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Kannathil Muththamittal: Review

MANI RATNAM has undoubtedly matured as a director since his earlier ``Bombay'' and ``Iruvar''. One saw distinct traces of this in his last work, ``Alaipayuthe''.

His latest, ``Kannathil Muththamittal'', (a hauntingly moving line from Bharati's poetry that roughly translates as ``A peck on the cheek?".) confirms that he has even a better grip on the medium. Although the film may not have a flawless script (note, for instance, the way the officer talks to the children when one of them seeks information about her long lost mother), Ratnam has worked hard on characterisation.

Keerthana, as little girl Amudha, virtually carries the movie on her frail shoulders, and full credit for this to Ratnam. Any layman will tell you how difficult it is to handle children, and the few others who mastered this tricky art included Vittorio de Sica and Satyajit Ray. The pinnacle, so to say, of Keerthana's performance is the scene where she meets her biological mother, nine years after she abandoned her: Keerthana does not play to the galleries, rather, she subdues her raging emotions in a way that is splendidly convincing even for a diehard critic.

Unfortunately, Nandita Das as the mother -- whose nuances and emotions are wonderful at the beginning of the movie (at her marriage, for example, when one sees traces of sheer excellence) -- seems flat and uninspiring in this crucial shot that could have been dramatic without appearing exaggerated and convoluted. One expected to see much more pain on her face when she meets her little girl after years.

Simran as the mother who raises Keerthana is surprisingly good, indicating that it needs a dedicated director to draw the best out of an artiste. To me, the weakest link in the entire film is Madhavan, who has really not been able to slip out of the mask he wore in ``Alaipayuthe''. Ratnam must think of newer actors. Ratnam himself deserves much praise for the remarkable way he has helmed ``Kannathil Muththamittal''. Yet, there are sequences which are rank amateurish. It was appalling to see the way he handles the events where Madhavan and his family are caught in the crossfire between Sri Lankan soldiers and rebels. Even the scene where Madhavan and his friend are trapped by militants is awfully disappointing.

What is more, Ratnam must not yield to the temptation of breaking his narrative with meaningless songs and unrealistic picture postcard settings. These look, at best, like some glossy advertisements that rob the very soul of the film.

Which is, otherwise, powerful dealing with a pressing issue like adoption. The dilemma which probably confronts every parent who has adopted a child has been picturised with feeling, and the movie examines the completely different ways Keerthana looks at her father (Madhavan) and her mother (Simran).

The story unfolds against the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis: Das abandons her new baby in an Indian Red Cross camp to fight a war in her country. The little girl (Keerthana) grows up blissfully till Madhavan and Simran decide to tell her the truth on her ninth birthday. An adamant Keerthana forces her parents to travel to Sri Lanka in search of a mother she has never seen, and whose kisses she longs for.

``Kannathil Muththamittal'' is now running in several Madras/Chennai theatres, and is certainly a must for those who still believe in meaningful cinema.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated February 15 2002)

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Gautaman Bhaskaran - news, editorials, features, analyses on Indian, World cinema, theatre, literature
Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Contact Me
Home Page
Copyright 2004

 

ARCHIVES - INDIAN CINEMA

Other Movies

------------------------


Kannathil Muththamittal: Review

MANI RATNAM has undoubtedly matured as a director since his earlier ``Bombay'' and ``Iruvar''. One saw distinct traces of this in his last work, ``Alaipayuthe''.

His latest, ``Kannathil Muththamittal'', (a hauntingly moving line from Bharati's poetry that roughly translates as ``A peck on the cheek?".) confirms that he has even a better grip on the medium. Although the film may not have a flawless script (note, for instance, the way the officer talks to the children when one of them seeks information about her long lost mother), Ratnam has worked hard on characterisation.

