 1967 drama address the growing Civil Rights Movement head on, exploring the underbelly of prejudices that plagued society in a though-provoking but entertaining package.
A Raisin in the Sun
Based on the award-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun sees Sidney Poitier leading a stellar cast including Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett in this drama centering on the Younger family’s hopes for a better life. We learn that the various generations of African Americans represented by the contrasting characters all have different notions of what success means to a black family in the United States (pre-Civil Rights Movement), but the moral of the story is that they can all succeed in fulfilling their dreams as long as they stick together. It was a powerful message at a time when assimilation seemed to be the safest move, especially for young African Americans, and showed that they could all live together and become a part of a larger community while keeping their individuality and identity in tact.
In The Heat Of The Night
Wow, Sidney Poitier has been in a lot of landmark movies, huh? This one casts him as a big-city detective from the progressive north who’s sent down to the narrow-minded South to assist a racist cop in hunting down a murderer. The major accomplishment of the film, other than giving the world an incredibly quotable line of dialogue (“They call me MR. TIBBS!”), was its development of a mutual understanding and respect between the two central characters -- a breakthrough that mirrored the changing sociopolitical climate in the U.S.
One of the most controversial figures in American history was given a stirring biopic thanks to one of the most culturally significant filmmakers of the 20th century. Spike Lee shouldered a massive responsibility in telling the tale; his vision for the project was subject to scrutiny from nearly everyone remotely involved in the production. Spanning Malcolm’s entire life and depicting both the seedy and stoic sides of his character, the film was a truthful, sympathetic epic on par with heralded biopics such as Ghandi and Lawrence of Arabia.
The Color Purple
Steven Spielberg’s heartbreaking film, based on the acclaimed book by Alice Walker, chronicled the life of Celie Johnson and the hardships she faced as a black woman in early 20th Century America. Though the story is a personal account, the trials and tribulations that Celie endured were representative of entire generations of African American women.
Director Michael Mann gave Cassius Clay a rousing and realistic tribute in this pricey motion picture that saw star Will Smith knock it out of the park with his impressive portrayal of the people’s champ. Aside from following the fighter from his earliest days in the ring through his championship bouts, the film revealed the intentions and ulterior motives of many in Muhammad Ali’s inner circle – figures, in some cases, that were major forces in the Civil Rights and Islamic movements, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Great White Hope
James Earl Jones plays the first black heavyweight (a fictional take on Jack Johnson) in this emotional roller coaster. Jones' Jack Jefferson faces adversity in and out of the ring as he rises to the top of the sport and courts a beautiful white woman with whom a romantic relationship is forbidden. The film speaks worlds about the turbulent times in which it is set and the hegemonic society determined to keep African Americans in a hopeless situation.
A Time To Kill
A brutal film to watch, A Time to Kill shows that director Joel Schumacher pulled no punches in telling the tale of a father on trial for murdering the men who viciously raped his young daughter. Aside from revealing the terrible truth that the Ku Klux Klan is sadly still very much alive and well in the U.S., the movie dramatized real-life injustices against African American women.
New Jack City
Director Mario Van Peebles gave gang culture its due with this gritty urban drama. Its relevance was key to its success; by the time the film was released, violent crime syndicates like the one depicted in the movie were making headlines daily as a result of drive-by shootings and drug wars. Americans have always had a fascination with gangsters, and Wesley Snipes’ Nino Brown became an inner-city icon thanks to his take-no-prisoners attitude.
A tribute to the unsung heroes of the Civil War, Ed Zwick’s epic adaptation of a pair of novels inspired by the memoirs of Col. Robert Gould Shaw (who commanded the all-black 54th Regiment during the Civil War) is an inspirational tale of acceptance and camaraderie. The film chronicled the rise of the first all-black regiment from laborers to respected soldiers. The triumph of the movie, however, was the mutual respect built between the black and white characters throughout the picture.
Bosses at U.S. legal firm Mayer Brown have created a school for budding legal eagles in Iraq and they're instructing wannabe attorneys to watch the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Harper Lee's tale of racism and injustice, so they can better serve future clients.
Mayer Brown partner Matt Rooney tells MSNBC, "I took movie clips from To Kill A Mockingbird in order to show what (Gregory Peck's character) Atticus Finch was doing... and then I critiqued Atticus' performance in terms of the lawyering skills.
"I was convinced that it was a really good teaching tool to use, because, when I thought about who these people were, these are lawyers that are very similar to Atticus Finch - they represent women who are battered women in the justice system, juveniles, people caught up in sexual trafficking... That was what was going on with Atticus representing (character) Tom Robinson.
