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Gregory Peck commemorative stamp unveiled in ceremony at motion picture academy

April 28, 2011 |  3:06 pm

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

A full house was on hand at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Thursday to witness the unveiling of the Gregory Peck commemorative stamp -- the first "Forever" stamp in the United States Postal Service's Legends of Hollywood series. 

The first-class stamp features Peck in his Oscar-winning role as the benevolent widowed Southern attorney and father Atticus Finch in the 1962 classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."

A scene from the beloved drama based on the novel by Harper Lee was just one of the many from Peck's films shown during the ceremony, along with clips from 1947's "Gentleman's Agreement," 1950's "The Gunfighter" and 1953's "Roman Holiday."

Sharon Stone, who met Peck and his wife, Veronique, as a young actress when she became friends with their children Cecilia and Anthony, hosted the proceedings. The event began with the presentation of colors by the Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard from March Air Reserve Base and the national anthem sung by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.

"He taught us in his films that men could be strong without being violent and mean," said Stone. She said she thought it was appropriate that Peck, who died in 2003 at 87, was being honored with a stamp because he always described acting as "carrying the mail," which was his way of saying delivering a performance. She then introduced the Peck family's mail carrier, who delivered mail to them for eight years.

Veronique Peck was joined onstage for the unveiling of the stamp by Cecilia, Anthony, Gregory Peck's son Carey from his first marriage and several grandchildren. "It's really a great day for all of us," said an emotional Veronique Peck, adding that she was married to the "most wonderful man in the world."

She introduced various friends and actors Peck had worked with in the audience, including Sidney Poitier, who garnered the most applause, Robert Forster, Piper Laurie and James Darren.

Carey Peck told the crowd that it was "payback" that his father be memorialized with his own stamp. "He was a fanatic about mail-order catalogs," he said. "It was like Christmas every day."

"He used the Postal Service a lot," said Anthony Peck, who recalled receiving long letters from his father throughout boarding school and college. "I still have his letters."

Morgan Freeman brought the house down recounting his first meeting with Peck at an academy event. "I made an absolute fool of myself," he said. "I leapt out in the aisle in front of him and knelt," he said, sheepishly. "He said, 'Get up.' "

For the record, 1:23 p.m., April 29: An earlier version of this post quoted Veronique Peck as saying, "It's really a great deal for all of us."  Peck actually said "It's really a great day for all of us."

-- Susan King

Photo: Gregory Peck commemorative stamp. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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I was fortunate to be on hand, and want to thank Jimmy Smits for sticking around to patiently, graciously, and wonderfully accommodate the many fans who bothered him for autographs --- for which he always asked "What's your name?" --- and posing for pictures, even if the AMPAS ushers tried to shame everyone into stashing their cameras, despite being inside a venue devoted to --- hellllloooo? --- PICTURES.

Jimmy Smits displayed the kind of fan-friendly behavior that makes for lifelong fans, no matter what kind of entertainment work you do, stage, screen or TV, or the subject matter you tackle.

And what a treat, being in the same audience as Sidney Poitier...the black Gregory Peck. Even though he was a good 20 rows in front of me, I could almost feel his aura.

Best inside joke of the day, given Hollywood's traditional (and cherished) dagger into the ribs of hardcore Tea Partiers and wingnuts: Having Natalie Maines sing the national anthem, despite being "ashamed" of a certain fellow Texan who's busy clearing brush in Crawford, where he can no longer destroy the country.

Well done, all the way around.

NOBODY comes close to being his peer. Strong, principled, a wonderful actor whose physical presence and UNBELIEVABLE voice will never be matched. How appropriate that he and another icon, Audrey Hepburn, were teamed together in a classic movie that showed why they were beloved actors of their generation.



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