Coming-of-age story set in a small New England village whose peaceful facade hides love and passion, scandal and hypocrisy.
Allison, a beautiful high school student and aspiring writer, struggles to grow up under the thumb of her emotionally crippled single mother. The mother, Constance MacKenzie, a woman with a hidden past, is now aroused by the temptations of the new high school principal.
On the other side of town, Allison's best friend Selena lives in a shack with an abusive stepfather. As the seasons change, so do Allison and her friends, as they struggle to mature in the stifling small town.
Finally, Allison leaves Peyton Place, but she returns to help Selena, now accused of murdering her stepfather. The trial will expose the town's bankrupt moral standards and finally bring its citizens together.
Lana Turner ... Constance 'Connie' MacKenzie
Lee Philips ... Michael Rossi
Lloyd Nolan ... Dr. Matthew Swain
Arthur Kennedy ... Lucas Cross
Russ Tamblyn ... Norman Page
Terry Moore ... Betty Anderson
Hope Lange ... Selena Cross
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PEYTON PLACE, the 1957 version of Grace Metalious' sensational, sex-obsessed best-seller, is a superb movie, brilliant entertainment, and one of the best big-cast movies of all time.
It isn't superb and brilliant simply because it presents a cleaned-up version of the book but because it has substituted lifelike characters and realistic plot situations for Miss Metalious' meaty prose creations, and because its plot and characters unfold within the framework of a movie that is persuasive to listen to and beautiful to look at.
The script by John Michael Hayes is a solid achievement. Not only do his characters say real and interesting things, there is not one line of dialogue or one single camera shot that doesn't contribute to the evocation of time, plot and character. The period, which is roughly the mid-Forties, is vividly suggested by the stylish costumes, the immaculate set design, and the masterful camera-work. Filmed on location in Maine, PEYTON PLACE employs all the best techniques in capturing the most gorgeous New England scenery yet seen in a fictional film.
The movie is an excellent example of faultless ensemble playing, with each scene a gem of dramatic give and take. In the entire cast of characters there isn't a single performance of less than top quality, nor do any of the performances resemble each other. The girls are played by Diane Varsi (intelligent, would-be writer, obviously Miss Metalious' self-portrait), Hope Lang (sensitive victim of her environment), and Terry Moore (flashy tease). The older gals--Betty Field as a challenged-in-so-many ways housemaid and mother and Mildred Dunnock as a dedicated schoolteacher--are equally accomplished, if more experienced, actresses.
As for Lana Turner, who plays the key role, this glamour girl/actress has seldom had a more impressive time on the screen. As the physically beautiful, emotionally cautious dress shop proprietress with more than her share of problems and secrets, Miss Turner shows what she can do with a strong role and the right director. One seldom thinks of Lana Turner as a "great actress" perhaps because so many people have been too blinded by her beauty to acknowledge the talent, but the talent is definitely there. Just watch any scene she appears in in PEYTON PLACE.
Fine nods go the men, too, particularly to Lloyd Nolan as a righteous physician; Russ Tamblyn as a frightened, henpecked son; and Arthur Kennedy as the film's primary villain. Lee Phillips portrays the high school principal who falls for Miss Turner, Leon Ames the town's rich man, Barry Coe his ill-fated son, David Nelson a young boy in love. All of these performances are on a uniformly high level. This is due to the actors' own inert talents and also to the coordinating efforts of the film's director, Mark Robson, who never made a better movie.
As the world knows, PEYTON PLACE spawned a TV series which survived several years and a round of B-picture soap opera follow-ups dealing with life in small towns, including a sequel, 1961's RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE, which had a good cast but not the brilliant technique nor passion of its predecessor.
This is the ORIGINAL. Please do not settle for less.
* Barbara Eden tested for the role of Selena Cross.
* This film was almost a box office flop. It performed poorly in its first few weeks in release. Then news broke out about star Lana Turner's infamous scandal: her affair with mobster Johnny Stompanato, and his death at the hands of Turner's daughter. The ongoing national coverage of the subsequent murder trial turned the film into a box office smash. Ironically, Turner had initially feared the press swirling around the trial would end her career.
* The real life murder of star Lana Turner's mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato by Turner's daughter was later fictionalized in the movie Where Love Has Gone (1964), also scripted by "Peyton Place" writer John Michael Hayes.
* Twentieth Century-Fox reportedly bought the film rights to Grace Metalious' novel for $100,000.
* Pat Hingle and Joan Crawford were both quoted as being interested in the leading roles.
* Twentieth Century-Fox wanted either Jane Wyman or Olivia de Havilland for the role of Constance MacKenzie.
* The film's title was later immortalized in the lyrics to Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 hit "Harper Valley P.T.A".