Keerthana, as little girl Amudha, virtually carries the movie on her frail shoulders, and full credit for this to Ratnam. Any layman will tell you how difficult it is to handle children, and the few others who mastered this tricky art included Vittorio de Sica and Satyajit Ray. The pinnacle, so to say, of Keerthana's performance is the scene where she meets her biological mother, nine years after she abandoned her: Keerthana does not play to the galleries, rather, she subdues her raging emotions in a way that is splendidly convincing even for a diehard critic.

Unfortunately, Nandita Das as the mother -- whose nuances and emotions are wonderful at the beginning of the movie (at her marriage, for example, when one sees traces of sheer excellence) -- seems flat and uninspiring in this crucial shot that could have been dramatic without appearing exaggerated and convoluted. One expected to see much more pain on her face when she meets her little girl after years.

Simran as the mother who raises Keerthana is surprisingly good, indicating that it needs a dedicated director to draw the best out of an artiste. To me, the weakest link in the entire film is Madhavan, who has really not been able to slip out of the mask he wore in ``Alaipayuthe''. Ratnam must think of newer actors. Ratnam himself deserves much praise for the remarkable way he has helmed ``Kannathil Muththamittal''. Yet, there are sequences which are rank amateurish. It was appalling to see the way he handles the events where Madhavan and his family are caught in the crossfire between Sri Lankan soldiers and rebels. Even the scene where Madhavan and his friend are trapped by militants is awfully disappointing.

What is more, Ratnam must not yield to the temptation of breaking his narrative with meaningless songs and unrealistic picture postcard settings. These look, at best, like some glossy advertisements that rob the very soul of the film.

Which is, otherwise, powerful dealing with a pressing issue like adoption. The dilemma which probably confronts every parent who has adopted a child has been picturised with feeling, and the movie examines the completely different ways Keerthana looks at her father (Madhavan) and her mother (Simran).

The story unfolds against the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis: Das abandons her new baby in an Indian Red Cross camp to fight a war in her country. The little girl (Keerthana) grows up blissfully till Madhavan and Simran decide to tell her the truth on her ninth birthday. An adamant Keerthana forces her parents to travel to Sri Lanka in search of a mother she has never seen, and whose kisses she longs for.

``Kannathil Muththamittal'' is now running in several Madras/Chennai theatres, and is certainly a must for those who still believe in meaningful cinema.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated February 15 2002)

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Contact Me
Home Page
Copyright 2004

 

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Personalities

-----------------------


Gregory Peck: Icon of dignity and strength

Gregory Peck is past 80 now,
GREGORY PECK came to Cannes this summer (May 2000). As he walked up the red- carpeted stairs of the Film Festival's Palace, people said, here goes Atticus Finch, the Oscar-winning lawyer- character he portrayed almost four decades ago in ``To Kill A Mocking Bird''.

In fact, during an interview several years ago, Peck said that his fans had often told him that the role, in Harper Lee's monumental literary work, was their most favourite. Some had become advocates, encouraged by Finch's defence of a black man falsely accused of rape. The small-town lawyer in Alabama, a paragon of virtue and sensitivity and steely determination, became a hero to thousands in the early 1960s, when the release of the movie coincided with a civil rights movement in the South.

But Peck's cinematic glory includes many more memorable parts, which great directors framed together to create classics. The actor's first effort in 1943 , ``Days of Glory'' is significant because it helped him catch Hollywood's eye. However, he chose to remain an independent freelancer in a era when stars were virtually chattels of the big studios. This infuriated one of the most powerful men of those times, Louis Mayer of the MGM.

Yet, Peck sailed along unscathed. Born in 1916 in southern California to parents who split up soon after, Gregory sold newspapers and drove trucks as he schooled and majored in English literature from a university at Berkeley. It was there that he first looked at theatre, appearing in plays. His next step was Broadway, where he was spotted by a screenwriter, who offered Peck his first celluloid assignment.

