A conversation with Gregory Peck

I was watching the documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck on Netflix earlier this evening (I was very pleasantly surprised to find it there!). It was made in 1999 (4 years before Peck died) during a speaking tour he did throughout the US, where he spoke about his life and his career.

As I watched it, I realized I must have seen at least some of it before although there were also bits I didn’t remember. As an old-time Gregory Peck fan, hearing the stories he had to tell about his career (even though I already knew many) was an absolute joy! At one special moment in the documentary the actress who played his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird was in the audience. Apparently she still called him Atticus and he still called her Scout. ūüôā¬† He also invited his wife Veronique up on stage for a little bit…

The documentary also touched on Gregory Peck’s political convictions. He was famous for being a democrat and liberal and in the video speaks of opposing the Vietnam war while at the same time being proud of his son Stephen who had served in the army during that war. He is also shown giving a speech in Philadelphia in 1999 about gun control…

He says,“Is it the culture or the guns that led to the massacre at Columbine High School? And it is of course both. What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people?” Today, 19 years on, I could still give him a standing ovation for that. Gregory and I would certainly have agreed with each other politically…

What I loved even more in this documentary was the behind the scenes glimpses of him, with his wife and his family. His daughter Cecilia co-produced this documentary and was in it a lot…

Conversation Gregory Peck 08

… but there are also glimpses of his other kids (two sons, Stephen and Carey, from his first marriage and a son, Anthony, from his marriage to Veronique). I loved the images of a family get-together, where they all sat around and watched basketball. Look at the anticipation on the faces of Gregory and his son Stephen here!

Conversation Gregory Peck 02Conversation Gregory Peck 03

I had to blink away a few tears when Gregory spoke of his son Jonathan who had committed suicide at the age of 30, with Gregory wondering whether he could have done more to prevent that. And I blinked away major tears when the film featured Gregory waiting at the hospital for his daughter Cecilia to give birth and then meeting his 10 minute old grandson! Most parts of the documentary are also up on YouTube, I’ll just share this part about the birth here (from 5.20 minutes onwards in this video)…

The fascination with his new grandson and the concern he shows over his daughter just after giving birth so very much reminds me of my own father (and my mother) after my son was first born. Yet again, here is Gregory reminding me of my dad, even in the way he was a dad to his daughter! My parents showed that same love to my baby and the same concern for me…

2001 A. born papa mama Esther

… and their love and concern was repeated two and a half years later when my daughter was born..

The look of being in love with a new baby grandchild is very similar… It made me miss Gregory Peck and it made me miss my dad.

Conversation Gregory Peck 05

Oh, how I still love Gregory Peck! If you like him too, I recommend you check out this documentary on Netflix a.s.a.p…

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Stop all the clocks

Our neighbour very unexpectedly passed away at the age of 71 last week. We weren’t close but we were friendly and her sudden passing came as a bit of a shock. Her husband and two grown up children were left devastated. The funeral was held this morning, we attended with a few of our other neighbours and it brings home to me yet again how much I hate funerals… It’s so tough seeing the ones who were so close to the deceased struggling to deal with their loss and brings back memories of my own loss. The programme is always the same: there is music, there are speeches, sometimes readings – with every funeral I go to, the words of WH Auden, beginning with “stop all the clocks”, ring in my head (also so beautifully performed by John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral) …

… and afterwards there’s coffee and tea and people lining up to give their condolences to the grieving loved ones.

I’m thinking that maybe, when I go, I don’t want a funeral… it’s too heartbreaking for the loved ones left behind. Just everyone have a party if they must and then have everyone just leave… No endless sad speeches and sad music, no endless line of people shaking hands and paying respects… Just party, send me on my way with images of things I have loved, like¬†this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this most recent one….

… and be done with it!

My latest brush with fame!

I’ve had a few brushes of contact with famous people in my life. Not many, but some!

