15 July 2014

British censors applaud To Kill A Mockingbird

Robert Mulligan's "To Kill a Mockingbird", based on Harper Lee's successful coming-of-age novel, was released on 25 December 1962 and became a big commercial and critical success. The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay (Horton Foote) and Best Art Direction (Bumstead, Golitzen and Emert). On 31 December 1962, the British Board of Film Censors wrote a letter addressed directly to leading man Gregory Peck. "To Kill a Mockingbird" had been submitted to the Board for approval (for the UK release), and in the letter John Trevelyan (secretary to the Board) told Peck what they thought of it. Not only did they approve the film but they absolutely loved it, as can be read below:

Source: margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences


31st December 1962

Gregory Peck, Esq.,
Universal International,
Universal City,
California, U.S.A.

My dear Greg,

A few days before Christmas we saw "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD". We were all immensely impressed by this beautiful picture and think that it is one of the very best things you have done in your distinguished career. Quite apart from your own performance, which was faultless, we would particularly like to commend the children. Here was an example of real natural children on the screen, and this is quite a rarity. As I told you in a recent letter it set us a problem of category. While the film was basically suitable for the "A" category there were a few things in it which were really "X" material, but we decided that this was justified by the theme of the picture, by its honesty, and by the discretion used in dealing with the potentially troublesome material.

The theme is one which touches our work closely. We feel that it is not only wrong but impossible to shield children completely from the wickedness of the world, and we feel that through seeing something of it they may discover good things as well. The children's excited reaction to the madman who lived nearby, and their eventual discovery that he was a kindly defective, is just the sort of thing that children should learn. Whoever wrote this material, whether the author of the book or the writer of the screen play, really knows a lot about children.

Thank you for sending us such a lovely picture. We all hope that it will be a commercial success.

With good wishes to you all for 1963.

Yours sincerely,

John (signed)

Left photo: the film's little heroes from left to right: Phillip Alford (Jem), Mary Badham (Scout) and John Megna (Dill); right photo: Gregory Peck reading Harper Lee's novel

1 comment:

  1. Another fascinating letter. It is such a wonderful film.