Peyton Place (film)
|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|
|Edited by||David Bretherton|
Jerry Wald Productions
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$25.6 million|
Peyton Place is a 1957 American drama film directed by Mark Robson, and starring Lana Turner, Hope Lange, Lee Philips, Lloyd Nolan, Diane Varsi, Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn, and Terry Moore. It follows numerous residents of a small fictional New England mill town in the years surrounding World War II, where scandal, homicide, suicide, incest, and moral hypocrisy belie its tranquil façade. It is based on the bestselling 1956 novel of the same name by Grace Metalious.
The film was developed with Metalious serving as a story consultant, though the screenwriters' exclusion of some of the film's more salacious elements resulted in Metalious abandoning the project and openly detesting the film.
Released in December 1957, Peyton Place was a major box-office success and was nominated for a total of nine Academy Awards, including Best Director for Robson, Best Actress for Turner, and Best Supporting Actress for Lange and Varsi.
In the New England town of Peyton Place, drunkard Lucas Cross stumbles out of his house, just as his stepson Paul, fed up with his alcoholism, leaves town. Lucas's downtrodden wife, Nellie, works as housekeeper for Constance "Connie" MacKenzie, the owner of a local clothing shop. The daughters of both families, Allison MacKenzie and Selena Cross, are best friends and will soon graduate high school. While the MacKenzies live a privileged life, the Cross family is indigent. At Peyton Place High School, a newcomer, Michael Rossi, is hired to be the new principal by school board president Leslie Harrington; the students' choice for the position is long-time teacher Elsie Thornton. Rossi wins over Ms. Thornton by offering to work with her.
For Allison's 18th birthday, Connie allows her to have an unchaperoned party, attended by various classmates, including the overtly sexual Betty and her boyfriend, Rodney. Connie is horrified when she returns home to find all of the teenagers–including Allison–making out. The next morning, Allison goes to meet Selena for church, and witnesses Selena's stepfather, Lucas, beat her.
Later, Rossi announces that Allison has been named valedictorian, and asks Connie to chaperone Allison's graduation dance; the two slowly develop a romance. Meanwhile, Harrington informs his son Rodney that he does not approve of Betty, so Rodney is forced to uninvite her. He instead goes with Allison, though she is in love with the shy, bookish Norman Page. At the dance, Rodney tries to make out with Betty, but she is still angry at him for dumping her. Principal Rossi asks Ms. Thornton to give a short speech and lead the song "Auld Lang Syne"; she graciously accepts. This annoys Marion Partridge, a member of the school board and malicious gossip.
After the dance, Selena is raped by Lucas and becomes pregnant. When she sees Dr. Matthew Swain, the town's leading physicians for an abortion, he refuses; she confides in him that Lucas raped her. Furious, Dr. Swain confronts him, and Lucas is forced to promise to leave town after signing a confession, all of which Nellie secretly witnesses. Now out for revenge, Lucas chases Selena when she returns home, and although she escapes, she falls, injuring herself. After treating her, Dr. Swain records that she had an "appendectomy", when in fact she has had a miscarriage.
At the Labor Day parade, Rodney and Betty reunite and go skinny dipping; nearby, Allison and Norman go swimming in proper suits. Marion Partridge and her husband Charles see a naked couple and make an assumption, telling Connie it was Allison and Norman. Connie and Allison have a fight. In a fit of anger, Connie admits that Allison was an illegitimate child, as Connie was her father's mistress. A hysterical Allison runs upstairs, and finds Nellie's dead body; she has committed suicide. Sometime after, Rodney and Betty elope, infuriating Rodney's father. After recovering from the shock of Nellie's suicide, Allison leaves for New York City.
