Peyton Place (film)
Original film poster
|Directed by||Mark Robson|
|Produced by||Jerry Wald|
|Screenplay by||John Michael Hayes|
|Based on||Peyton Place
by Grace Metalious
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Editing by||David Bretherton|
|Studio||Jerry Wald Productions|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||162 minutes|
|Box office||$25.6 million|
The film is an exposé of the lives and loves of the residents of a small New England mill town, where scandal, homicide, suicide, incest, and moral hypocrisy hide behind a tranquil façade in the years immediately preceding and following World War II. At the core of its plot are three women. Constance MacKenzie is a prim and proper sexually repressed woman who had an affair with a married New York City businessman and bore him a child out of wedlock. She has struggled to shield her daughter Allison, a high school senior and aspiring author, from her tarnished past, leading her to believe she returned to Peyton Place with her newborn baby after her husband died. Selena Cross, Allison's best friend, is a good girl living on the wrong side of the tracks. Her alcoholic step-father, Lucas Cross, terrorizes the family, abusing his wife and child behind closed doors.
Other characters include Allison's classmate and confidant Norman Page, anxious to gain his independence; bad girl Betty Anderson, who longs to have a relationship with wealthy Rodney Harrington; new school principal Michael Rossi, who attempts to crack Constance's icy veneer; and Dr. Matthew Swain, the town's leading physician who places his long time medical career in jeopardy to save Selena during the trial in which she is charged with Lucas's murder.
- Lana Turner as Constance MacKenzie
- Diane Varsi as Allison MacKenzie
- Hope Lange as Selena Cross
- Lee Philips as Michael Rossi
- Arthur Kennedy as Lucas Cross
- Lloyd Nolan as Dr. Matthew Swain
- Russ Tamblyn as Norman Page
- Terry Moore as Betty Anderson
- David Nelson as Ted Carter
- Barry Coe as Rodney Harrington
- Betty Field as Nellie Cross
- Mildred Dunnock as Miss Elsie Thornton
- Leon Ames as Leslie Harrington
- Lorne Greene as District Attorney
- Staats Cotsworth as Charles Partridge
- Peg Hillias as Marion Partridge
- Scotty Morrow as Joey Cross (uncredited)
Less than a month after the book's release in 1956, producer Jerry Wald bought the rights from author Grace Metalious for $250,000 and hired her as a story consultant on the film, although he had no intention of actually allowing her to contribute anything to the production. Her presence in Hollywood ensured the project additional publicity, but Metalious soon felt out of place in the film capital. Horrified by the sanitized adaptation of her book by screenwriter John Michael Hayes, who was forced to contend with the Hays Code, and his suggestion Pat Boone be cast as Norman Page, she returned to her home to Gilmanton, New Hampshire. She eventually earned a total of $400,000 in profits from the film, which she hated.
The film was shot primarily in Camden, Maine, with additional exteriors filmed in Belfast and Rockland in Maine and Lake Placid in New York. It premiered in Camden two days before going into general release in the US on December 13, 1957.
Peyton Place was the second-highest grossing film of 1958, although in the first few months of its release it did not do well at the box office, until a real-life tragedy gave it an unexpected boost. On April 4, 1958, star Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl killed her mother's abusive lover, mobster Johnny Stompanato, and was placed in Juvenile Hall. The press coverage of the subsequent investigation boosted ticket sales by 32%, and the film eventually grossed $25,600,000 in the US. A coroner's inquest ruled the murder justifiable homicide, and the district attorney chose not to charge Cheryl with the crime, although he declared her a ward of the state and placed her in the custody of her grandmother. Turner feared the negative publicity would end her career, but it led producer Ross Hunter to cast her in the 1959 film Imitation of Life.
The film inspired a popular primetime television series that aired from September 1964 until June 1969.
Critical reception 
While Peyton Place was "an enormous critical and commercial hit," most critics made note of the fact that the most salacious elements of the Metalious novel had been laundered or eliminated completely. In the New York Times, Bosley Crowther remarked, "There is no sense of massive corruption here." Variety noted, "In leaning backwards not to offend, producer and writer have gone acrobatic. On the screen is not the unpleasant sex-secret little town against which Grace Metalious set her story. These aren't the gossiping, spiteful, immoral people she portrayed. There are hints of this in the film, but only hints." TV Guide said, "This is the kind of hypertensive trash that gives melodrama a bad name, cynically tempering its naughty bits with smug moralizing. The fact that the film won an "A" rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency, meaning it was deemed "acceptable to all," is a dead giveaway." (This movie was actually given an "A-III" rating by the Legion of Decency, meaning appropriate only for adults.)
The film received nine Oscar nominations, including four honoring supporting performances, which tied a record set three years earlier by On the Waterfront. That record would later be matched by Tom Jones, The Last Picture Show, and The Godfather Part II. The film's nine Oscar nominations without a win also tied a then-Academy Award's record for biggest shut-out (with The Little Foxes) That record was later surpassed by The Turning Point in 1977 and The Color Purple in 1985, both of which won zero of eleven nominations.
- Academy Award for Best Picture
- Academy Award for Best Director
- Academy Award for Best Actress (Lana Turner)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Diane Varsi and Hope Lange)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Arthur Kennedy and Russ Tamblyn)
- Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
- Academy Award for Best Cinematography
- Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Drama
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress (Hope Lange and Mildred Dunnock)
Celebrations were held in 1998 in some of the Maine towns in which the town was shot on the film's 40th anniversary, attended by Hope Lange.
See also 
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p251
- "Hope Lange". The Independent. 2003-12-23. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
- The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties by Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002, pp. 248-251, ISBN 0-393-04321-5
- The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, pp. 259-261
- The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, pg. 253
- Variety review
- TV Guide review
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