“Hey That Guy Was on Star Trek!” — To Kill a Mockingbird (1963)

I was just watching the marvelous To Kill a Mockingbird recently, such a beautiful film, and one of my forever favorites. Gregory Peck as Atticus is one of my all time heroes, and the entire movie was perfectly cast.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, To Kill a Mockingbird recalls the tale of young Scout Finch (Mary Badham) growing up in Alabama during the Depression, her father Atticus is a trial lawyer.  When Atticus is called upon to defend a black man accused of rape, we see the tale unfold through Scout’s eyes. It’s a tale of prejudice and suspicion, but also a tale of the simple wonders of childhood, and how Scout learns compassion and tolerance.  I cannot recommend it enough. (And as for the new prequel, Go Set a Watchman– at first I was eager to read it, but now not so much as Atticus has been recast late in his life as a bigot…Can’t bring myself to read it–Yet.)

Anyway, it may seem trivial to point all the actors here who also appeared on Star Trek, but it just goes to show how caring the casting directors of Trek took great care to hire the best character actors. Enjoy.

First of all, Atticus’ friend and Sheriff of the town, Heck Tate, is played by Frank Overton, who TOS fans recognize as  Elias Sandoval from This Side of Paradise:

Frank Overton as Heck Tate and Elias Sandoval

Frank Overton as Heck Tate and Elias Sandoval

Scout’s summertime friend Dill Harris is played by  a tiny John Megna, who would grow quite a bit a mere three years later to play the nasty ‘Bonk Bonk!” boy in Miri:

John Megna

John Megna as little Dill, and as the “Bonk, Bonk!” boy in ‘Miri’

The father of the mysterious neighbor Boo Radley is played by  veteran actor Richard Hall, who was also Goro in The Paradise Syndrome. 

Richard Hall

Richard Hall as Mr. Radley and as Goro

At the trial, Judge Taylor is Paul Fix, who’d be Dr. Mark Piper in Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Paul Fix as the Judge and as Dr. Piper.

Paul Fix as the Judge and as Dr. Piper.

Atticus’ opponent, Prosecutor Mr. Gilmer is played perfectly by the versatile  William Windom, who cemented his Trek fame as Commodore Decker in The Doomsday Machine.

William Windom

William Windom as Prosecutor Gilmore and as Commodore Matt Decker.

And finally, although he wasn’t in the original series, the poor defendant, Tom Robinson, is played with heartbreaking anguish by Brock Peters.  Peters would later have prominent roles in Star Trek IV (Voyage Home) and Star Trek VI (Undiscovered Country) as Admiral Cartwright and in Star Trek Deep Space Nine as Joseph Sisko, the father of Commander Sisko  🙂

Brock Peters as

Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Admiral Cartwright, and as Joseph Sisko.

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014

12-lauren_bacall

No-nonsense Lauren Bacall in the 1940’s.

I’m a little late on this one, but no less sincere. Hollywood lost yet another talent this past week with the passing of smokey-voiced Lauren Bacall.

Lauren was an icon of classic movies, and I am always happy to find one of her movies on TCM.  On screen she was a no-nonsense dame, whether flirting on screen with                Humphrey Bogart or Gregory Peck, you knew who had the upper hand in these romances.

She was only 19 when she made her screen debut in To Have and to Have Not  with Bogart, whose rough exterior seemed an odd coupling with the angular teen. But they sparked onscreen and off, and were happily married for 12 years until his passing in 1957.  She was married to Jason Robards (Jr.) from 1961-1969 and had two children from Bogart and one from Robards.

Bacall was well loved by movie fans the world over, but as she said ” “Stardom isn’t a career. It is an accident.”  Bacall was foremost an actress, albeit an amazingly glamorous one, and when you compare her work to the sad parade of comic-book female types that populate the blockbusters these days, she has (and will) stand head and shoulders above them for years to come.

I think one thing that draws me back over and over to classic films of Bacall, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn is they way they portrayed strong, intelligent, independent women on the screen.   These women had presence and power that reminded women that you didn’t have be an air-head to be noticed.  There are few of these screen legends left now; we still have Olivia De Haviland, Maureen O’Hara, Doris Day and Kirk Douglas, but I really miss seeing mature men and women portrayed in today’s movies. So often movie heroes are just overgrown boys and beach bunnies.  Modern Hollywood summer blockbusters leave me flat, and really good ‘women’s pictures’ are few and far between.   I suppose the only place left to find good stories about men and women is in the independent cinema.  But it’s sad to see, as these legends pass, the quality of stories go down.  Perhaps when Hollywood finally acknowledges that there are movie-goers out there that are outside the 18-24 demographic, we’ll see a return to good drama (but I’m not holding my breath).

But back to Bacall. If you want to see a no-nonsense dame flip a man’s world upside down, watch Lauren nibble Gregory Peck’s ear in Designing Woman, or distract Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn. Bacall could surely kick any reality star fame-monger to the curb with a single glance. Betty Bacall, we’ll never forget you.