The American Film Institute (AFI), returns to the White House on April 5th for a 50th anniversary screening of 1962 classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” for President Obama. President Lyndon B. Johnson created the AFI in the White House Rose Garden in 1965, when he set a national mandate to “bring together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators and young men and women who wish to pursue the art form as their life’s work.”
President Obama will intro the film at the White House Family Theater with an audience including Washington DC students, actress Mary Badham (Scout) and the family of Gregory Peck (who will celebrate the late star’s 96th birthday that day), AFI Trustees Sir Howard Stringer (Chairman of Sony Corporation), Ron Meyer (President and COO of Universal Studios), AFI CEO Bob Gazzale and Arne Duncan (the U.S. Secretary of Education).
As announced yesterday, “To Kill A Mockingbird” will air April 7 on a national primetime USA Network broadcast (8:00 p.m. ET/PT), in partnership with the AFI and Universal, as part of the studio’s celebration of its 100th anniversary. Digitally remastered and fully restored by Universal, the screening will be introed by President Obama, who will no doubt speak to the relevance of the film’s messages of tolerance and racial injustice.
“I’m deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’  by introducing it to a national audience. I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I’m proud to know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on – in a world that needs him now more than ever.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will also showcase Universal’s new digital restoration of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary on Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater. Talk show host Tavis Smiley will interview Mary Badham, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Scout, the youngest at the time to earn that honor. She was ten.
Produced by Alan J. Pakula and directed by Robert Mulligan, “To Kill a Mockingbird” won three Oscars, including one for Best Actor Gregory Peck in the best role of his career, wearing horn rims and a seersucker suit as Atticus Finch, a Depression-era lawyer fighting against a prejudiced system in order to exonerate an African-American man falsely accused of rape. It was Peck’s only win out five nominations. Robert Duvall made his film debut as the mysterious Boo Radley.
On April 12 the Academy will screen “To Kill a Mockingbird” for 400 Los Angeles Unified School District high school students as part of its ongoing Media Literacy Program.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” ranks 25th on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movies” list of greatest American films, while Atticus Finch is AFI’s “greatest hero in the history of American film” on its “100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains” list. The film is also AFI’s #1 Courtroom Drama and #2 on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Cheers America’s Most Inspiring Films” list.