As we anxiously await the release of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, we shouldn’t forget that 55 years ago on July 11th, Harper Lee’s first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published. While critics may not have raved about the book when it first came out, the novel, published right before the peak of the American civil rights movement, became a phenomenal success, selling more than fifteen million copies and winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It was then made into a movie shortly afterward in 1962. Since the book was published, To Kill a Mockingbird has topped must-read book lists, and the movie version of the book ranks 25th on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of Greatest American Movies of All Time.
I have gathered 14 interesting facts about Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, (both the book and the movie). I wonder how many you will already know and how many will be new to you.
- The author Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote were next-door neighbors in their hometown of Monroeville, AL. The character of Dill is said to be based on Capote.
- Lee said she identified with Jane Austen, because she wanted to challenge social norms and customs.
- Lee’s mother’s maiden name was Finch.
- A man named Son Boulware lived down the road from Lee and Capote and used to hide presents for them in the trees around his house.
- Atticus was loosely based on Lee’s father, who retired from the practice of criminal law after defending a group of black men who were accused of murder. He lost the case, turning his attention to reporting the news instead.
- The book that Scout tells her father about, The Gray Ghost, was a real children’s book by Robert F. Schulkers—part of a series of adventure titles in the 1920s that Lee read when she was young.
- Lee is an honorary member of the Alabama Bar on the basis that in creating Atticus, she created an exemplary lawyer.
- Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s editor was so intrigued by a flashback in Go Set a Watchman that encouraged her to write a book from the child’s point of view.
- To Kill a Mockingbird is Clark Kent’s favorite movie in the Superman Comics.
- Gregory Peck won his first and only Academy Award in 1963 for his role as Atticus Finch.
- To prepare for the role of Boo Radley, Robert Duvall spent six weeks out of the sun so he would look like someone who had spent most of his life indoors.
- After the film was completed, Lee gave Gregory Peck her father’s watch, because she said he reminded her so much of her father. Peck wore this to the Academy Awards.
- Brock Peters, the actor who portrayed Tom Robinson, delivered Peck’s eulogy on the day of his funeral, June 16, 2003.
- Peck’s grandson Harper Peck Voll is named after Harper Lee.
So, how many of these facts did you already know?
The HPB Book Club is currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird. If you would like to chat with fellow HPB Book Clubbers, visit hpb.com/bookclub/fb and join the conversation.
Plus, look for Go Set A Watchman at your local Half Price Books on July 14!