‘Cynthia,
stretcher man”, Gregory Peck yelled cuddling an injured Ava Gardner to his
chest during a combat scene in Snows of Kilimanjaro. The Henry King classic
showcased the icon’s talents to perform well. Similarly in Guns of Navarone he
did not twitch a single eyebrow to convey his grit as Captain Rick Mallory.

From
the mid 40s till his last film, Scarlet and the Black, Peck remained one of
Hollywood’s most popular and competent actors. He was not great in the
conventional sense yet when directed by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, William
Wyler, Fred Zinnemann and Elia Kazan, Peck delivered unforgettable
performances. Playing Atticus Finch in Robert Mulligan’s To Kill A Mocking
Bird, he was awarded with the Best Actor Oscar. With spectacles on throughout
the film, his eyes never appeared glazed. In the court scenes and with his
children, Peck was a picture of true confidence, control and dignity — it still
remains a lesson in acting.

Blessed
with height, adorable looks, a deep voice and unique style, Peck was not the
ideal method actor. He was suave, persuasive and convincing and his romantic
scenes were the best of that era. When he kissed Ingrid Bergman, Ann Tod,
Audrey Hepburn or Debora Kerr, Peck was never vulgar. He knelt down and holding
the hand of Audrey Hepburn, kissed it after her demise in the 90s.

While
shooting for Beloved Infidel, Peck was in a sleepy mood on the sets. His
co-star Kerr woke him up with a laugh and Peck rubbed his eyes. So impressed
was director Henry King that he repeated the real life sequence in one shot and
it had Peck looking eye to eye with Kerr — both excelled in performing. In
McKenna’s Gold, Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif performed their fight scene in the
climax with a lot of discussion and rehearsal prior to shooting.

A
liberal and a gentleman to the core, Peck strongly protested against the racist
and partial attitudes of the Oscar Committees. After winning an Oscar he was
the first to congratulated Peter O’ Toole who lost it to him even though he was
completing for Lawrence of Arabia. He shared the best of vibes with Anthony
Quinn, Sharif, David Niven and Christopher Plummer.

He
was never frivolous, so Arabesque starring him with Sophia Loren was a fiasco.
After a spate of insipid films like Shoot Out he shifted to mature characters
with ease in Omen, Mac Arthur and Boys of Brazil. His élan was present in each
of his performances — Peck’s goodbye speech in Mac Arthur had an inimitable
diction and his eyes did have true tears. In his character roles he displayed a
lot of maturity and restraint as an actor. Even Meryl Streep lamented not
receiving an opportunity of working opposite the indefatigable Peck. That said,
Peck was wrong in terming Marlon Brando wooden-faced and he did not share good
vibes with James Mason. But all said and done, Gregory Peck still has no
substitute.