My first brush with fame was when I was a 4 year old girl living in Jerusalem and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Max van der Stoel, came to visit. They wanted a small Dutch kid to present him with flowers and my parents were approached for this, I think through the mayor’s office. My dad and the mayor knew each other through the work my dad did. I actually remember this occasion! I was very excited beforehand, I remember wearing a light blue dress, but when the time came, I got too shy and my dad had to help me hand over the flowers. That’s Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek grinning in the far left of the picture, Van der Stoel with the flowers and dark-rimmed glasses, shy me with hands in my mouth and on the right my dad, grinning wildly after he helped me hand over the flowers.

Max van der Stoel

When I was 15, I briefly met German president Richard von Weizs√§cker once when he visited my dad’s office in Germany in support of the work my dad did in Jewish-Christian dialogue (you can see the back of my dad on the left in this picture)…

1985 Von Weizsäcker in Buber House

Another famous man my dad worked with a lot and whom we saw on occasion was the former Archbishop of Canterbury from 1974-1980, Lord Donald Coggan. Donald Cogggan was a very special and warm man, modest, smart and funny. He used to call my younger brother and sister and me his ‘scallywags’ and there is one picture of us that I treasure…

Scallywags_ed

Another brief moment of contact with a famous person is with Gregory Peck, although I never met him personally. I had once written him a fan letter (the one and only one I have ever written) and requested an autograph from him. I never heard back, gave up on it, until two or so years later I finally received a response! I got an autographed picture, along with a note of apology. Apparently a bag of fan mail had been misplaced, which is why it had taken so long for me to get a response! That autographed picture has gotten lost in this house somewhere and I am still determined to find it, along with the note and the envelope it came in. The picture that was signed looked like this one (found this image on Ebay):Gregory Peck autographWhen I was 22, I went to a book signing in a bookstore here in The Netherlands and briefly met Peter Ustinov! He signed his book for me, which I was getting for my birthday on that day. Esje is my family’s nickname for me and I can’t remeber why I would have told Mr Ustinov that. I do remember him being very personable, maybe he asked if I had a nickname? It’s too long ago, I can’t remember…

I have of course met Richard Armitage briefly at the stage door in London in 2014 and have autographed items and a picture to help me remember that…

I have caught a glimpse of Pierce Brosnan up close and personal and he signed a picture my friend, a huge Brosnan fan, had…

I have spent an evening in the company of Michael Palin, listening to him talk about Ernest Hemingway and, a few months later, received a personally autographed book from him that my husband had gotten for me for my birthday!

And this past summer, I even briefly met and chatted with Lord Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother. He also signed a book for us (but it’s also made out to my husband, so I won’t post a picture of that here, Mr Esther’s real name is not for this blog).

My greatest brush with someone famous on the internet was when actress Sara Wiseman, who plays Carolyn on A Place To Call Home, liked my retweet of her tweet on Valentine’s Day 2016 and I was stoked about that…

Sara Wiseman tweet like 14-02-2016

And now today, two and a half hours ago, I discovered my latest brush with fame: Marta Dusseldorp, lead actress playing Sarah on A Place to Call Home, actually RETWEETED my tweet of yesterday in which I gush about APTCH season 5! Holy crap, I swear my heart stopped for a moment when I saw that! I never aim to have likes, replies or god forbid, retweets of any kind, but this one certainly has me stoked! Here, a screenshot from my phone when I discovered it!

Marta Dusseldorp retweet

So, thank you Marta Dusseldorp for making my day! And may we enjoy your talents for a long, long time to come!

‘Mensch’ Gregory

I mentioned Gregory Peck in my last Armitage challenge post and it got me thinking that it’s been ages since I saw any Gregory Peck movies (Roman Holiday excepted, I still dip into that one on occasion). So, before I wrote that challenge post, but when I was already thinking about the answers,¬†I re-watched To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the famous story of a Southern lawyer in the 1930s defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl. The story is told from the point of view of Atticus’ daughter, Scout…

Gregory Peck received an Oscar for this role, he is¬†as a true ‘Mensch’ (Yiddish for a man of decency, honesty, warmth and integrity) in this!