World War II erupts in 1941, and Peyton Place's men go off to war. When Rodney is killed in action, his father offers to take care of Betty and she is finally welcomed into the family. During Christmas of 1942, Connie visits Rossi to apologize for being dismissive to him. After Connie confesses that she was a married man's mistress, Rossi decides to stay in Peyton Place, saying that his earlier marriage proposal to her is still open. A drunken Lucas returns from the Navy and tries to again rape Selena, but this time she bludgeons him to death in self-defense.
After Easter of 1943, Selena tearfully confesses Lucas's murder to Connie, and she is later arrested and tried by the District Attorney. Allison, still estranged from Connie, returns for the trial, as does Norman; the truth about Selena killing Lucas in self-defense, his physical and sexual abuse of her, as well as Dr. Swain's false report about her "appendectomy," all come to light. Dr. Swain admonishes the town for their gossipy ways and failure to offer Selena help. Ultimately, Selena is acquitted, and she and Ted are free to marry. Allison has a change of heart and approaches Connie with a hope of reconciliation, and Norman is welcomed into the house.
- 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
- Robert H. Harris as Seth Bushwell
- Tami Conner as Margie (a classmate of Selena and Allison)
- Erin O'Brien Moore as Mrs. Evelyn Page
- Scotty Morrow as Joey Cross (uncredited)
- William Lundmark as Paul Cross (uncredited)
- Edwin Jerome as Cory Hyde (uncredited)
- Edith Clair as Miss Colton (uncredited)
- Both Diane Varsi and Lee Philips made their film debuts in Peyton Place.
- The film also marked the first time that David Nelson had appeared separately from his family, Ozzie, Harriet, and Ricky.
- Erin O'Brien-Moore, who played Mrs. Evelyn Page, would play Nurse Esther Choate in the 1960s Peyton Place TV series.
Less than a month after the novel's release in October 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.  "I regarded the men who made Peyton Place as workers in a gigantic flesh factory," she recalled, "and they looked upon me as a nut who should go back to the farm."
The screenplay, written by John Michael Hayes, omits numerous sexually explicit moments from the novel. The omissions of the novel's more controversial elements was a result of screenwriter Hayes having to contend with the Hays Code, which restricted depictions of content deemed explicit by the U.S. Motion Picture Production Code.
Metalious was horrified by what she deemed a sanitized version of her novel, and was also displeased with the thought of the casting of Pat Boone as Norman Page (the role was eventually given to Russ Tamblyn); she subsequently returned to her home in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. She publicly derided the film, though she eventually earned a total of $400,000 in exhibition profits from it.
Principal photography of Peyton Place began on June 4, 1957. The film's exterior sequences were shot primarily in mid-coastal Maine, mostly in the town of Camden, with additional exteriors filmed in Belfast; Rockland; and Thomaston, as well as Lake Placid, New York. Additional interior photography was completed on film sets in Los Angeles, California. All of Turner's scenes in the film were shot in California.
The film's original score was composed by Franz Waxman, and recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The score was released for the first time on compact disc in 1999. Journalist Graydon Carter in 2016 praised the score as "haunting" and "instantly recognizable even today." The score was recognized by the American Film Institute in 2005 for the AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores, for which it received a nomination.
- Track listing
All tracks are written by Franz Waxman.
|2.||"Entering Peyton Place"||1:37|
|3.||"Going to School"||1:25|
|7.||"After the Dance"||2:31|
|10.||"Chase in the Woods"||2:31|
|14.||"Leaving for New York"||1:48|
|15.||"Peyton Place Draftees"||3:22|
|17.||"Love Me, Michael / End Title"||2:01|
Peyton Place was the second highest-grossing film released in the United States in 1957, and received significant public interest in April 1958, after star Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl, killed Turner's abusive boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, during a domestic struggle. Though Cheryl was acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide, the press coverage boosted ticket sales for Peyton Place by 32% in April 1958. The film ultimately earned $11 million in domestic rentals (equivalent to $100,133,886 in 2019).
