Directed by Robert Mulligan and starring Gregory Peck, this adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel is a classic in its own right. It has a wonderful soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein. The film captures the essence of the book, while compressing the plot into a shorter time span and shedding minor characters. Much of the narration and dialogue is taken straight from the book. The language is a little toned down.
The film is very well-crafted, with an excellent cast. If I have any criticism, it’s that we don’t get familiar with the black community of Maycomb. For example, in the book, Jem and Scout go to their housekeeper Calpurnia’s church, which would have been a good scene to have in the film.
I feel that if you haven’t read the book, then the film is a very good substitute if you want the basic story and a sense of place. However, for more background on the characters, a closer look at the town and a fuller hit of nostalgia, you have to read the book.
It’s interesting to consider that at the time of the book’s publication and the film’s release, the American civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The issues raised in Harper Lee’s 1930s-set story may have helped to bring awareness of racism in the South to a wider audience.