With the 17th stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, the US Postal Service honors Gregory Peck on April 29. One of America’s most respected actors, Peck appeared in more than 60 films during a remarkable career that stretched from the Golden Age of Hollywood to the emergence of independent filmmaking. His intelligence, natural elegance, and searing integrity impressed critics from the start and endeared him to generations of moviegoers. Nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actor, he won the Oscar for his performance as defense attorney Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, a character that Peck said was closest to his own heart.
Peck’s own favorite role, and the one for which he is most remembered, is Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, the film tells the story of Atticus’s defense of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. The film opened in December 1962. According to Variety, it was “a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years.” The film earned eight Academy Award nominations, countless international honors, and the Best Actor Oscar for Peck. Perhaps Harper Lee summed it up best: “Atticus Finch gave Gregory Peck an opportunity to play himself.” In 2003, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Atticus Finch the number one movie hero in American film history.
Peck was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1970 and also served as a longtime governor. He was an inaugural member of the National Council on the Arts and the Founding Chairman of the AFI. He was National Chairman of the American Cancer Society and raised record-breaking contributions. He also devoted himself to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which provides health care to members of the entertainment industry. For his public service, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar, in 1967.
In 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Peck the Presidential Medal of Freedom as “an artist who had brought new dignity to the actor’s profession,” and in 1970, Peck received the Screen Actors Guild award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the ideals of the acting profession.” In 1989, he received the AFI Life Achievement Award, followed by the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991 and the National Medal of Arts in 1998.
The stamp portrait is a still photograph from the film, which tells the story of Atticus\’s defense of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Peck\’s performance earned him an Oscar, and the character was named the greatest hero in motion picture history by the American Film Institute. The selvage image shows Peck with his Academy Award.