The 1962 classic film To Kill a Mockingbird is now available on Blu-ray. The film is based on the 1960 novel by Harper Lee, and stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a lawyer who takes on the case of a black man accused of raping a young white woman. The story is told from the point of view of Finch’s young daughter Scout (Mary Badham), who narrates the story looking back on the events as an adult. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a coming of age story than a courtroom drama. The film fairly convincingly looks at some of humanity’s triumphs and failures through the eyes of a child.
Set in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of Scout, her brother Jem (Phillip Alford), and their friend Dill (John Megna). The story begins in the summer of 1932 when Scout and Jem first meet Dill who is visiting his aunt for the summer.
Scout and Jem’s mother is dead and they are in the care of their housekeeper Calpurnia (Estelle Evans). The children climb trees, play hide & seek, and tell stories about their neighbors, most notably Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). None of them have ever seen Boo, and Jem tells his sister that Boo is about six and half feet tall and eats raw squirrels and cats. It’s all fairly typical childhood foolishness that sets the atmosphere of lazy summer days in a small town.
The children are oblivious to the undercurrent of racism that surrounds them. However they are not completely unaware of adult worries. It is the depression era and they are more than aware of poverty. At one point Scout asks her dad if they are poor, and he replies they are, but not as poor as the farmer who pays Finch in vegetables in exchange for legal services. When Finch takes on the defense of Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), Scout gets an up-close look at bigotry. Finch’s decision is not popular, but he knows it’s the right thing to do. Scout at first questions his decision, wondering how something could be right when everyone is so against it. It is a quintessential lesson of childhood to learn to choose to do what’s right even if it’s not popular. It’s Scout’s eventual understanding of this concept that is the heart of this story.