As a longtime fan of classic Hollywood, few actors exemplify dignity, integrity, and passion like the great Gregory Peck. With his imposing 6‘3" frame, chiseled bone structure, and trademark deep voice, Peck captivated audiences for over five decades with his moving and memorable performances. Let‘s take a look at the life and career of this legendary leading man.
Full Name: Eldred Gregory Peck
Birthday: April 5, 1916
Death Date: June 12, 2003
Birth Sign: Aries
Born: United States
Height: 6′ 3′′
Spouse: Veronique Peck (1955–2003), Greta Kukkonen (1942–1955)
Children: Cecilia Peck, Anthony Peck, Stephen Peck, Carey Paul Peck
Net Worth: $40 million
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Gregory Peck began acting in his college years at UC Berkeley and left his pre-med studies to pursue his passion full-time, training at the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC. After early Broadway roles, Peck headed to Hollywood where he made his first big splash in 1944‘s Days of Glory and Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound. Over the next five decades, Peck starred in an incredible number of iconic films, earning five Academy Award nominations and winning Best Actor for his role as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
Early Life and Education
Gregory Peck was born Eldred Gregory Peck on April 5, 1916 in La Jolla, California to Gregory Pearl Peck and Bernice Mae Ayres. Originally nicknamed "Buddy" by his parents, the young Peck attended Roman Catholic school before being sent to St. John‘s Military Academy in Los Angeles.
Later, Peck attended UC Berkeley where he took pre-med courses before developing an interest in acting. While participating in college productions, he was encouraged by drama coach Herb Ellis to consider acting as a full-time career. Peck moved to New York City in 1939 to enroll in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and study under legendary acting coaches Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham.
Broadway Debut and Early Films
After two years studying his craft, Peck made his Broadway debut in 1942 in Emlyn Williams‘ The Morning Star. He followed with roles in The Willow and I and other stage productions before Hollywood came calling in 1944. That year, he appeared in his first two films – Days of Glory with Tamara Toumanova, portraying a heroic Russian peasant, and Alfred Hitchcock‘s psychological thriller Spellbound opposite Ingrid Bergman.
Over the next few years, Peck starred in a string of successful films like The Valley of Decision (1945), The Yearling (1946), and Gentleman‘s Agreement (1947), his first Oscar nomination. By the late 1940s, Peck had established leading man status thanks to his roles in westerns like Yellow Sky (1948) and The Gunfighter (1950), along with romantic dramas like The Paradine Case (1947) with Alida Valli.
Career Peak: The 1950s and 1960s
The 1950s and 60s represent the peak of Peck‘s acting career. In the early 1950s, he starred in the films The Gunfighter, Only the Valiant, and David and Bathsheba. Then in 1953, Peck‘s role as an American reporter in Roman Holiday opposite Audrey Hepburn won him his first Academy Award for Best Actor.
That same year, Peck delivered an awe-inspiring performance as the monomaniacal Captain Ahab in John Huston‘s adaptation of Moby Dick. And in 1962, Peck won his second Best Actor Oscar for his iconic role as morally upright lawyer Atticus Finch in the timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
During this prolific time, Peck worked with all the top leading ladies of the era including Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and Audrey Hepburn. He also used his celebrity status to advocate for civil rights and liberal causes he believed in. By the late 1960s, Peck had become one of the most distinguished and respected actors in Hollywood history.
Later Career and Honors
Although the quality of roles declined in Peck‘s later career, he continued working steadily through the 1970s and 80s in both film and television. He appeared in the horror blockbuster The Omen in 1976 as well as thrillers like The Boys from Brazil (1978) and the TV miniseries The Blue and the Gray (1982).
One of Peck‘s last successful films was the adventure comedy The Sea Wolves (1980) with David Niven. Peck finally retired from acting after appearing in Martin Scorsese‘s 1991 remake of Cape Fear.
Among many honors for his contributions to film, Peck received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 from Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1999, the AFI named Peck the #12 greatest male screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema.
Gregory Peck passed away peacefully in his sleep on June 12, 2003 at the age of 87. He left behind a titanic legacy as one of the most iconic leading men in Hollywood history.
In 1942, Peck married his first wife Greta Kukkonen, with whom he had three sons – Jonathan, Stephen, and Carey Paul. After separating in 1955, Peck began an affair with actress Ingrid Bergman during filming of Spellbound.
While filming The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in 1955, Peck met and fell in love with French journalist Veronique Passani. After divorcing Kukkonen, he married Passani that same year. They had two children, Anthony and Cecilia Peck, and remained married until Gregory‘s death in 2003.
Outside of acting, Peck loved spending time with family, relaxing on his ranch, sailing, and racing cars. He received Irish citizenship late in life and divided his time between homes in LA and Ireland. Despite his fame, Peck managed to live a balanced life focused on the people and activities he loved most.