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‘Mockingbird’ retains its vitality

It’s more than a book, and more than a movie. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an institution of American culture. New proof arrived last week.

Harper Lee’s 1960 novel and the 1962 movie remain a touchstone for believers in the ideal – and the “living, working reality” – of the American criminal justice system. The book and movie deftly expose racial injustice and hypocrisy in a small Southern town while simultaneously charming audiences with the social education of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her older brother, Jem.

Should anyone think the movie has lost its hold on the hearts of viewers, witness the standing room crowd last week at a Salem meeting room, where Mary Badham (above) – the actress who played Scout – entertained with stories about the making of the iconic film.

“This film spoke to so many different people on so many different levels,” Badham told the hundreds of fans who crowded to see her at Roanoke College.

One measure of the movie’s influence, Badham said, was the number of people who told Gregory Peck, “I became a lawyer because of your role.” Many of those honored by VLW for legal leadership have acknowledged the influence of “Mockingbird.”

For those bent on emulation of Atticus Finch without the expense and risk of law school, eyeglass maker Oliver Peoples will sell you the look. For the 50th anniversary of the novel’s publication, Peoples offered the “Gregory Peck” frame.

We’re told it’s a hot item for lawyers of a certain age.

By Peter Vieth

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