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August 1, 2015

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is very much in the news these days what with the publication of Go Set A Watchman.

Mockingbird has attained the status of enduring American classic. But is that because of the book or because of the movie? Seems to me, when people call to mind Mockingbird, they’re conjuring Robert Mulligan’s film with a script by Horton Foote featuring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Robert Duvall as Arthur “Boo” Radley, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, and Mary Badham as Scout.

The movie resides in our collective memory. Released at a time when the decade of the 60s was just about to kick in full-tilt, a lingering sense of nostalgia hangs over Mockingbird, not for how things are, not for how things were, but for how progressive thinking folks like to think times might once have been. This movie is suffused with high-mindedness, Hollywood-style.

It’s something movies do quite well. It’s something black & white movies do very well. Maybe that’s why people of a certain age always lament that they don’t make movies like they used to.

Me? I always wanted to know who “they” were.

And no matter how good little Mary Badham is as Scout, the “voice” of the novel, she’s up against the megawatt, star power of Gregory Peck’s Lincolnesque performance. For no matter how good Foote’s screen adaptation, we have nothing less than a case of literary identity theft here.

Scout was robbed…by her father no less.

But fifty some odd years later, Nelle Harper Lee gets in one last word with Go Set A Watchman.



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