84. Gregory Peck
Peak of Hotness: The mid-1940's through the early 1950's.
Best Known For: Playing (and winning an Oscar for it) everyone's favorite, idealistic father Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Another day, another hot man. This time I'm flying solo discussing this hot piece of Golden Age ass. An underrated one, no doubt, but a hot piece nonetheless.
Like many people, my first encounter with Gregory Peck was in To Kill a Mockingbird. I saw this film in my ninth grade English after, what else, reading the book (to "enrich the experience," I'm sure). My cinephilia was still in its infancy at this point, so although I knew about the film, I had never encountered Gregory before. I don't want to say that this is where I first fell in love because a) that seems so completely inappropriate given Mockingbird's content, legacy and Peck's character and b) the film, appropriately, de-emphasizes Peck's sexuality. What I will say about Peck in Mockingbird, however, is that he certainly made an impression on me and didn't exactly dissuade me from seeking out any of his other work.
Looking back now, I guess the moment I fell for Gregory was in the film Roman Holiday. It has been far too long since I've seen it, but I was totally enamored with that movie--especially by the idea of a tall, gorgeous, deep-voiced man whisking me away on a whirlwind tour of Rome. I mean, who could say no to that prospect? More than Mockingbird, Roman Holiday plays up his sexuality, or, at the very least, the sense that Peck is a man who enjoys and desires the company of beautiful women. Gregory's not the typical romantic comedy lead: he reads a bit "serious actor slumming it in a light movie" and he's certainly not a Cary Grant. Against all odds, though, Roman Holiday works for him, finding a charm and attractiveness not seen in many of his other films.
I hate to keep talking about Peck's sexuality, because, for the most part, he wasn't a sex symbol in the same way someone like Clark Gable was. Even in his early films like Spellbound, The Valley of Decision or Gentleman's Agreement where his prettiness was at its absolute peak, Peck was sold as a thinking man's sex symbol, never as a sexual object of lust (Duel in the Sun excepted). Sure, he usually got the girl in the end like nearly every male lead during the Golden Age, but sex was never the first thing on his mind. There's no doubt that Gregory liked to get down in the bedroom. You can rest assured, though, that he wasn't going to kiss and tell with his dumb friends. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word.
With his persona firmly in place, I want to talk more about two performances of Peck's from 1945, his breakthrough year in Hollywood. The first, The Keys of the Kingdom, I only want to mention because he plays a priest and, as you will see, this is a recurring motif in the countdown (e.g. Belmondo, Clift, Ruffalo). There's something so wrong but oh so right about lusting after a hot guy in a priest outfit, especially when they're playing the saintliest of all saintly priests. I suppose that's just the bad Catholic in me, though. The second film is Hitchcock's Spellbound, which is about a female psychologist (Ingrid Bergman) who helps her male co-worker (Peck) recover his memory after a traumatic event causes him to be an amnesiac. Unusual for its time, Spellbound is fascinating because it's one of the few films I can think of where the male lead plays the damsel in distress while the female lead is the strong catalyst for change. Emotionally damaged men make me weak in the knees and Peck in Spellbound is no exception. I saw both of these films a couple of years ago and, in their own way, they both solidified my attraction to that tall drink of water Gregory Peck.
Of course I couldn't write this post without at least mentioning Ethan Peck, Gregory's grandson who is also an actor. I've never actually seen Ethan in anything, but there's no denying that he got his grandfather's good looks. So, who do you want to be with, Gregory, Ethan or both?