Nov 29, 2015

Gregory Peck, The Yearling

Won: Golden Globe - Best Actor

Call me crazy and save me from myself, because I didn't think The Yearling was half bad. For a film about a boy, his pet deer, and his parents which runs a little over two hours, I found it to be well-paced and engaging. And so Gregory Peck is back again, going from Father Francis to the literal Father Penny Baxter, in a performance that is, unsurprisingly, more of the same.

Orating through the film with a botched (hick?) accent, Peck sounds more like an eloquent narrator than he does a Floridian backwoods farmer. I have conflicted feelings about this performance; for starters, Penny is a a horribly one dimensional character. He has no sort of arch, no sort of character development whatsoever. He is simply here to play the good parent, the proud, beaming dad who loves and teaches his son a few life lessons throughout the course of the flick. There is no depth to Penny outside of the surface value that Peck serves us. On the other hand, Penny's goodness and paternal warmth is resonant; Penny actually reminds me of my own dad, and the exchanges we had when I was a child (minus the bear hunting and doe shootings, etc.) Additionally, I found Peck's display of restrained emotion near the picture's end to be quite heartwarming. But whatever the case, this is a performance that is basic in its makeup and done rather adequately, but what else is there to say? Aside from feelings of familial nostalgia I don't think Peck was doing anything that aimed beyond the confines of his capabilities. It's the 'good guy' role, no flaws to be found, the kind of perfect guy that's easy to play and boring to watch.


  1. I confess; I haven't seen it. I'd watch it though to see Peck that young and in color. Eventually, I'll catch it. But from this period, I'm sure I'd rather watch him again with Ingrid.

  2. I'm not surprised that you have an appreciation for this movie. It's a family film in the best sense of the term that is both well directed and adroitly scripted. I'm also not surprised that you found Peck both engaging and underwhelming. Oscar nominations notwithstanding, both he and Wyman play second fiddle to Claude Jarmin Jr. as Jodie and to that pesky yearling. It's a backdrop role that disappears for long stretches in the film and requires little to no range. Peck has a charm factor, though, that makes him an effective screen presence. Also, "The Yearling" was an iconic film for two generations of boomer kids. Still, I think this nomination was due mostly to Peck's mid to late '40s hot streak of popularity in Hollywood and with audiences.

    Also, it's good to have your informed perspective back in the mix, Allen.