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His first screen test was a disaster, his features were large and irregular and his left ear outsized the right, yet he would one day be headlined as the Most Handsome Man in the World. And most of his leading ladies—among them, Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound, Jennifer Jones in Duel in the Sun, Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, Sophia Loren in Arabesque, Ava Gardner in On the Beach—would not disagree. Nor would Greta Konen, the vivacious hairdresser who in 1942 married a shy, insecure New York stage actor named Gregory Peck. Irreverent, candid, and refreshingly honest, Lynn Haney's carefully researched biography not only charts the remarkable career of the star who took the Oscar for his memorable performance as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, but also plumbs Peck's frequently troubling complexity in his off-screen roles as husband, father, lover, son. For along with Peck's engaging charm and easy generosity came an ingrained stubbornness, explosive temper, and often-melancholy turn of mind. And with his triumphs came heartbreak, personal tragedy, failure, and doubt. This is a story cast with movie moguls, directors, and nearly every major luminary in Hollywood and, starring for the first time in toto, Gregory Peck.
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Lynn Haney is the author of ten books including The Lady Is A Jock and Naked at the Feast: A Biography of Josephine Baker. She has written about entertainment, travel, sports and finance. Before becoming a full-time writer, she was employed by Christian Dior-Paris, The National Endowment for the Arts, CBS-TV News and The New York Times.From Publishers Weekly:
Before Peck died in 2003, Haney (Naked at the Feast: A Biography of Josephine Baker) had full access to the actor, who earned his iconic status as a national father figure after portraying the noble and taciturn Atticus Finch in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird. The ease with which Peck inhabited that role was rare for the actor: his dogged, wooden Method approach sometimes made him the bane of critics and of fellow actors and directors trying to elicit spontaneity from him. Disciplined preparation, however, was Peck's way of compensating for the emotional toll of a peripatetic childhood and absent parents. Method preparation also, Haney says, helped correct for features that seemed "large, irregular and gaunt" up-close. Haney plumbs Peck's own neglectful fathering (Peck blamed himself for his son Jonathan's suicide) and philandering with such co-stars as Ingrid Bergman, who mentored him during the filming of Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945). Peck often projected a stentorian calm on-screen, but in private he apparently required his first wife, Greta, to cater to his "monomania"; he was also a heavy drinker. Haney writes vaguely about Peck's "being repressed," but doesn't satisfactorily investigate how an emotionally stunted actor became a cultural treasure. Haney's insider perspective on Peck—whom she refers to as "Greg" throughout—is marred by a scattershot narrative and flat, workmanlike prose. B&w photos.
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