A struggling young actress with a six-year-old daughter sets up housekeeping with a homeless black widow and her light-skinned eight-year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for white.
It's the pre-WWII era. Peyton Place is a small town in New England, whose leading adult citizens rule the town with their high moral standards, which they try to pass on to their offspring. The adults, especially those that wield power largely through their positions and/or through their wealth, will not tolerate anything they believe morally improper, even if there is a hint of impropriety without comprehensive evidence to back up the hints. As their offspring grow from teenagers to adults, the offspring learn that there is much hypocrisy by the adults lying underneath that façade of proper Christian morals. The offspring begin to rebel in different ways, which is brought to public scrutiny with the arrival into town of an "outsider", the new young high school principal Michael Rossi, and through a murder trial. Written by
Susan Strasberg was initially set to play Allison. However, when she upped her salary, she was fired. For a short period, Debbie Reynolds was set to replace her. Eventually, 20 famous actresses were tested before the unknown Diane Varsi got the role. See more »
In an exterior towards the end of the film, a sign can be seen advertising the Camden Maine Rexall Drug Store which doubled for Peyton Place. See more »
Grace Metalious' explosive best-selling novel is given the Hollywood treatment in 1957's "Peyton Place". Devoid of so much of the nonsense that has been known to permeate other melodramas, "Peyton Place" is a beautifully filmed, effective film that uncovers the hidden scandals of a quaint, New England town. With fine acting, score and cinematography, this screen classic translates well from its literary heritage. And the film's unraveling of the town's secrets is handled well - building up like a ball of snow as each successive scandal is unearthed.
We meet the townspeople from the point-of-view of Allison Mackenzie(Diane Varsi), the sweet and sheltered daughter of Constance(Lana Turner). Constance struggles to be a good mother and community member, while rebuffing the advances of handsome school principal, Michael Rossi(Lee Philips). On the other side of the tracks live Constance's housekeeper whose daughter, Selena(Hope Lange), struggles as a victim of abuse by her own step-father. In the midst of these primary plots are several other tales revolving around sex, love and the war. No one is immune to the reveal of secrets, which have a domino effect all across town.
"Peyton Place" shook the foundation of Hollywood's censorship board by exposing such taboo topics as sexual abuse and abortion, but not once does it come off as exploitative. On the contrary, the film is firmly grounded in emotion and genuine feeling. And while the movie straddles the line of good taste, a plot involving the war effort and its effect on the young men of Peyton Place proves to be profound. Lana Turner does her job well as the repressed mother. In fact, heated passion can be sensed underneath her aloof, icy-cold exterior - a chill factor even more effective 2 years later in "Imitation of Life". And the incredibly good-looking Lee Philip is a perfect match the screen beauty. But it is really with the sensitive performances of Diane Varsi and Hope Lange that this film gains its legs. And Lloyd Nolan cannot be overlooked as the town's warm-hearted doctor. "Peyton Place" could have been a heaving, overblown showcase, but instead made its way into becoming an important melodrama that has stood the test of time.
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