June 22, 2005


A good Scout returns — for now: Mary Badham, who earned an Oscar nomination for "To Kill a Mockingbird," is back on the screen, 39 years after her last movie. (Susan King, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

Mary Badham gave one of the greatest child performances as the tomboyish 6-year-old Scout in the classic 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."

It was one of those rare times when character and actor blended seamlessly together. Many film critics say her scenes with Oscar-winner Gregory Peck, who played her widowed father — the principled, honorable attorney Atticus Finch — are among the most tender ever put on screen.

Badham received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress but lost to another juvenile performer, Patty Duke for "The Miracle Worker." Post-"Mockingbird," the Alabama-born Badham appeared in a 1964 episode of "The Twilight Zone" and two movies in 1966, "This Property Is Condemned" and "Let's Kill Uncle."

Not long after, she willingly retired from the spotlight. She later married, raised two children and had pretty much put the film business behind her — that is until writer/director Cameron Watson managed to coax her out of retirement.

Badham has a cameo in Watson's new family film, "Our Very Own," which premieres today at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The nostalgic drama, which doesn't have a distributor yet, is set in Shelbyville, Tenn., in 1978 and revolves around five star-struck teenagers who set out to meet actress Sondra Locke. Badham's character has a pivotal encounter with Keith Carradine, who plays the troubled father of one of the teenagers (Jason Ritter).

Watson says it was always his dream to entice Badham to come out of retirement. "As a child 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was an important film to me and I always thought ... she gave the greatest childhood performance ever."

One scene in To Kill a Mockingbird has always seemed to sum up America--the one where a rabid dog shows up on the Finch family's street. Scout and Jem run for the housekeeper, Calpurnia, and she summons Atticus, who arrives shortly, Sheriff Heck Tate in tow. The bloodthirsty kids watch eagerly, anticipating that Tate will shoot the dog, but to their bewilderment he asks Atticus to do it. Atticus, who in their eyes is a sort of effete intellectual, turns out to have been the best shot in the county, though he dislikes hunting. Atticus puts the dog down as his children stare at him, mouths agape, a newfound awe and respect evident in their adoring eyes. Humbly, Atticus hands back the gun and heads back to work, an unpleasant duty done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2005 8:01 AM

And what conservative doesn't sympathize, even slightly, with Dill's proclamation that he wants to start a new circus where the clown stands in the center ring and laughs at all the folks?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 22, 2005 8:44 AM

Boo was Robert Duval.

Posted by: Jim Burke at June 22, 2005 8:54 AM

She was "Scout" Finch.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 22, 2005 9:16 AM

and dil was based on truman capote

Posted by: cjm at June 22, 2005 9:54 AM