While Peyton Place was a commercial hit, many critics noted that the most salacious elements of the Metalious novel had been whitewashed or eliminated completely. In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther remarked, "There is no sense of massive corruption here." However, he did generally like the film, praising Hope Lange for a "gentle and sensitive performance" and finding Lloyd Nolan "excellent." Variety wrote that the film was "impressively acted by an excellent cast," but noted that "in leaning backwards not to offend, Wald and Hayes 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." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post wrote "While the four-letter words of the Grace Metalious novel have been adroitly erased, it's easy for one of the apparent few who didn't read the book to see why so many did. There are several strong stories and the characters are sharply drawn. Without these two characteristics the best written novels remain unread." Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times declared the film "probably the most powerful small-town picture ever produced," and Harrison's Reports praised it as "an absorbing adult drama" that "grips one's attention the whole time it is on the screen, thanks to the sensitive direction and the effective acting of the capable cast."
John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote that the film "makes no attempt to exploit the sensational aspects of the tale it has to tell; on the contrary, it is woefully diffuse, and before it's over—roughly, three hours—boredom has set in like the grippe." The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote "Slick and passionless, the film is an expensive and heavily bowdlerised adaptation of Grace Metalious' best-seller," adding that "the film never quite makes up its mind whether to extol small-town America or castigate it." TV Guide wrote "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. (In actuality, it was given an "A-III" rating, meaning appropriate only for adults.)
In the intervening years since its release, critics have continued to comment on the film's sterilized screenplay, though journalist Graydon Carter contended in 2016 that, "Despite the movie's almost picture-postcard tone of whimsy, it did manage to retain some of Grace [Metalious]'s finger-pointing—most notably in a stunning montage of duplicitous citizens filing into a myriad of churches, all dressed in their Sunday best."
The film received nine Academy Award nominations and no wins (including nominations for the four supporting performances, which tied a record set by On the Waterfront in 1955. This record later was matched by Tom Jones in 1963, The Last Picture Show in 1971 and The Godfather Part II in 1974). The film's 9 Oscar nominations without a win also tied the record with the film The Little Foxes in 1941. This record was surpassed by the films The Turning Point in 1977 and The Color Purple in 1985 (both films received 11 nominations without a single win).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released Peyton Place on DVD in 2004, featuring an audio commentary by Terry Moore and Russ Tamblyn, an AMC-produced documentary on the film, and vintage newsreel footage. The film had its debut on Blu-ray in 2017 by Twilight Time, in an edition limited to 3,000 copies. The Blu-ray repurposes the bonus materials from the 20th Century Fox DVD, and adds a new commentary by filmmaker and historian Willard Carroll.
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- Coe, Richard L. (December 20, 1957). "Vivid Account Of Best Seller". The Washington Post. p. B6.
- Schallert, Edwin (December 13, 1957). "'Peyton Place' Thoroughly Dissects Small-Town Life". Los Angeles Times. Part III, p. 16 – via Newspapers.com.
- "'Peyton Place' with Lana Turner, Hope Lange, Arthur Kennedy and Lloyd Nolan". Harrison's Reports. December 14, 1957. p. 198 – via Internet Archive.
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- Galbraith, Stuart IV (April 10, 2017). "Peyton Place (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on May 14, 2020.
- Cameron, Ardis (2015). Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place". Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-801-45609-1.
- Carter, Graydon, ed. (2016). Vanity Fair's Writers on Writers. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-143-11176-4.
- Kashner, Sam; MacNair, Jennifer (2002). The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-04321-1.
- O'Neill, Thomas (2003). Movie Awards: The Ultimate, Unofficial Guide to the Oscars, Golden Globes, Critics, Guild & Indie Honors. New York City, New York: Perigee. ISBN 978-0-399-52922-1.
- Smith, Mac (2020). Peyton Place Comes Home to Maine: The Making of the Iconic Film. Camden, Maine: Down East Books. ISBN 978-1-608-93719-6.
- Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-810-84244-1.
- Toth, Emily (2001). Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-604-73631-1.
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