ENG 225: Introduction to Film
Instructor Christine Hilger
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most well-known films and books of the century. Labeled as a courtroom drama for viewers, it is much more than just that and many people can relate to the film’s societal problems. I believe that it is a must-watch for everyone. This film could give anyone with a soul a good look at the harm that jumping to conclusions about someone because of their race, background, and social status can cause, among other harmful societal problems.
Released in 1962, two years after the book written by Harper Lee, the film directed by Robert Mulligan was quite the success. The film earned 10 times its budget amount in the box office, won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck as Atticus.
This powerful film gave the two main actors such a new outlook on life. "Hardly a day passes that I don't think how lucky I was to be cast in that film. I recently sat at a dinner next to a woman who saw it when she was 14 years old, and she said it changed her life. I hear things like that all the time." (Gregory Peck, 1997) Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film, was a young girl at the time of filming and didn’t really understand the film until she was a bit older. At most recent screenings, Badham said “It addresses the issues that obviously are going to be things that people have to work on, and it addresses them in a palatable way. There is no preaching.” (Harmanci, 2006)
The story takes place during the Great Depression (roughly 1933-1935) in a small, charming town Maycomb, Alabama. The main character is Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, who lives with her brother, Jem, and her widowed father, Atticus. The only problem the children seem to have is getting the mentally challenged neighbor, Boo Radley, to come out of his house so they can see for themselves the monster the town speaks about. That all changes when their father, Atticus, who is also a lawyer, takes on the case of a Negro man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman. This throws the town into a rage, especially that of the father of the said victim. He says some foul things to Atticus and starts his own personal vendetta against him. Despite the evidence given, the trial does not go as expected. The children, who have snuck in to see the trial, are especially confused for the fact that you could tell that Mayella and her father and town drunk, Bob Ewell, were lying and still everyone sided with them. Tom is convicted and later shot in prison supposedly trying to escape. Even though Bob Ewell’s daughter’s supposed rapist is dead. He still has it out for Atticus for making him look like a liar and a fool. He attacks Scout and Jem on their way to a school play with intent to kill them. He in turn is killed by one trying to protect the children. Jem’s arm is badly broken and Scout was protected from her ham suit. The man helps them home. Lo and behold, it is the badly spoken about Boo Radley who had saved the children’s lives. The town sheriff lets Boo go for his crime because he did the town a favor in a sense, a sort of vigilante justice. This leaves Scout with the notion that not everything is as it seems and much more grown up than she had been.
At each obstacle faced, their father, Atticus, did his best to instill values of understanding, acceptance, and decency. He never let them believe that they were better than anyone else because of their social status or race. He taught his children to treat people with respect and not to jump to conclusions. The most often remembered phrase used by Atticus, “To stand in someone else’s shoes…” is a “moral call to sympathetic identification with a particular other.” (Watson, 2010)
The cinematographer Russell Harlan works so well with Robert Mulligan, and they put this films together in such a way that it makes people feel that they…