The Art of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

(Last Updated On: February 20, 2016)

I don’t post much on Pigtails anymore, but in light of the fact that we lost author Harper Lee yesterday, I felt compelled to make a post on To Kill a Mockingbird, which has inspired not only the wonderful 1962 film but many artists who’ve interpreted the work visually. Here are some of the best I have encountered.

First, let’s look at just a few of the many lovely book cover designs that have been created over the years since the book’s initial publication. Some of these are actually in use; others are just practice designs done by assorted artists.

Aky-Aky - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Aky-Aky – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Tumblr: Aky-Aky

Kristiina Seppä - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

Kristiina Seppä – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

Kristiina Seppä (official site)

Sarah J. Coleman (Inkymole) - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Sarah J. Coleman (Inkymole) – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover)

Inkymole (official site)

Hugh D’Andrade - To Kill a Mockingbird (front)

Hugh D’Andrade – To Kill a Mockingbird (front)

Hugh D’Andrade - To Kill a Mockingbird (back)

Hugh D’Andrade – To Kill a Mockingbird (back)

Hugh Illustration (official site)

TaraGraphic - To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

TaraGraphic – To Kill a Mockingbird (cover design)

DeviantArt: TaraGraphic

And here is an assortment of illustrations inspired by the book and/or the movie:

T.S. Rogers (Teaessare) - To Kill a Mockingbird

T.S. Rogers (Teaessare) – To Kill a Mockingbird

DeviantArt: Teaessare

Jeremy Osborne - Scout Finch on the Porch Swing

Jeremy Osborne – Scout Finch on the Porch Swing

Etsy: Jeremy Osborne

Kelley McMorris - To Kill a Mockingbird

Kelley McMorris – To Kill a Mockingbird

Kelley McMorris Illustration (official site)

Knighthead - Mockingbird

Knighthead – Mockingbird

DeviantArt: Knighthead

And now, some art and photography related to the film, which of course starred Mary Badham as Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch, the book’s narrator. Badham was nine when she was cast as Scout, and though it was her first acting gig, she proved to be a natural, earning an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress at age ten, the youngest person ever to get such a nomination up until that point and for a decade after (she would eventually be supplanted by Tatum O’Neal, who actually won Best Supporting Actress in 1973 for her role in Paper Moon; O’Neal remains the youngest person ever to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, or anything else).

Although not the prettiest child, there is something undeniably charming and compelling about little Mary Badham that renders her absolutely disarming and lovable. Unfortunately, she didn’t do much else as a child actress: a couple of TV guest spots, one on Dr. Kildare playing a victim of child abuse at the hands of her mother, and one in The Twilight Zone episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool” playing a pretty obvious Scout Finch analogue named Sport Sharewood, who escapes (along with her brother) from her bickering, negligent parents into a magical world by means of the titular pool. “The Bewitchin’ Pool” is also notable for being the very last episode of the original Twilight Zone series. After a couple of teen roles in the 1966 films This Property Is Condemned and Let’s Kill Uncle, Badham retired from acting for nearly forty years, only coming out of retirement at the urging of Cameron Watson, who would settle for no one else to play the part of Mrs. Nutbush in his film Our Very Own.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Harper Lee

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Harper Lee

I particularly love the pensive pose Badham affects in the image on the right.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity stills)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity stills)

You can really see her freckles in this next shot.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity still) (1)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity still) (1)

Badham with her charm on full display.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham (publicity still) (2)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham (publicity still) (2)

You can just tell that Badham was eating up all of the attention and fame she received as a result of being in the film. It must’ve been like a dream come true for this rather plain girl from Alabama. Interestingly, her brother John Badham, thirteen years her senior, would later become a director famous for such films as Saturday Night Fever, WarGames and Short Circuit, among others.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Gregory Peck

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Gregory Peck

Leo Fuchs - Mary Badham (1962)

Leo Fuchs – Mary Badham (1962)

Badham obviously had an easygoing and affectionate relationship with the film’s director Robert Mulligan. In later years she would recount a story about on-set shenanigans involving Mulligan, who was apparently a chain smoker and rarely to be seen without a cigarette. It seems that Phillip Alford, who played Scout’s brother Jem, used to secretly dip the tips of Mulligan’s smokes in water so that they wouldn’t light. When Mulligan finally caught on, he set up Alford, Badham and the other main child actor in the film, John Megna (Dill) by arranging for them to be at particular spot where they met with a bucket full of water. These days that’s something that would make it into the DVD/Blu-Ray extras.

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1)

Photographer Unknown - Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (2)

Photographer Unknown – Mary Badham, Robert Mulligan on the set of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (2)

Here are some posters for the film:

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown - To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (3)

Artist Unknown – To Kill a Mockingbird (film poster) (3)

A couple of French posters for the film:

Artist Unknown - Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown – Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (1)

Artist Unknown - Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (2)

Artist Unknown – Du silence et des ombres (film poster) (2)

A poster for a play production of To Kill a Mockingbird:

Artist Unknown - Phoenix Theater Presents 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (poster)

Artist Unknown – Phoenix Theater Presents ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (poster)

And finally, a few stills from the film itself:

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (1)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (1)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (2)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (2)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (3)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (3)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (4)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (4)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (5)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (5)

Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (6)

Robert Mulligan – To Kill a Mockingbird (film still) (6)

3 thoughts on “The Art of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

  1. I would like to note for the readers that a post on Paper Moon is in the pipeline. Regarding chemistry between actors, this was facilitated substantially by the fact that Tatum was acting with her father, Ryan O’Neal. -Ron

  2. I love the photos of Badham with Gregory Peck and Mulligan – Mulligan has the look of a man who’s enjoying himself more than he dare let on.

    And the photo of Badham getting off the plane with Peck shows what a great chemistry there was between them – I guess that actors (and actresses) who are going to play a role which depicts an adult in a close relationship with a child (as in this film) need to develop a genuine closeness with the child actor/actress.

    I wonder if casting agents know which actors and actresses are good with children and which aren’t?

    • The best casting agents try to establish actors and actresses with good chemistry, whatever their ages. One problem with child actors is, in today’s environment, things like that are far less likely to happen. A child is therefore less likely to bond with a director or even an adult actor, especially if the child is female and the adult male, and I think that often comes across on-screen. Adults have to be perfectly comfortable with children who aren’t their own, and that is happening less and less because of the moral panic surrounding sexual abuse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *