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Mary Badham to share 'Mockingbird' memories

November 5th, 2011 5:41 pm by staff report

Sharing film scenes with Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall would be daunting for the most seasoned actor. But when 9-year-old Mary Badham won the role of Scout Finch in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she gracefully rose to the occasion to become part of an iconic screen masterpiece that still resonates with audiences.

Local residents can get an insight from Scout herself when Northeast State Community College presents “An Evening with Mary Badham” at 7 p.m., Nov. 15 at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the college’s main campus in Blountville. The event is free and open to the public.

“It’s such an amazing educational tool,” Badham said. “This film touches people, and I’ve seen where the book and the film both have brought people together and showed them what a family can do.”

The film version of Harper Lee’s classic tale of bigotry and justice earned eight Academy Award nominations. The story follows Scout’s father Atticus Finch, portrayed by Peck, as he defends a black man wrongly accused of rape in 1930s Alabama.

The American Film Institute lauded it as the greatest courtroom drama and 25th-best American film ever made. Peck and Badham were both nominated for Academy Awards. (Peck won for Best Actor; Badham lost out to Patty Duke for “The Miracle Worker.”)

Badham’s mother was one of Birmingham’s leading theatrical actresses, though Mary herself had never acted before winning the “Mockingbird” role at a casting call. She looked the part of the impish, smart-but-sassy heroine in overalls, and her naturalistic performance made it impossible to imagine anyone else as the daughter of Atticus.

The relationship between Atticus and Scout on screen mirrored the real-life bond between Peck and Badham until his death in 2003. He reminded her of her own upright, distinguished father, an Air Force general. She always called Peck “Atticus.”

Badham was a young mother, long past Scout’s age, when she finally read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She delayed picking up Lee’s novel because the 1962 film version told the story of the events surrounding an upstanding, Depression-era Southern family so well for her. But after settling into the book at the urging of a college instructor who invited her to speak to his class, she found it moving and meaningful in its own right.

Badham is now one of the foremost champions of “Mockingbird” on speaking engagements around the country. She was Scout Finch, after all, and in many ways, Scout was her.

For more information, call (423) 354-2574 or email

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