I'm overdue in posting this past month's poll results...So here they are- The winner of the poll question, “Which of these actors had the best on-screen chemistry with Audrey Hepburn is Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (1953). Of the 79 votes cast, the results are as follows:
Gregory Peck- Roman Holiday 34 (43%) Cary Grant- Charade 25 (31%) George Peppard- Breakfast at Tiffany's 10 (12%) Humphrey Bogart- Sabrina 4 (5%) Rex Harrison- My Fair Lady 3 (3%) Gary Cooper- Love in the Afternoon 2 (2%) Fred Astaire- Funny Face 1 (1%)
I’ve gone on about Audrey Hepburn’s career-defining role in Roman Holiday before, so for this I’d like to recognize Gregory Peck’s 1950s film roles. The Fifties was a decade in which he received no Oscar nominations, but that time period finds the handsome—my wife thinks he’s dreamy-- and popular actor in many disparate and challenging roles. Peck had gotten a few Academy Award nominations in the late-1940s, but became a full-fledged star in the 1950s.
The Gunfighter (1950) has Peck in a fondly-remembered role as the best gunslinger in the west that is doomed by his very profession’s credo that there’s always someone trying to prove themselves against you, and that there’s always someone faster and more accurate on the draw.
David and Bathsheba (1951) If it was the 1950s, you did a Biblical Epic, or at least you wore a toga. Interesting? No. Varied? Absolutely!
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) Peck as the dying Hemingwayesque writer with a bitchy wife is dying and reflects on better times. Why didn’t they ever do Papa right in those 1950s film adaptations of his work? Only Bernard Herrmann’s score truly soars.
The Man In the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) “That sounds hot”, said the girl at Blockbuster Video back in 1997 when I asked if they had this film for rent. Jennifer Jones was no great actress, but she showed up with her weird ways and indefinite personality to play Peck’s wife, who had already sired a kid during his harrowing WWII experiences. More interesting was that Peck had become the prototypical man of his generation. If men wanted to be Burt Lancaster as he was in From Here to Eternity (1953), then most Joes actually found themselves in Peck’s predicament in this turgid effort. Another fine Bernard Herrmann score, though.
Moby Dick (1956) This is one of Peck’s great roles. He eschews the controlled and lets loose with a buoyant, dark, and obsessive character in Ahab. Plus, Peck himself almost got killed by that rubber whale. Greg wouldn’t explore this megalomaniac until his portrayal of General Douglas MacArthur in the 1970s.
Designing Woman (1957) Greg is a bachelor sportswriter in this splashy and colorful romantic comedy co-starring Lauren Bacall, who was a lot less interesting without Bogart and seemed adrift in her post-Bogart career. To be fair, Bogart had just died when she made this film, and Peck commended her professionalism. This movie could’ve been wonderful, but Peck just isn’t “bachelor” enough. He should’ve thrown in some Ahab wildness here.
The Bravados (1958) Rancher Peck kills off the gang of outlaws whom he believes murdered his wife. A dark, relentless film only brightened by a very young—and not as hot as she would be in middle age—Joan Collins. Peck is one-note here, but acquits himself well in his final scene. Nice cast of character actors in this one.
The Big Country (1958) Peck’s best movie and role of the 1950s. It’s a HUGE, sprawling, epic Western that has William Wyler/1950s written all over it. The Big Country also has one of the great Western music scores of all time in Jerome Moross' effort. Peck is gaining steam again; A good performance from him, and everyone else, too.
On the Beach (1959) Post-nuclear war film set in Australia. Another interesting choice for Peck, who could do anything by this point. Boy, those days were so bad when everybody worried about the Cold War and the USSR. Things are so much safer now!
Such a Decent Man: Gregory Peck nine years away from true movie immortality.