Thursday, March 17, 2016

Was Gregory Peck An Irishman of Greek Descent?

Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter

The late, great, actor Gregory Peck was half Irish. He grew up with tales from his grandmother of their "Black Irish" ancestry. A mostly antiquated term, "Black Irish" was used predominately in the U.S. and Canada referring to people of Irish descent who have black hair. The Black Irish were long regarded in folklore as having descended from sailors of the Spanish Armada shipwrecked or otherwise seeking refuge on the Irish coast, and indeed looked rather different from their blond or red-headed Celtic countrymen. Yet Spyros Skouros, the former president of 20th Century Fox studios, had a different theory.

When Mr. Peck was filming The Gunfighter (1950), Spyros Skouros was off in Europe. When he returned and saw that onscreen Gregory Peck, a sex symbol, had a mustache, a "funny-looking haircut", a "crazy-looking suit" and a black hat, he let out a howl. And proud Greek that he was, Skouros had to say his piece with typical Greek bluntness. As Gregory Peck recalls in his biography Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life:

"He went into a rage about it, and the message came down to us on the set that Skouros would never forget it. For 20 years, every time I saw him it was: 'You black Irishman. You! You ruined my picture! Anyway, you don't even know who you are or what you are. You think the black Irish came from the sinking of the Spanish Armada. That's pure shit. It comes from the Greeks who were there 2000 years ago. Where do you think you got the name Gregory anyway?'"

Spyros Skouras