"They appear in front of hostile forums just like Atticus Finch did, they're in front of an all-white jury, the community they're in is not necessarily supporting of them. A lot of these lawyers are women in an all-male judicial system... in front of hostile judges. They're sometimes scorned for representing the people that they represent."
With the return of Gordon Gekko to the screen, so returns the epic monologue. And in celebration, we offer our own epic monologue. About monologues:
“You come here, today, standing before me wondering. Wondering in your minds about the monologue. Of course you do. In your head, you’re always in a monologue. So therefore you think you know the monologue. But you don’t! Sure, you spout off "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!" and “Greed is good!” like you know what you’re talking about. But f*ck that. And f*ck YOU for even thinking that. You think you can make money because “I’m a f*cking millionaire.” Just kidding, I liked it the first time when “coffee was for closers.”
Have I taught you nothing? ABM maggots! Always! Be! Monologuing! You live and die by the strength of your monologue but don’t you dare die for your monologue! You make the other poor bastard die for his monologue! You talk about wine when you’re really talking about yourself! This isn’t just for you! This is for your FREEDOM! Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk? You better feel lucky if you’re going to monologue me because I will send your sorry ass to the hospital!
But don’t worry. This isn’t just a tough guy monologue. I’ll come visit you whenever because I don’t know the meaning of the word visiting hours. A monologue is nothing if no one hears it. You’re just as important to me as I am to me. You... complete me. And oh my god, here come the tears and this becomes a sappy monologue. Here’s where I list random things about you in the name of character development and make it sweet. Or I can just say the craziest things and get a laugh.
Oh yeah, I can be funny too. Humor always makes for a great monologue. It really helps you connect with people, like the Dali Lama! I know that link wasn’t what you thought it was, but hey, that’s funny too. Anyone? Ok, fine, I can do something better. I wasn’t even supposed to be here today and yet I’m still here monologuing. Because that’s just what I do. Anyone? Oh no, not this again. Fine, here’s two jokes for you.
You think this monologue is over? It ain’t over till we say it’s over! There are rules you gotta follow! You always stick with your own monologue. Do it differently and you spend a day in the box. Second rule of monologuing is you do NOT talk about monologuing. And if you want to get fancy like very vociferous Victorian, for you to vilify through vicarious violins, be my guest.
But like everything, your monologue has to end. End it big, my friend! And I will strike down on upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger! Because I am God! Party on dudes!
Yeah, that feels right. Conclusive.”
And that is how you do a monologue. Class dismissed.
Special thanks to Film Site's incredible database.
Top Story: Farrelly Brothers Try Small Screen
Filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the sibling team behind the hit comedies There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal, are developing a TV project for Fox. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will revolve around a telemarketer with limited physical appeal and a dismal love life who hits the jackpot after a script he writes on the side becomes a popular TV series. Despite his success, he remains a Hollywood outsider who still can't score with women. Ricky Blitt, who wrote the pilot script with Peter Farrelly, describes the show as a "cross between CSI: Miami and Benson." The Farrellys will direct the pilot, and will executive produce with Blitt, who is expected to play the lead on the show. The Farrellys, who came up with the idea for Seinfeld's infamous "The Virgin" episode, plan to write three or four episodes a year and help punch up every script for the show.
Public Memorial for Gregory Peck
A public memorial service for Gregory Peck is set for Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, The Associated Press reports. Peck's longtime friend Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson, the black man Atticus Finch defended in the 1962 drama To Kill a Mockingbird, agreed to deliver the eulogy, while Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside over the memorial. Peck died Thursday in Los Angeles at age 87.
Missing Oscar Statuette Found
FBI agents on a drug investigation in Miami found something they weren't looking for: one of three missing Oscar statuettes stolen three years ago from a loading dock in Los Angeles. The statuette was found in the Fort Lauderdale area in Broward County Thursday and has been verified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as one of 55 stolen after they were shipped from their Chicago manufacturer to Los Angeles, the AP reports. Fifty-two of the gold-plated statuettes were recovered next to a trash bin nine days after the theft, but until now, three had remained missing. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
Nolte Accused of Violating Probation
A judge in Malibu, Calif., told Nick Nolte, who was ordered not to drive under the influence after his Mercedes-Benz was seen swerving near his Malibu home last December, that he is checking into reports that the actor had violated his probation in a driving-under-the-influence case. The allegation that Nolte violated his parole stems from the TV program Celebrity Justice, which reported that an anonymous tipster saw Nolte intoxicated and buying alcohol from a San Francisco-area liquor store and then driving away. The 62-year-old actor told reporters on the way into the courtroom Friday that he has not been drinking.
