Gregory Peck – Archetype

There’s a lot of things having a fever will do to you, and now that it’s past I can say one of the benefits was an extremely strong remembrance — like a sense memory. It goes like this: I was home from college on a break, I was sleeping in my old room, and I got very sick. I had a rough night and I remember my father patting my face dry with a towel while the rest of the city was silent and sleeping, and standing in a fresh pair of pajamas kind of wobbly in the knees while Dad whisked the sweat soaked sheets off the bed and made it fresh, with neatly folded precise hospital corners. In the morning, instead of going into work he took me into his cardiologist. It was an office on Camden Drive (I think). I remember a red brick building and a middle-aged man sitting behind a desk in a paneled room, probably modeled after the interior of a Harley Street specialist — it didn’t look like any other doctor’s office I’d been in before. Soon I was in an aqua green windowless chamber standing up for a chest x-ray and the next thing I knew I was walking into a pharmacist’s shop with my father — that I also didn’t recognize. I could swear there were apothecary jars lined up along dark empty aisles and there was a glow in the back of the pharmacy and the deep soothing rumble of voices… Gregory Peck was at the counter speaking to a man in a white smock. My immediate reaction (and of course I knew better) was, “Look, Scout’s dad is here.” Really, Mr. Peck’s hair was nearly silver, he had on a pair of those over-sized 1980s glasses, and I think he was wearing a fisherman’s sweater… But, this is what I “saw” and felt clean down to my toes:

photographer leo fuchs mary-badham-and-gregory-peckYou know, sometimes it’s not so bad being identified with a role.

The photo is by Leo Fuchs, photographer and later a film producer. Leo Fuchs Archives | Golden Age of Hollywood

 

31 comments

    • Right where you needed to be. This is new stuff, I’m slowly emerging from the week that should have been devoted to the novel, except then I got sideswiped by a sore throat. Pouf honey! Right now I’m loving my daily cocktail of antibiotics and aspirin. And, a big non-contagious xox to you!

  1. I love how your memory just captures these stills, wobbly knees, fresh pajamas, hospital corners, apothecary jars and Scout’s dad. What a great story, made better by you, Vickie, the story teller.
    Have a beautiful day!
    Lisa

    • Hello Darling! I didn’t have to dig very deep for this one, temperature over a hundred and one and a visit from a childhood infection took me right back. Although, this time driving to my doctor’s appointment I was struck by how much I wanted to tear down the Beverly Center… Yes, when I’m empress of LA 😉
      Love,
      V

      • It is an eye sore, isn’t it? I always ask myself, what could be so difficult about designing beautiful buildings? They managed it in the past…? I’m a very aesthetic person so I find ugly buildings disturbing. Yes, I do. 🙂

        By the way… Do you know what Pinterest is? I was thinking you might enjoy it with all your beautiful photographs. It’s like an online scrap book and it’s quite addicting — although, some people don’t really take to it. But if you’re interested, go to my blog and hit the word Pinterest on the right side. It will take you to all of my boards. You can then open up a board by hitting the picture. I feel like those boards say more about me than anything I could write. Just if you feel like it.

      • Oh, that is beautiful. I went to your Pinterest and went straight for the flowers.

        I’m about to run and see an exhibit (?) that’s part of LA Fashion Week that the kid assisted on… It promises to be a very eye opening aesthetic experience!

        I think if you ever come visiting out this way we’ll have to go have tea at the Langham and look out over the gardens 🙂

  2. George Kaplan

    That was byoo-tee-ful and evocative. Eldred Peck, model of integrity, the dad you might like to have (tho’ it seems you have a fine one). It was pretty jarring (not to say rather silly) to see him as Mengele, but he had a fair crack at Ahab in Moby-Dick (irrelevant aside: “Call Me Ishmael”, one of the great opening lines in both novel and feature) yet there was a kind of integrity in Ahab’s lunacy. The impression of Peck’s Lincolnesque nobility was such that it’s difficult to think of anyone better suited to the male lead in Roman Holiday, we believe in him (just as we – I – believe in the similarly human self-sacrificing goodness of Audrey Hepburn), heck he was noble in The Gunfighter… I can only imagine what it was like seeing him at that age, well I don’t have to as you did such a marvellous job of writing about it. Mr Peck apart, the beauty of your story is in the textures that you bring to the portrait of your memory, the living presence of time past and present, the one overlaying the other, in an almost painfully lovely manner. Wonderful. California Proust! A window on another world. Eh, I’ve been taking pretentious pills don’tcha know!? (no, I say it as I see or *feel* it. Naysayers be damned or more choice epithets!). Hope you’re feeling better, George.

