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Lost Gregory Peck footage brought back to life

Academy Award winning actor's interview from "To Kill a Mockingbird" premiere unseen since 1963.

SAN DIEGO — Every once in a while, we discover an old piece of film at CBS 8 that's unplayable. When that happens, we know just who to call. In this Zevely Zone, I asked Pea Hicks if he could save Gregory Peck. When you work for San Diego's oldest television station, sometimes you find yourself with a mystery cannister of film and need a miracle man. 

"It's a form of time travel," said film archivist Pea Hicks. For more than twenty years he's scoured the county searching for memories that could have been lost forever. "I am always out at garage sales, and estate sales and swap meets looking for stuff," said Pea from his studio where he digitizes old film so the images can be preserved forever. 

Credit: CBS 8

"Anytime you spool up an old piece of film. It's really exciting to me," said Pea which is short for the nickname Peanut.  Pea's mother took one look at him as a baby and said he was as small as a peanut. "Pea is short for Peanut which is my nickname since birth," said Pea. The name alone creates a shroud of mystery. "Mystery is what makes life interesting for me," said the man who calls himself a suburban archeologist. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be Indiana Jones, so it gives me that Indiana Jones thrill of discovery," said Pea. "I am always looking for that thing that is obscure that never got properly documented."

Credit: CBS 8

I told Pea we may have found that something special buried in our CBS 8 archives vault. I presented Pea with an old cannister of corroding film. We heard that Gregory Peck may be buried somewhere within the film's reel. 

Credit: CBS 8

The old footage hadn't been played since 1963. "We got to this one just in time," said Pea as he started to finesse the film onto his special device that digitizes the footage on to a computer hard drive. "I will do my best with it. This one is going to be a challenge," said Pea. 

Credit: CBS 8

Could he bring another piece San Diego history back to life? Was this the moment? Was this really happening? Pea said, "This is almost the moment."  Then suddenly on his computer monitor I saw the image and yelled, "Oh! It's Gregory Peck!!".

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I asked Pea if this was the greatest discovery of his film archiving career. "Almost," he said. Two years ago, Pea revived our lost footage of the Beach Boys shooting their Pet Sounds album cover at the San Diego Zoo. Gregory Peck is a close second. Pea instantly took us back to Spreckels Theater for the premiere of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1963. CBS 8's Harold Keen interviewed Peck on the red carpet.  

"Mr. Peck is Hollywood just about dead as the motion picture capital of the world or is it beginning to make a comeback?" asked Keen. Peck responded, "Oh, I hope it's not quite dead." Harold Keene then asked Peck if he was worried about movie goers becoming upset about a white lawyer representing a black client and create racial tension in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. "That seems rather foolish to me, I doubt that they have read the book or seen the picture, let them see it or read it and say that afterwards," said Peck.

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Gregory Peck went on to win the Academy Award for his role. We can now treasure the memory and interview thanks to Pea Hicks; San Diego's Indiana Jones. 

Gregory Peck graduated from San Diego High School in 1933.  His role as Atticus Finch was his only Academy Award. I would like to send my special thanks to CBS 8's film archivist Barb Nielsen. She is the queen of our "Throwback Segments".  Barb discovered the lost Gregory Peck footage and set up the interview with Pea Hicks.   

Pea has a YouTube page filled with vintage film clips. If you'd like to see it click here

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