It was the 1945 ``The Keys of the Kingdom'' that made him a heartthrob, but Alfred Hitchcock's ``Spellbound'' (with fascinating Ingrid Bergman) - where he plays an amnesiac and falls in love with his psychologist - gave him a certain aura that was hard to resist, especially since it came with a cocktail of dashing good looks and impeccable behaviour. Widely regarded as the most decent man in Hollywood, who became an icon of dignity and quiet strength, he remained free of angst.

Peck's screen image was not very different either. Well, most of the time. ``Gentleman's Agreement'' (1947), directed by no less a legend than Elia Kazan, has the actor starring as a writer, who, in the course of collecting material for an article against anti- Semitism, realises to his horror and disbelief that his own friends, apparently polished and cultured, hate Jews.

``Roman Holiday'' that came in 1953 charmed audiences all over the world. As a newspaper reporter, Peck finds a runaway princess in Rome and helps her feel the freshness of freedom and joy, away from her ``captive'' existence. Throwing aside a scoop and terrific story, he graciously lets love lead the way. If the Lion's Mouth of Truth in the Italian capital is, till this day, remembered as the spot where the young Audrey Hepburn looses her heart to Peck, his understanding and nobility at letting her go, when she has to, and with her a professional dream endure in the history of cinema as a high point.

This movie was important in Peck's personal life as well. At Paris, on his way to Rome, he met Veronique, then a cub reporter, who shot an arrow through his heart even while she was flooring him with questions. ``Six months later, when `Roman Holiday' was tied up, I returned to Paris for a vacation before going back home'', Gregory told an audience decades after the trip. ``I decided to call Veronique. We met for dinner that night, the next night and the next and the next...''.

In 1955, they married. For Peck, this was the second time; he had divorced Greta Rice in 1954. Veronique and Peck are still together, and they have two children, Cecilia and Anthony. Peck's two sons by his earlier marriage are living; one committed suicide.

And all these are narrated splendidly by Barbara Kopple, whose documentary, ``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'', was screened at Cannes recently (May 2000). It is engaging particularly because it works out the right balance between the actor and the man. It is touching when he talks about his dead son or Veronique, whom he describes as his soul mate, and these moments have been captured with finesse and feeling.

Kopple tells me that this non-fiction work (``I do not like the term, documentary'') might not have been made at all, but for Cecilia, who pushed the director into filming a one-man show which Peck usual held, where he answered questions from a small group. ``I got there, it was at Boston, and he was such an absorbing story-teller, so captivating, so funny, that I knew immediately that my job was going to be something bigger''.

Kopple says there was this woman who asked the most outrageous question. ``Excuse me, Mr. Peck. Did Sophia Loren have her clothes on during the shower scene in `Arabesque'? He looked at her and said, `More or less. But it was spectacular'. It was witty the way he tackled people.''

Kopple's interest was aroused. ``I wanted to know more about him, not just as an actor, but as a human being, as a father, as a husband.'' Since she knew Cecilia well, she enjoyed a privileged position, which she used to gather some bitter-sweet, some intimate moments from Peck's life. ``He was usually comfortable with us. I think he liked us. He trusted us. But, he is also a very private person, and never really wanted anybody to step inside. This time, of course, he knew he was doomed'', Kopple laughs.

``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'' reveals that the director managed to draw him out all right. ``He did talk to us about his son, who killed himself, and said that he might not have done it if he had not strived so hard. There were so many moments like these that said so much about him.''

Which probably endeared him to Kopple, and ``I never felt intimidated by the fact that here was a colossus loved by the world and whose integrity and affection are so similar to Finch's. I would say Peck the person is closest to that character. Indeed, my favourite movie is `To Kill a Mocking Bird'. It is a picture of social justice, of ethics and morals even though times were hard. It shows him as an adorable father''.

Kopple has more anecdotes to narrate, each gripping in its own way. Peck's concern about the American gun culture and his earlier stand on the Vietnam war add another dimension to a man we all thought was only pleasing and romantic, charming and courteous. That Peck is something more than all this is what Kopple's footage unfolds, and much to our enrichment and enjoyment.