I love the character of Atticus and I love Gregory Peck as Atticus even though for me this so highly acclaimed film can’t quite live up to the book. The book is richer than a two-hour movie adaptation of it ever could be… Still, it is a good adaptation and Gregory is quite excellent in this! People have always said that Gregory Peck, the man, was very much like Atticus Finch, and that idea fills me with even more joy.

Next, I went on to watch one of my other favourites of his called The Big Country, which is a very different kind of Western. Peck plays a captain who comes out west to marry the daughter (Carroll Baker) of a rancher but won’t be bullied into macho ways and refuses to be drawn into a feud between his fianc√©e’s father and a neighbouring rancher… The daughter finds it hard to accept the ‘cowardly’ behaviour of her intended, while the schoolteacher friend (Jean Simmons) does seem to ‘get’ it and tries to help the daughter see it. Charlton Heston also stars in this movie as the right hand man of the fianc√©e’s dad and much more suited to her than Gregory’s character; Burl Ives plays the family’s rival rancher… I love this story of a good man staying true to himself and I love the chemistry between Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons in this (click on images to enlarge)…

Yes, Gregory is a real ‘Mensch’ in this one too!

I have also been updating my Peck collection with some movies I had never seen before. In the old days when I was a big fan it was difficult to get my hands on those movies and in later years I never really¬†tried… until now.

So last night I found myself watching a movie of his called Captain Newman MD. I’d¬†read good things about it but had never seen it before and I don’t think people even remember this movie anymore.¬†Admittedly, it is a little uneven to be one of the true classics but even so, I was quite impressed with it!

Peck plays an army psychiatrist at the end of WWII, tending to men who are driven over the edge from the horrors of war. He also constantly needs to defend his patients against the prejudice of mental illness, many tend to equal that to weakness of character. He is a real Mensch for his patients and the people around him and also struggles himself, dealing with all he experiences (he even gets drunk in one quite amusing scene).

The movie is not only tragic, it is¬†funny as well. Captain Newman has an un-orthodox way of gathering staff for his unpopular ward. Tony Curtis plays such a ‘hi-jacked’ orderly who turns out to fill his new role with gusto and is responsible for the bigger laughs of the movie. Angie Dickinson plays a nurse that Newman recruits in his unorthodox way as well. His patients include Eddie Albert (who was also the photographer in Roman Holiday), Robert Duvall in an early role (he also played Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird!) and singer Bobby Darin, who won a supporting actor Oscar nomination for this role.

In one scene Darin is drugged and tells the doctor the harrowing story of his trauma. Darin does that very well, but what totally mesmerized me was Gregory Peck just reacting to it all… He doesn’t say anything, just reacts. I think it’s one of the best acting performances I have ever seen him give!

Captain Newman MD Gregory Peck (7)

He holds the soldier after the tale is told, then puts him down to bed again. The look on his face is just heartbreaking…

Captain Newman MD Gregory Peck (11)Captain Newman MD Gregory Peck (15)

… and then he stares wordlessly out through the shutters…

Captain Newman MD Gregory Peck (16)

Just… wow! He also questions the wisdom of patching up the men, only to send them off to war again, to destruction and possible new trauma or death… Not all the patients he treats have a happy end and I think the humour in the movie is meant to counterbalance the tragedy. The movie ends on a tragic and a happy note as well. I have to say, I really laughed when at the Christmas party at the end¬†a group of Italian ‘POW’s perform ‘Hava Nagila’, which they think is an¬†old American (i.e. Indian) song.

And the absolute joy on Gregory Peck’s face as he claps along to it, makes up for some of the tragedy…

I’m so glad I finally got to see this! I know I’ll be going back to it again.