Actor William Marshall Dies
Actor William Marshall, who appeared in several dozen films and popular TV series, including Star Trek and The Jeffersons, died Wednesday in a Los Angeles rest home at the age of 78. The actor also starred in the 1972 movie Blacula and its sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, modeling his character on the original Count Dracula, the tormented Eastern European royal in Bram Stoker's 19th-century novel. Marshall, who suffered in recent years from Alzheimer's disease, is survived by three sons and one daughter. A memorial service will be held this summer.
Punk'd Star Inks MTV Deal
Ryan Pinkston, the 15-year-old co-star of Ashton Kutcher's hit MTV series Punk'd, will topline a new series project for the channel, according to The Hollywood Reporter. No details about the deal have been released. On Punk'd, Pinkston, who stars in Dimension Film's upcoming 'tween pic Spy Kids 3, often poses as a red-carpet interviewer who asks celebrities offensive questions. Pinkston has also snagged a role as the son of the only white family on board the maiden flight of an urban airline in the MGM comedy Soul Plane.
David Bowie Launches World Tour
Singer David Bowie is launching his most extensive world tour in more than a decade, Clear Channel Entertainment announced today. According to Billboard.com, Bowie's seven-month long Reality tour, named after his forthcoming album, will begin Oct. 7 at the Forum in Copenhagen and hit Europe, the U.S., Australia and Japan before wrapping up in March 2004. On stage, Bowie will reportedly walk through a house, with each room representing a different era from his career, including his half-man half-beast persona from his 1974 hit Diamond Dogs. It will be Bowie's first major tour since the hugely successful Outside World tour of 1995. He is scheduled to play North America in December and January.
P. Diddy Relaunches Record Label
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is relaunching his Bad Boy Records label with the soundtrack to the upcoming feature Bad Boys II, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Unlike many soundtracks, Bad Boys II, set for release July 15, consists entirely of previously unreleased songs and features artists Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, Beyonce Knowles, Mary J. Blige, and Snoop Dogg, Billboard.com reports. Bad Boys Records had been affiliated with Arista Records, but the two companies parted ways last year. Combs brought the label to Universal earlier this year under a three-year deal in which Universal will market, distribute, and promote Bad Boy releases worldwide.
Oscar winner Gregory Peck, one of the most popular actors in American cinema, died at age 87 at his home in Los Angeles, his spokesman said Thursday. According Reuters, he died peacefully with his wife of 48 years, Veronique, at his side.
"She told me he just died peacefully. She said she was holding his hand and he just closed his eyes and went to sleep and he was gone," spokesman Monroe Friedman told Reuters.
Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as small town Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in the 1962 drama To Kill a Mockingbird. The American Film Institute recently named the character the No. 1 hero in movie history.
Peck, who was born in La Jolla, Calif., on April 5, 1916, first attracted Hollywood's attention when he received glowing reviews for his 1942 Broadway performances in The Morning Star. The young actor was spotted by talent scouts and soon found himself starting his Hollywood career under contract to four studios: RKO, 20th Century Fox, Selznick Productions and MGM.
Known for taking on dignified roles and portraying characters with strong codes of ethics, Peck starred as a reporter confronting anti-Semitism in the 1947 Oscar-winning picture Gentleman's Agreement; as a military officer in the 1961 drama The Guns of Navarone; and as the president of the United States in the 1987 sports drama Amazing Grace and Chuck.
Peck's earlier films include Spellbound (1945), The Yearling (1946), The Macomber Affair (1947), Duel in the Sun (1947), Yellow Sky (1948), Twelve O'Clock High (1950), The Gunfighter (1950), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951), The World in His Arms (1952), and David and Bathsheba (1951).
He also starred the 1976 hit horror film The Omen, as well as in MacArthur (1977), The Boys From Brazil and Old Gringo (1989).
As his film career wound down, Peck did less acting and more politicking, working tirelessly as a founder of the American Film Institute, three-term president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and member of the National Council of Arts.
While still in good health into his 80s, Peck scorned typical grandfatherly roles but did star in the USA Network's 1998 miniseries version of Moby Dick, earning an Emmy nomination for his turn as the fire-and-brimstone preacher, Father Mapple.
Peck divorced his first wife, Greta Rice, with whom he had three children, in 1954. He married French journalist Veronique Passani, with whom he had two more children, a year later.
Peck he is survived by his wife, two sons from his first marriage and a son and daughter by Veronique, as well as several grandchildren.