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated June 16 2000)


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Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Contact Me
Home Page
Copyright 2004

 

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Personalities

-----------------------


Gregory Peck: Icon of dignity and strength

Gregory Peck is past 80 now,
GREGORY PECK came to Cannes this summer (May 2000). As he walked up the red- carpeted stairs of the Film Festival's Palace, people said, here goes Atticus Finch, the Oscar-winning lawyer- character he portrayed almost four decades ago in ``To Kill A Mocking Bird''.

In fact, during an interview several years ago, Peck said that his fans had often told him that the role, in Harper Lee's monumental literary work, was their most favourite. Some had become advocates, encouraged by Finch's defence of a black man falsely accused of rape. The small-town lawyer in Alabama, a paragon of virtue and sensitivity and steely determination, became a hero to thousands in the early 1960s, when the release of the movie coincided with a civil rights movement in the South.

But Peck's cinematic glory includes many more memorable parts, which great directors framed together to create classics. The actor's first effort in 1943 , ``Days of Glory'' is significant because it helped him catch Hollywood's eye. However, he chose to remain an independent freelancer in a era when stars were virtually chattels of the big studios. This infuriated one of the most powerful men of those times, Louis Mayer of the MGM.

Yet, Peck sailed along unscathed. Born in 1916 in southern California to parents who split up soon after, Gregory sold newspapers and drove trucks as he schooled and majored in English literature from a university at Berkeley. It was there that he first looked at theatre, appearing in plays. His next step was Broadway, where he was spotted by a screenwriter, who offered Peck his first celluloid assignment.

It was the 1945 ``The Keys of the Kingdom'' that made him a heartthrob, but Alfred Hitchcock's ``Spellbound'' (with fascinating Ingrid Bergman) - where he plays an amnesiac and falls in love with his psychologist - gave him a certain aura that was hard to resist, especially since it came with a cocktail of dashing good looks and impeccable behaviour. Widely regarded as the most decent man in Hollywood, who became an icon of dignity and quiet strength, he remained free of angst.

Peck's screen image was not very different either. Well, most of the time. ``Gentleman's Agreement'' (1947), directed by no less a legend than Elia Kazan, has the actor starring as a writer, who, in the course of collecting material for an article against anti- Semitism, realises to his horror and disbelief that his own friends, apparently polished and cultured, hate Jews.

``Roman Holiday'' that came in 1953 charmed audiences all over the world. As a newspaper reporter, Peck finds a runaway princess in Rome and helps her feel the freshness of freedom and joy, away from her ``captive'' existence. Throwing aside a scoop and terrific story, he graciously lets love lead the way. If the Lion's Mouth of Truth in the Italian capital is, till this day, remembered as the spot where the young Audrey Hepburn looses her heart to Peck, his understanding and nobility at letting her go, when she has to, and with her a professional dream endure in the history of cinema as a high point.

This movie was important in Peck's personal life as well. At Paris, on his way to Rome, he met Veronique, then a cub reporter, who shot an arrow through his heart even while she was flooring him with questions. ``Six months later, when `Roman Holiday' was tied up, I returned to Paris for a vacation before going back home'', Gregory told an audience decades after the trip. ``I decided to call Veronique. We met for dinner that night, the next night and the next and the next...''.

In 1955, they married. For Peck, this was the second time; he had divorced Greta Rice in 1954. Veronique and Peck are still together, and they have two children, Cecilia and Anthony. Peck's two sons by his earlier marriage are living; one committed suicide.

And all these are narrated splendidly by Barbara Kopple, whose documentary, ``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'', was screened at Cannes recently (May 2000). It is engaging particularly because it works out the right balance between the actor and the man. It is touching when he talks about his dead son or Veronique, whom he describes as his soul mate, and these moments have been captured with finesse and feeling.

