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.
Drama / Romance
Drama / Romance
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A peaceful New England town hides secrets and scandals.
February 27, 2021