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American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo

Airs Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Pulitzer Prize-winning "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee in a local courthouse while visiting her home town.

AMERICAN MASTERS explores the phenomenon behind "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the mysterious life of its Pulitzer Prize-winning author, including why she never published again in "Harper Lee: Hey, Boo."

Gregory Peck and writer Harper Lee at the premiere of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan.
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Above: Gregory Peck and writer Harper Lee at the premiere of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan.

Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan.
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Above: Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan.

Offering an unprecedented look into Lee’s mysterious life, Emmy®-winning filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy (author of "Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird") interviews Lee’s friends and family, including her centenarian sister Alice, who share intimate recollections, anecdotes and biographical details for the first time: her rise from small-town Alabama girl to famous author, her tumultuous friendship with Truman Capote, and the origin of her most memorable characters: Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, her friend Dill, and Boo Radley.

The documentary reveals the context and history of the novel’s Deep South setting, and the social changes it inspired after publication. The popular film version, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, leaves an enduring image for the novel’s message.

Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, Oprah Winfrey and others reflect on the novel’s power, influence, popularity, and the ways it has shaped their lives.

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American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo

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Above: One of the biggest bestsellers of all time, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is the first and only novel by a young woman named Nelle Harper Lee, who said that she wanted to be South Alabama's Jane Austen. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize and became a mystery when she stopped speaking to press in 1964. "Harper Lee: Hey, Boo" explores the history of the novel and offers an unprecedented look at the novelist's life.

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Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: James McBride

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Above: James McBride, author of the memoir "The Color of Water," discusses how Harper Lee used the voice of her protagonists in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to bravely provide an accessible and radical point of view about racism in 1960. He describes and how today’s authors can expand upon Lee’s views.

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Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Richard Russo

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Above: Novelist Richard Russo describes how he reluctantly read "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a student in Catholic school. Russo explains how the relationships described in the book influenced him as a writer and provided inspiration for his own characters in his Pulitzer prize-winning novel, "Empire Falls."

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Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Allan Gurganus

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Above: Allan Gurganus, author of "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All" and "The Practical Heart," discusses the ways that Harper Lee’s novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" influenced him as an adolescent. The novelist’s ability to distill national issues into a local, familiar setting, he says, made him excited about literature.

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Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Mark Childress

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Above: Mark Childress, author of "Crazy in Alabama," describes how Harper Lee’s protagonist Scout Finch, the narrator of "To Kill a Mockingbird," was a radical voice of change in the segregated south of his childhood.

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Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Wally Lamb

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Above: Wally Lamb, author of the critically acclaimed "She’s Come Undone" and "I Know This Much Is True" and former Director of Creative Writing at University of Connecticut, discusses Scout’s universally sympathetic voice and the ways in which "To Kill a Mockingbird" and all literature can act as an agent of change.