[As Gregory Peck] “I have a few minutes still. Did I ever tell you good people about The Meanest Man That Ever Took a Breath of Life? When my Daddy was a boy in the Depression,
there was a young man they called The Mongoloid Across from the City Stairs.”
Until the ‘70s, Mongolism was the official name for Down Syndrome. “The Mongoloid was The Meanest Man’s son, who he kept chained under the front porch, in the crawl space behind the front steps of their house, across the street to the immediate northwest of the top of Waterbury’s City Stairs. The house has been greatly remodeled since, but the original concrete stairs still lead up to wooden stairs in front of the lattice-work frame of the crawl space, refurbished but design-unchanged.
Daddy went to that house to see where that they locked that young man up. He said his teeth were yella & rotten, his eyes popped & he drooled most of the time. There was a maniac that lived in that house. But it was The Meanest Man not The Mongoloid that was dangerous. I know folks were afraid of the intellectually disabled in those days. And The Meanest Man was probably afraid to even let his son sit in the living room & cut up paper with a scissors. Scared that he’d stab himself in his leg, pull ‘em out & go right on cutting the paper. Maybe he wanted to send him to an asylum but didn’t have the money. And maybe you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin & walk around in it. But he locked his son up & chained him under the porch! EVEN IN THE WINTER! Probably nearly died of the damp. Lord knows what that man was thinkin’. And that’s why he’s The Meanest Man That Ever Took a Breath of Life. Sure, The Meanest Man was the victim of cruel poverty & ignorance. But my pity on him does not extend so far as putting his son’s life at stake. That young man was a human being. Mistreating someone who’s disabled is 10 times worse than mistreating someone fully abled. And the assumption that the intellectually disabled are basically immoral beings who are not to be trusted around others & cannot be left alone is evil. We have an intellectually disabled nephew who’s 34. Tommy’s over 6.5’ tall & weighs about 325 lbs. As a boy, he was even bigger than that comparatively speakin’; and hyper! Our kids are younger & ‘though we were nervous that he might accidentally hurt ‘em growing up, we showed him only kindness. He only did 1 thing: Just try his heart out to make us happy & love The Gentle Giant. To be mean to Tommy is To Kill a Mockingbird, isn’t it?
[Normal] Robert Mulligan’s Classic is set in 1932 Maycomb AL when money was scarce & fear rampant, even though they’d recently been told that they had [FDR] nothing to fear but fear itself.” [Normal] Or so Scout As an Adult (uncredited Narrator Kim Stanley), Atticus Finch’s (Gregory Peck) daughter tells us in the opening prologue, even though, anachronistically, FDR’s famous quote came on 3/4/33 during his first inaugural address. Atticus is a widowed lawyer assigned to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of raping white teenager Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox). His kids, Scout & Jem (Mary Badham in her only Oscar-nominated performance, and Phillip Alford), are fearful of & curious about their neighbor Boo Radley (Robert Duvall in his first confirmed movie role), a young man who’s different in more ways than his albinism that isn’t allowed to leave the house. The film won 3 Oscars in 1963 at the 35th Academy Awards: Best Actor; Art Direction; and Horton Foote’s Adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. Mulligan’s direction, Best Picture, Elmer Bernstein’s (no relation to Leonard) Substantially Original Score , and Russell Harlan’s Black & White Cinematography
also received nominations.
Harper Lee died of a stroke on 2/19. Before its publication last year, her other novel, Go Set a Watchman, was really just a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird that she finished in ’57. It was almost released as an on-the-heels sequel to her 1960 bestseller. When she finished To Kill a Mockingbird, she accompanied her lifelong friend Truman Capote, on whom Dill Harris (John Megna) is based, to Holcomb KS to help him research In Cold Blood, the 1st ever non-fiction novel. In ’66, LBJ made her a member of the National Council on the Arts; and 4 years earlier, she befriended Gregory Peck. So watch the trailer below, then go to Netflix to stream [Peck] Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird, starring the man with the golden voice, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in his only Oscar-winning performance. 4 Stars!!!