WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama hosted a screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird," a classic tale of racial injustice, at the White House on Thursday, ahead of a 50th anniversary television screening.

Obama showed the movie, which is based on the classic novel about Great Depression-era Alabama by Harper Lee, in the White House theater, to an audience of actors and students from the US capital.

Guests included Veronique Peck, widow of the late Gregory Peck -- who starred as lawyer Atticus Finch and would have been 96 years old Thursday -- and Mary Badham Wilt, the actress who played Scout in the film.

"It's a classic movie that elucidates the need to do the right thing even when it's hard," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. He later added that the Pulitzer Prize-winning tale was one of the president's favorite books.

The reclusive Lee said in a statement that she was "deeply honored" that Obama was hosting the screening.

"I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I'm proud to know that Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on in a world that needs him now more than ever," Lee said.