Kopple tells me that this non-fiction work (``I do not like the term, documentary'') might not have been made at all, but for Cecilia, who pushed the director into filming a one-man show which Peck usual held, where he answered questions from a small group. ``I got there, it was at Boston, and he was such an absorbing story-teller, so captivating, so funny, that I knew immediately that my job was going to be something bigger''.

Kopple says there was this woman who asked the most outrageous question. ``Excuse me, Mr. Peck. Did Sophia Loren have her clothes on during the shower scene in `Arabesque'? He looked at her and said, `More or less. But it was spectacular'. It was witty the way he tackled people.''

Kopple's interest was aroused. ``I wanted to know more about him, not just as an actor, but as a human being, as a father, as a husband.'' Since she knew Cecilia well, she enjoyed a privileged position, which she used to gather some bitter-sweet, some intimate moments from Peck's life. ``He was usually comfortable with us. I think he liked us. He trusted us. But, he is also a very private person, and never really wanted anybody to step inside. This time, of course, he knew he was doomed'', Kopple laughs.

``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'' reveals that the director managed to draw him out all right. ``He did talk to us about his son, who killed himself, and said that he might not have done it if he had not strived so hard. There were so many moments like these that said so much about him.''

Which probably endeared him to Kopple, and ``I never felt intimidated by the fact that here was a colossus loved by the world and whose integrity and affection are so similar to Finch's. I would say Peck the person is closest to that character. Indeed, my favourite movie is `To Kill a Mocking Bird'. It is a picture of social justice, of ethics and morals even though times were hard. It shows him as an adorable father''.

Kopple has more anecdotes to narrate, each gripping in its own way. Peck's concern about the American gun culture and his earlier stand on the Vietnam war add another dimension to a man we all thought was only pleasing and romantic, charming and courteous. That Peck is something more than all this is what Kopple's footage unfolds, and much to our enrichment and enjoyment.

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated June 16 2000)


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Gautaman Bhaskaran - news, editorials, features, analyses on Indian, World cinema, theatre, literature
Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Contact Me
Home Page
Copyright 2004

 

ARCHIVES - WORLD CINEMA

Personalities

------------------------


Gregory Peck: Icon of dignity and strength

GREGORY PECK came to Cannes this summer (May 2000). As he walked up the red- carpeted stairs of the Film Festival's Palace, people said, here goes Atticus Finch, the Oscar-winning lawyer- character he portrayed almost four decades ago in ``To Kill A Mocking Bird''.

In fact, during an interview several years ago, Peck said that his fans had often told him that the role, in Harper Lee's monumental literary work, was their most favourite. Some had become advocates, encouraged by Finch's defence of a black man falsely accused of rape. The small-town lawyer in Alabama, a paragon of virtue and sensitivity and steely determination, became a hero to thousands in the early 1960s, when the release of the movie coincided with a civil rights movement in the U.S.

But Peck's cinematic glory includes many more memorable parts, which great directors framed together to create classics. The actor's first effort in 1943 , ``Days of Glory'' is significant because it helped him catch Hollywood's eye. However, he chose to remain an independent freelancer in a era when stars were virtually chattels of the big studios. This infuriated one of the most powerful men of those times, Louis Mayer of the MGM.

Yet, Peck sailed along unscathed. Born in 1916 in southern California to parents who split up soon after, Gregory sold newspapers and drove trucks as he schooled and majored in English literature from a university at Berkeley. It was there that he first looked at theatre, appearing in plays. His next step was Broadway, where he was spotted by a screenwriter, who offered Peck his first celluloid assignment.

It was the 1945 ``The Keys of the Kingdom'' that made him a heartthrob, but Alfred Hitchcock's ``Spellbound'' (with fascinating Ingrid Bergman) - where he plays an amnesiac and falls in love with his psychologist - gave him a certain aura that was hard to resist, especially since it came with a cocktail of dashing good looks and impeccable behaviour. Widely regarded as the most decent man in Hollywood, who became an icon of dignity and quiet strength, he remained free of angst.

