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National News

July 30, 2011

Festival marks 50th anniversary of 'Mockingbird'

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Mary Badham was 9 years old when she acted in the 1962 drama, "To Kill a Mockingbird" - too young to be aware of much of the civil rights movement happening in her native Alabama.

She also was shielded from the film's content. Child actors, she said, were not allowed on the set during filming of most of the courtroom scenes.

"I don't think we even saw scripts," said Badham, 58, while attending a screening during a celebration of the movie at the Traverse City Film Festival. "We were children, and in those days there were things deemed not appropriate for children to hear."

The movie's Depression-era story revolves around a small-town Southern lawyer, played by Gregory Peck, appointed to defend a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Badham played Scout, the lawyer's tomboy daughter.

The movie was based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and remains immensely popular nearly 50 years after its release.

"We could have sold six screenings of this," said Film Festival Executive Director Deb Lake. "It was one of the most hoped-for tickets on almost everybody's list. As soon as we announced it, we had people calling and saying, 'I named my daughter (or son) after Harper Lee.' This is just a film that has changed so many lives."

Badham said she got the role of Scout during a "cattle call" in Birmingham, Ala. She recalled working on the film and the long-lasting relationships she built with other actors. She and Peck remained friends until his death in 2003.

Badham only played in a few other movies and television series before retiring from acting. She has appeared in a several retrospectives and tributes, including the recent documentary, "Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'"

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