    • My pop had a cantankerous streak, and a vivid vocabulary, “that screenwriter, director, boy, (fill in the blank) is a wart on the rear end of progress,” but, he was a loving, learned, and very nurturing parent. I adored him and most of all I know he adored me. (And, I can swear in ways that are unprintable here.)… Mr. Peck really was a man of great character, and that came across in his roles, even when he was cast against type. Feeling much better!!! V

  3. George Kaplan

    Baby, there’s nothing like a little creative swearing is there?

    More seriously, your comments about your father are simply beautiful. He sounds like a great man, he must have been so, so proud of you his vibrant daughter, a superlative human being.

    P.S. Glad to hear you’re on the mend.

    • Oh, I’ve always wanted to use the imperial “we”… Brace yourself, we always welcome you here, as yourself or in any of your incarnations.
      With appreciation and affection,
      V

  4. Dear V

    It always seemed to me that whilst many actors occupy characters quite successfully, very few ‘own’ them.
    Katherine Hepburn was one, Meryl Streep is another.
    Itss as if their performances obliterate all possible alternative interpretations of the rolls they play or played.
    It is just so with Atticus Finch and Gregory Peck.
    In my mind the two are interchangeable exclusive to the rest of the world.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Meryl Streep – a transformational actress, and an incredibly prepared one. I wonder if that’s the key to a great screen presence?
      I’m trying to get this time difference down and glancing at the clock I see it’s 1:25 a.m. your time… Bon nuit! V

  5. George Kaplan

    V., I’m sincerely delighted and touched to read that.

    Before I forget I was just reading about Cary Grant (yes, him!) and it struck me as interesting that he used to worry about his incarnations, about the differences between Archie and Cary and Cary and Screen Cary. That must have been difficult but it led to him turning down some great roles. A pity. It’s also fascinating that Cary had his romantic fantasies, as with Sophia Loren. As much as Mr Grant could be awkward (which I can also identify with, believe it or not…) one can’t help but sympathize with his “seeking” something and his longing for love.

  6. I just have to say that each time you delay your hiatus just a bit more, I am glad. Your posts are always refreshing and they will be missed! During my time as Development Director for Barter Theatre, Gregory Peck (as icon) was one of our many talking points at the theatre, along with Patricia Neal, Ernie Borgnine, John Spencer and a host of others. I did not know any of them well, but as is the case with icons…archetypes…I feel that I did, and I somehow miss them. I wandered through my own fever last week. Yesterday I visited with my own Scout-like daughter, now in college. Today you have wrapped it all into its proper dream packaging. Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily, life is but a dream…. Glad you feeling better!

  7. Heather in Arles

    And to think I nearly missed this–and it was for me to boot!! Thank goodness I know to double-check now (as you are so prolific that I don’t always get every single post by email)…

    Vickie, it has been a while since I have read so much of your writing and it is just gorgeous. It is so full, you make it look so easy and just swoop the reader right along with you–it has made me look forward to when your book comes out even more. Great things are ahead for you, I just know it…
    Gros Bisous from Provence,
    H
    PS. I’ll take all of the Gregory Peck posts you wish to toss out there, thank you very much!
    PPS. Lanier’s comment made my heart go pitter pat.

      • Heather in Arles

        Oh I am all a flutter by “writer to writer”–as I don’t write fiction, I don’t usually consider myself one. Now, I know that is hogwash but it is also a cultural difference. I started writing here in France as a travel writer–a term that doesn’t exist in French–rather I was a “journaliste specialisée dans les voyages du longue cours”! Isn’t that a mouthful? Basically, I was “just” a journalist who was specialized in long distance travels. No matter that I put my heart into it, that it wasn’t simple reporting. To proclaim oneself “un ecrivain” or a writer here is considered shocking unless you have already been published as a fiction writer. And as I have no plans of writing fiction, I am currently “une blogeuese”–a label that (given the person knows what that is, rare) is met with a very gallic raised eyebrow of disdain.

        As I was an actress before and sang and danced before that and now love taking photographs on top of writing, I guess I would say that I am an artist–which believe it or not is somehow NOT considered as pretentious as calling oneself a writer! So an artist but more of the wandering kind…like one of Picasso’s scrappy harlequins. 🙂

        Like you, I LOVE to write. It is when I feel most myself and at PEACE. It makes me happy to hear that it is enjoyable for you too–I think that we are rare birds, no? So many other writers that I know absolutely rip themselves to pieces before, during and after. I don’t feel obsessed about having to write though nor do I rewrite endlessly, either. I take my time beforehand and really like the build-up before that swoop too–so mysterious. Is it for you too?

        Verrrry long response. I know how busy you are dear V so take it or leave it as it is! But clearly, this is a subject that means more to me than I let on…
        Gros, gros bisous à toi aussi! So happy you are out there…
        H.

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