Next up: re-watching Gentleman’s Agreement, a movie Peck made in 1947 about a journalist posing as a Jewish man so he can learn about anti-Semitism! I remember it being quite good, an early Mensch-Gregory example,¬†but it has been years and years since I’ve seen it. I wonder how it will hold up for me when I see it again…

For me right now it seems that Gregory Peck is filling a certain “Mensch-void” that I see around me when I look at certain public figures in the world today. Looking at him in his Mensch-roles makes me feel a little better in these divisive times. I just hope there are still enough like him out there in the world today…

The RA Challenge, part 4

And it’s the final part too (following on from parts 1, 2 and 3) of Guylty’s RA Challenge! Questions 25 to 31…

2017-ra-fandom-challenge

#25 Favourite Object/Prop in Context with a Character

The only object/prop that has prompted its own blog post on here was Daniel Miller’s bike on Berlin Station! Loved seeing Richard speed around on that bike. I felt it wasn’t featured enough on the show…

#26 Favourite Costume worn by RA

While researching this, I came to the conclusion that I like Richard to look grungy and scruffy in his roles! I first thought I’d answer Thorin Oakenshield here…

Thorin Oakenshield

…because I find that, although he looks fierce and magnificent, there is a huggable quality there as well! But in researching pictures of Richard in different roles (oh the chore!), I find that the costume that does something to my insides is Richard as John Proctor! I love him in that black coat with the collar standing up…

…or when he is seen without coat but with the linen shirt…

…or with no shirt at all (I even like the boots!)…

armitage proctor @washbasin

I also really liked him in civilian clothes as John Porter in Strike Back, especially in the first two episodes where he wore a scarf as well…

… and when his jacket came off, he then showed himself quite nicely in just jeans and a dirty, grungy t-shirt. The flimsy t-shirt shows off his physique and arms very well…

#27 Favourite Quote by a Character or RA

I don’t think I have a favourite Richard-quote, I’m not really one to remember quotes off the top of my head. Having said that, a few do spring to mind: “Look back at me”, or “You’ll not guess where I have been”, or “You don’t need Henry to explain”, or “You coming home with me?”, all of them from North and South. Yeah, I may have watched it too often…

Another quote that springs to mind is something he was quoted as saying in an interview once: “I was a beanpole with a nose I hadn’t grown into.”

#28 Favourite Climax (i.e. series finale, battle, conclusion of a subplot, etc.)

Well, I guess I just referenced it in the previous question. There are many climaxes that I liked that hit home with me, like the ending of¬†The Crucible or Thorin dying in¬†The Hobbit, John Porter rescuing the journalist in¬†Strike Back or Harry proposing to Geraldine on The Vicar of Dibley. However, the climax I have watched most, hands down, is that train station finale of North and South. I really can’t count how often I have seen that, more than anything else in my life, I think! And it never gets old!

#29 A Moment That Made You Question Whether You Could Continue Fangirling For RA.

I was on a high when I discovered Richard in North and South and soon after I became very aware him, he also did Dibley¬†and¬†The Impressionists. I was Richard-obsessed at the time! But then he also did Guy of Gisborne on Robin Hood and Lucas North in Spooks and those characters really couldn’t entice me! I saw bits to start with but didn’t enjoy the shows and bailed. I postponed watching them for the longest time (even longer than I postponed watching the last 4 episodes of Berlin Station). I did later see things in Guy and Lucas that I found appealing, bits of Richard shining through, perhaps, but in those years (2008-2010 or so) I thought my Richard-obsessed days might be over. He was my fave (I’d still watch every interview and read every article and Christmas message) but not more or less so than my other fave Colin Firth. Then he did Strike Back and my attention was back into full-blown force. So much so, that he overtook Firth in my attention yet again and he has remained firmly in first place ever since!

#30 Will Anything Ever Replace RA in your Admiration?

When I was 15 I thought no one could surpass Gregory Peck…

When I was 30, I thought no one could surpass Colin Firth…

Now in my mid-forties, I think no one can surpass Richard Armitage!

richard_2a-20161016

But who knows what the future may bring? Never say never, but I can’t imagine surpassing feeling this level of involvement that I feel with Richard.

#31 What Would You Like to Say to RA Right Now?

I saw your latest tweet…

Armitage Farber tweets

Does this mean the London stage Oedipus and Antigone is happening at the beginning of 2018? I’ll so be there!

The End!

This challenge certainly deserved its name, finding answers to the questions was not always easy but it was always fun. Thanks Guylty! ūüôā