Peyton Place (1957)

Peyton Place (1957)

Peyton Place inspired David Lynch and Mark Frost when they were creating the look and atmosphere of the town of Twin Peaks, including the fact there would be a lumber mill.

Allison MacKenzie narrates the story of Peyton Place, her home town in rural New Hampshire around the time of WW2. At first the town seems tranquil and idyllic, but soon it is shown to be rife with moral hypocrisy, social inequities, and class privilege.

Storyline   ★★★★★
Peyton Place is based on a novel of the same name by Grace Metalious. The fictional town is a composite of several real New Hampshire towns, and includes events and people Metalious actually knew. Peyton Place can be considered a two and a half hour self contained soap opera.

The movie opens in 1937, and introduces us to the small town and its characters, then it slowly reveals the skeletons in their closets. It shows how ugliness transcends social class and location, and can rear it's head in small town America. Pearl Harbor and WW2 provides the opportunity for some of the younger generation to take control of their lives and leave the town, at least temporarily. In the end a major court case forces the townsfolk to face their hypocrisy.

The book describes incest, rape, abortion, adultery, lust, scandal, suicide and murder, however the movie version was sanitized as some things are only implied, while others are completely removed. A couple of examples are the rape victim's age has been increased from 14 to 17 years old, and the term "abortion" becomes "inducing a miscarriage".

Peyton Place's ticket sales were boosted when one of it's stars was involved in an event that mirrored the movie's main storyline. Spoiler Alert » Actress Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl killed her mother's abusive lover, mobster Johnny Stompanato. A coroner's inquest ruled the murder justifiable homicide. « Spoiler Alert

Grace Metalious wrote a sequel to her novel which she titled Return to Peyton Place. It's main storyline has Allison MacKenzie, now a best selling author, publishing a novel who's characters are barely-disguised counterparts to Peyton Place's residents. The townsfolk are angry their town's secrets have been revealed in a book. This mirrors the reaction Metalious got after publishing the original Peyton Place novel.

The studio filmed a sequel to Peyton Place based on Metalious' second book, but couldn't afford the original's star studded cast. Both the second book and movie were far less successful than the originals. The movies were followed by two soap operas, a made for tv movie which continued the story of the soap, and a soap opera pilot episode (that wasn't followed by a series).

The term "Peyton Place" became a generic label for any community whose inhabitants have sordid secrets.

Visuals   ★★★☆☆
There are some beautiful nature shots, but they are mostly confined to the movie's introduction (see video).

Final Verdict   ★★★★★
This movie caused an uproar when it was first screened. Since then numerous soap operas and movies (both sequels and unrelated stories) were made about the same themes. Peyton Place's influence is undeniable, and it's still worth a look.

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