GREGORY PECK Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born Eldred Gregory Peck in La Jolla, California, he was the son of a Missouri mother and a chemist called Gregory Peck, whose mother Catherine Ashe was an Irish immigrant from County Kerry. Catherine Ashe was related to the Irish patriot Thomas Ashe, who took part in the Irish Easter Rising in the year of Peck’s birth and died on hunger strike in 1917. Peck’s parents divorced when he was five and he was reared by his grandmother. Peck was sent to a Roman Catholic military school in Los Angeles at the age of 10. He attended San Diego High School. When he graduated, he went to San Diego State University, but dropped out a year later. For a short time, he took a job driving a truck for an oil company. In 1936, he enrolled as a pre-med student at the University of California, Berkeley. He majored in English and rowed on the university crew. He was recruited by the school’s Little Theater and appeared in five plays his senior year.


After graduation, Peck dropped the name “Eldred” and headed to New York City in 1939 to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He was often broke and sometimes slept in Central Park. He worked at the 1939 World’s Fair and as a tour guide for NBC television. He made his Broadway debut as the lead in Emlyn Williams’ “Morning Star” in 1942. His second Broadway performance that year was in ‘The Willow and I’ with Edward Pawley. Peck’s acting abilities were in high demand during World War II, since he was exempt from military service due to a back injury suffered while receiving dance and movement lessons from Martha Graham as part of his acting training. Twentieth Century Fox claimed he had injured his back while rowing a boat at university. In Peck’s words, “In Hollywood, they didn’t think a dance class was macho enough, I guess. I’ve been trying to straighten out that story for years.”


Peck’s first film was Days of Glory, released in 1944. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times, four of which came in his first five years of film acting: for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949).