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).
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.