NEW YORK CITY [Lester Holt, NBC News]– There are some books and some movies that just stay with us because they find a way to touch us, provoke us, or give us pause.
Fifty years ago the film version was released of an American literary classic that took audiences on an unforgettable journey into the heart of racial injustice. The film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was a study in black and white, and it embodied the qualities of the Pulitzer prize winning novel. Like the book, the film is still provoking discussions about moral courage, justice and racism in America.
Now, it returns with a slightly different look. But the message still resonates.
The film’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated with a restored version that will air on the USA cable network. It will include an introduction from President Obama describing its enduring power. Last week, he was host at a special screening at the White House.
“He said it was one of his favorite films and you know he thought that I had done a very good job with everything, which I was very appreciative of,” said Mary Badham, who played “Scout” in the film.
Gregory Peck’s unforgettable portrayal of Atticus Finch, the lawyer who defends an innocent black man in the Jim Crow-era South, reflected the simmering reality of a nation’s struggle and shame over race at the dawn of the civil rights era.
“It was quite an impactful movie and one that bravely talked about race in an American society that was trying to sweep things mostly under the carpet,” said Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University Sociology professor.
The author, Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was her only book, and though she rarely speaks publicly, this week she said she was proud to know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on in a world that needs him now, more than ever. Badham agreed.
“Very honored to have been a part of this film that has touched so many lives and that means so much to so many people and has such relevance to what we’re dealing with today,” Badham said.
There may be too many lawyers in this world – but there definitely aren’t enough Atticus Finches.