Peck's peak. Based on Harper Lee's semiautobiographical, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1960, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a hauntingly nostalgic portrayal of childhood mischief set in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930s. If the film's tone sometimes seems overly righteous, it's offset by a poetic lyricism that is difficult to resist embracing. Gregory Peck plays incorruptible lawyer Atticus Finch, a widower with two children, 10-year-old Alford and tomboyish 6-year-old Badham. During the summer, Alford and Badham amuse themselves by rolling each other down the street in a tire or playing in a treehouse. What occupies them most, however, is the creaky wooden house where Robert Duvall lives. According to neighborhood legend, Duvall is crazy and chained to his bed by his father, though he has never been seen, at least by the children. While the kids play, Peck agrees to represent a black man who is accused of raping a young white woman. A number of people try to pressure him into stepping down from the case, but his pursuit of justice is unwavering. As the trial proceeds, Peck, Alford, and especially Badham learn as much about each other as they do about their own fears and prejudices. Since its release, this intelligent, atmospheric film has been warmly received by audiences responding not only to their own childhood, but also to the heroic image portrayed by Peck, a shining example of citizenship and affectionate fatherhood. There is also a superb score by Elmer Bernstein. The language, emotions, and general subject matter of the trial scenes may be a bit rough for some children, but in Peck's solid, idealistic hands, all good things triumph. This was Robert Duvall's film debut.