Peck's screen image was not very different either. Well, most of the time. ``Gentleman's Agreement'' (1947), directed by no less a legend than Elia Kazan, has the actor starring as a writer, who, in the course of collecting material for an article against anti- Semitism, realises to his horror and disbelief that his own friends, apparently polished and cultured, hate Jews.

``Roman Holiday'' that came in 1953 charmed audiences all over the world. As a newspaper reporter, Peck finds a runaway princess in Rome and helps her feel the freshness of freedom and joy, away from her ``captive'' existence. Throwing aside a scoop and terrific story, he graciously lets love lead the way. If the Lion's Mouth of Truth in the Italian capital is, till this day, remembered as the spot where the young Audrey Hepburn looses her heart to Peck, his understanding and nobility at letting her go, when she has to, and with her a professional dream endure in the history of cinema as a high point.

This movie was important in Peck's personal life as well. At Paris, on his way to Rome, he met Veronique, then a cub reporter, who shot an arrow through his heart even while she was flooring him with questions. ``Six months later, when `Roman Holiday' was tied up, I returned to Paris for a vacation before going back home'', Gregory told an audience decades after the trip. ``I decided to call Veronique. We met for dinner that night, the next night and the next and the next...''.

In 1955, they married. For Peck, this was the second time; he had divorced Greta Rice in 1954. Veronique and Peck are still together, and they have two children, Cecilia and Anthony. Peck's two sons by his earlier marriage are living; one committed suicide.

And all these are narrated splendidly by Barbara Kopple, whose documentary, ``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'', was screened at Cannes recently (May 2000). It is engaging particularly because it works out the right balance between the actor and the man. It is touching when he talks about his dead son or Veronique, whom he describes as his soul mate, and these moments have been captured with finesse and feeling.

Kopple tells me that this non-fiction work (``I do not like the term, documentary'') might not have been made at all, but for Cecilia, who pushed the director into filming a one-man show which Peck usual held, where he answered questions from a small group. ``I got there, it was at Boston, and he was such an absorbing story-teller, so captivating, so funny, that I knew immediately that my job was going to be something bigger''.

Kopple says there was this woman who asked the most outrageous question. ``Excuse me, Mr. Peck. Did Sophia Loren have her clothes on during the shower scene in `Arabesque'? He looked at her and said, `More or less. But it was spectacular'. It was witty the way he tackled people.''

Kopple's interest was aroused. ``I wanted to know more about him, not just as an actor, but as a human being, as a father, as a husband.'' Since she knew Cecilia well, she enjoyed a privileged position, which she used to gather some bitter-sweet, some intimate moments from Peck's life. ``He was usually comfortable with us. I think he liked us. He trusted us. But, he is also a very private person, and never really wanted anybody to step inside. This time, of course, he knew he was doomed'', Kopple laughs.

``A Conversation with Gregory Peck'' reveals that the director managed to draw him out all right. ``He did talk to us about his son, who killed himself, and said that he might not have done it if he had not strived so hard. There were so many moments like these that said so much about him.''

Which probably endeared him to Kopple, and ``I never felt intimidated by the fact that here was a colossus loved by the world and whose integrity and affection are so similar to Finch's. I would say Peck the person is closest to that character. Indeed, my favourite movie is `To Kill a Mocking Bird'. It is a picture of social justice, of ethics and morals even though times were hard. It shows him as an adorable father''.

Kopple has more anecdotes to narrate, each gripping in its own way. Peck's concern about the American gun culture and his earlier stand on the Vietnam war add another dimension to a man we all thought was only pleasing and romantic, charming and courteous. That Peck is something more than all this is what Kopple's footage unfolds, and much to our enrichment and enjoyment.

