To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiographical novel was turned into a film in 1962 by Horton Foote. Set in Maycomb, Alabama a small town in the 1930s. The story focuses on scrupulously honest, highly respected lawyer Atticus Finch, magnificently embodied by Gregory Peck. Finch puts his career on the line when he agrees to represent Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of the rape of Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox) the daughter of Robert Ewell (James Anderson). The trial and the events surrounding it are seen through the eyes of Finch's six-year-old daughter Scout (Mary Badham). While Robinson's trial gives the film its momentum, there are plenty of anecdotal occurrences before and after the court date: Scout's ever-strengthening bond with older brother Jem (Philip Alford), her friendship with precocious young Dill Harris (a character based on Lee's childhood chum Truman Capote and played by John Megna), her father's no-nonsense reactions to such life-and-death crises as a rampaging mad dog, and especially Scout's reactions to, and relationship with, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall in his movie debut), the reclusive "village idiot" who turns out to be her salvation when she is attacked by a venomous bigot. To Kill a Mockingbird won an Academy Award for Best Actor (Peck).
To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in Alabama during the Depression, and is narrated by the main character, a little girl named Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer with high moral standards. Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill are intrigued by the local rumors about a man named Boo Radley, who lives in their neighborhood but never leaves his house. Legend has it that he once stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, and he is made out to be a kind of monster. Dill is from Mississippi but spends his summer in Maycomb at a house near the Finch's.
The children are curious to know more about Boo, and during one summer create a mini-drama they enact daily, which tells the events of his life as they know them. Slowly, the children begin moving closer to the Radley house, which is said to be haunted. They try leaving notes for Boo on his windowsill with a fishing pole, but are caught by Atticus, who firmly reprimands them for making fun of a sad man's life. Next, the children try sneaking over to the house at night and looking through its windows. Boo's brother, Nathan Radley, who lives in the house, thinks he hears a prowler and fires his gun. The children run away, but Jem loses his pants in a fence. When he returns in the middle of the night to get them back, they have been neatly folded and the tear from the fence roughly sewn up.
Other mysterious things happen to the Finch children. A certain tree near the Radley house has a hole in which little presents are often left for them, such as pennies, chewing gum, and soap carved figures of a little boy and girl who bear a striking resemblance to Scout and Jem. The children don't know where these gifts are coming from, and when they go to leave a note for the mystery giver, they find that Boo's brother has plugged up the hole with cement. The next winter brings unexpected cold and snow, and Miss Maudie's house catches on fire. While Jem and Scout, shivering, watch the blaze from near the Radley house, someone puts a blanket around Scout without her realizing it. Not until she returns home and Atticus asks her where the blanket came from does she realize that Boo Radley must have put it around her while she was entranced by watching Miss Maudie, her favorite neighbor, and her burning house.
Atticus decides to take on a case involving a black man named Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping a very poor white girl named Mayella Ewell, a member of the notorious Ewell family, who belong to the layer of Maycomb society that people refer to as "trash." The Finch family faces harsh criticism in the heavily