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‘Scout Finch’ to Speak at Opera House

Mary Badham, known for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ will discuss the legacy of Harper Lee’s classic

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The woman best known for her childhood portrayal of Scout Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” will visit the Woodstock Opera House.

Mary Badham will be the featured speaker at the Woodstock Fine Arts Association’s Creative Living Series Thursday, April 20. Badham appeared opposite Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch in the classic film.

Badham will give a lecture about her experience playing the role, the lifelong friendship with Gregory Peck that arose from that experience, and her thoughts on the famous story and its ongoing pertinence to American life. 

“It speaks as clearly today as it did when it was first written,” Badham said. “It has all of life’s lessons that we don’t seem to have learned yet.”

Although Badham played a pivotal role in bringing this great work of American literature to life on screen, she did not read the book herself until she was an adult. She worried that reading the book after seeing the film would change her entire attitude about the story, and it did — the book has so much to offer, despite its simple delivery and child narrator. She describes the story as “an awakening.” 

“It speaks to an age of innocence but an age of becoming aware as well,” Badham said.

As a 10-year-old rookie actor, Badham was unaware of the profundity of her character, yet she fit the role perfectly, perhaps due to her childlike innocence of the serious nature of the story. Like Scout, Badham was raised in the South in an era where children were taught respect and manners, and she grew up a tomboy, with all brothers in her family and nephews close in age she played with as a child. 

She describes her father as a real-life Atticus Finch who “believed very strongly in family doing the right thing, being a gentleman and all the things that went along with that.” Her onscreen father, Gregory Peck, played the role of Atticus Finch with perfect authenticity. She describes him as someone she “totally respected and loved as a human being and as a character.”

Badham also has fond recollections of Harper Lee, whom she calls “Miss Nell.” Although Lee appeared during filming and at the premiere of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Badham did not connect with her until many years later, when she visited the elderly author at her home in Monroeville, Ala. Lee is often portrayed as a recluse by the press, but Badham said she found her warm and inviting, sharp-witted and a joy to spend time with. 

From the brilliant mind of a straightforward and personable woman came the inspirational story that moved generations, teaching mutual respect for one another and giving neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Mary Badham’s life was touched by “To Kill a Mockingbird” in a unique way. 

She will speak at 10 a.m. April 20 at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St. Tickets are $25. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit woodstockoperahouse.com.