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated June 16 2000)


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Gautaman Bhaskaran - news, editorials, features, analyses on Indian, World cinema, theatre, literature
Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
Contact Me
Home Page
Copyright 2004

 

ARCHIVES - WORLD CINEMA

Personalities

-----------------------


Gregory Peck:A freelancer in an era of big studio chattels

Gregory Peck once said that the lead line in his obit reference would be one from his film, "To Kill a Mockingbird.'' True enough, descriptions of his classic role in the 1962 movie flooded the columns of his obit notice.

Peck, who died early on June 12, 2003, continued to be lauded till the end for the great part he played as an upright lawyer, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's monumental literary masterpiece, "To Kill a Mockingbird.''

In fact, during an early interview, Peck said that his fans had often told him that it was this character which was their most favourite. Some had become advocates, encouraged by Finch's defence of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. The small town lawyer in Alabama, a paragon of virtue and sensitivity and steely determination, Finch/Peck became a hero to thousands in the early 1960s, when the release of the film coincided with a civil rights movement in the South.

But, although Finch won Peck an Oscar for acting, his career, which spanned half a century, had many other greats. With his chiselled, slightly sad good looks and a baritone voice, the American actor made an unforgettable impression most of the time.

His first effort in 1943, "Days of Glory'' is significant because it helped him catch the eye of Hollywood. However, he chose to remain an independent, freelancer in an era when stars were virtually chattels of the big studios. This infuriated one of the most powerful men of those times, Louis Mayer of the MGM.

Yet, Peck sailed along unscathed. Born in 1916 in southern California to parents who split up soon after, Gregory sold newspapers and drove trucks as he schooled and majored in English literature from a university at Berkeley. It was there that he first looked at theatre, appearing in plays. His next step was Broadway, where he was spotted by a screenwriter who offered Peck his first celluloid assignment.

It was the 1945 "The Keys of the Kingdom'' that made him a heartthrob, but Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound'' (with fascinating Ingrid Bergman) where he plays an amnesiac and falls in love with his psychologist gave him a certain aura that was hard to resist, especially as it came in a cocktail of dashing good looks and impeccable behaviour.

Widely regarded as the most decent man in Hollywood, who became an icon of dignity and quiet strength, he remained free of angst.

Peck's screen image was not very different either. Well, most of the time. "Gentleman's Agreement'' (1947), directed by no less a legend than Elia Kazan, has the actor starring as a writer, who, in the course of collecting material for an article against anti-Semitism, realises to his horror and disbelief that his own friends, apparently polished and cultured, hate Jews.

``Roman Holiday'' that came in 1953 charmed audiences all over the world. As a newspaper reporter, Peck finds a runaway princess in Rome and helps her feel the freshness of freedom and joy, away from her "captive'' existence.

Throwing aside a scoop and terrific story, he is gracious enough to let love lead the way. If the Lion's Mouth of Truth in the Italian capital is till this day remembered as the spot where the young Audrey Hepburn loses her heart to Peck, his understanding and nobility at letting her go, when she has to, and with her a professional dream endure in the history of cinema as a high point.

(It was during this picture that Peck met Veronique, a cub reporter then, who not only shot questions at him, but also arrows. A little later, they married. This was Peck's second marriage, and Veronique remained with him till the end.)

In the 1946 "Duel in the Sun,'' he decided to play a bad man. Though he, as the murderous son of a cattle baron, and his co-star, Jennifer Jones, provided a lot of sizzle on the screen, these scenes had to be excised, and the film failed at the box-office.

Other roles included the button-down, harried advertising executive in "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit'' (1956), the obsessed Captain Ahab in "Moby Dick'' (1956), the conscience-stricken military officer in the Korean War film "Pork Chop Hill'' (1959) and the idealistic officer in "The Guns of Navarone'' (1961).

In some ways, Peck entertained through all these characters. He always felt that an actor's most important duty was to entertain (not bore). Gregory Peck did just that, but some of his smiles and laughs hid profound messages that became hard to ignore or forget.

(This obituary story appeared in The Hindu dated June 14 2003)



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