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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Movie Review: "Peyton Place" (1957)

I know I wasn't around last month a lot, but look, it's only one week into May and I've already gotten three posts up already. I'm quite proud, I must say!


PEYTON PLACE (1957): Cast, plot details

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. [from imDB]

  • Lana Turner as Constance MacKenzie
  • Hope Lange as Selena Cross
  • Diane Varsi as Allison MacKenzie
  • Russ Tamblyn as Norman Page
  • Arthur Kennedy as Lucas Cross
  • Lee Phillips as Michael Rossi


This film is definitely entertaining and though it obviously will verge on soap operish at points, it was still a good a film with a gorgeous score and I still suggest you give it a watch 

The fact that this film was the basis for the popular soap opera of the same title didn't really turn me off from seeing this movie. (I think what made me more reluctant was the fact that the running time is three hours long, but I didn't regret it later!). It's not that I like soap operas, because I definitely don't, but I have a guilty pleasure for overly dramatic films, sometimes based on novels & plays, perhaps of the Tennessee Williams variety. Plus, I absolutely love movies with court scenes, so...

I must say, I rather enjoyed this film! Perhaps it's because it fit my watching palette but I liked it. It was a "coming of age story", and being a teenager I do enjoy these. I was intrigued with a teenage party scene in the film, where the resident "bad boy" tries to spike the punch with liquor ("good girl" Diane Varsi does put a stop to it). I guess most think of teens of the 40s as bobby soxers, but issues like peer pressure, drinking, bullying, sex, etc. were just as rampant then as they were now, only it was considered good conduct to only whisper about it and not face these issues out loud, especially in small towns like Peyton Place, as this movie shows. As a result, so many became patronized and fearful of being themselves because of how dangerous small town gossip was.

It's surprising that this movie could've been made in 1957. The central themes are illegitimate children, rape, and murder. I imagine that the Hays Code office were sweating bricks during the entire production. But I think these issues were handled well and discreetly, in a way that would have not entirely scandalized audiences in 1957 and seem entirely mild to audiences nowadays. 

As for the acting, I might as well begin with Lana Turner. Oh my, I really did love her. She was one of the actresses I chose to watch in 2012. What I thought of Lana before seeing her in this was that she was a sex kitten actress whose daughter killed her gangster boyfriend. But I was wrong, she was just splendid in this, and I look forward to seeing her in movies like Imitation of Life, The Bad and the Beautiful, and most importantly, The Postman Always Rings Twice. I really enjoyed Lana, her adorable face, and her great performance. In fact, she's really the main reason I chose this particular movie to review. And how ironic the courtroom scene in this would be for her a year later!

This was also my first Hope Lange film. I too thought she was wonderful and she was really likable as Selena, you just wanted everything to turn out alright for her character. I believe she was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and this was a nomination well deserved. Diane Varsi played Lana Turner's daughter, Allison, a character I liked for the most part (except for when she went all cold on Lana's character, and then Lana's character was weeping on the staircase,  in which I was like, 'POOR LANA! HOW CAN YOU DO THAT TO HER?!'). Varsi was too nominated for an Oscar. I thought she was okay, with a pleasant voice to narrate the gorgeous Technicolor shots of New England, and a pretty face that fit the character. Perhaps the nomination was not necessary, but overall I felt her satisfactory. At the time, both Lange & Varsi were considered to be upcoming stars because of their Oscar nominations, but Varsi quit the business soon after and Lange struck it big in the sixties.

Russ Tamblyn was rather adorable as Norman Page, in striking contrast from his West Side Story (1961) character, Riff. I absolutely hated Lucas Cross (Hope Lange's abusive stepfather), which means that Arthur Kennedy played him excellently.

Overall, I did really like this one, I'm going to be sure to see much much more of Lana Turner, and though you might have some reservations about the film's soap operaish quality and nearly three hour running time, I do suggest you give it a try!


  • Barbara Eden (later to be well-known as Jeannie from the 60s television show 'I Dream of Jeannie') tested for the role of Selena Cross.
  • The studio wanted either Jane Wyman or Olivia de Havilland for the role of Constance MacKenzie. 
  • Susan Strasberg was set to play Allison, but fired when she requested a salary raise. Twenty famous actresses were tested for the role, including Debbie Reynolds, before the role went to newcomer Diane Varsi. (I would have enjoyed seeing Strasberg, who I enjoyed in Picnic, or the always lovely Debbie Reynolds, in the role. I think either of them would have fit it well, perhaps better than Varsi).



Thank you to all who left responses for my let's talk blog; I hope to do more in the future! (:


Kristen said...

It's been a long time since I've seen Peyton Place. I watched it in film class freshman year and just remember it was ridiculously soapy....definitely worth a rewatch.

Lambfam said...

I saw Peyton Place just a couple months ago, and I thought it was great. I bought a Fox four pack that included Peyton Place but I didn't know anything about this movie. Both my wife and I thought it was great. Thanks for the blog.

KimWilson said...

You can keep this one, Rianna. You said it--it's like watching a soap opera. Lana Turner is relatively good in it, but this is far from her best work. Definitely watch her in The Postman Always Rings Twice and Imitation of Life to see her at her best.

Dawn said...

I really enjoyed reading your review. I do not know how I keep missing this film on TCM. One of these days I will sit down and watch it..

Rianna said...

Indeed ridiculously soapy, but totally entertaining! (:

Rianna said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the blog and the movie. I too really enjoyed this film despite all the soap.

Rianna said...

I've watched Initiation of Life - I think I'll do a review for it next week - and whereas I didn't like the movie all that much as a whole, I found Lana to be great and I even shed tears at her expense. So Lana is definitely a new favorite.

Rianna said...

Hi Dawn, I hope all is going well for you! I'm glad you liked my review & yes, I happened to have caught this film on TCM a few weeks ago. I hope you'll get to see it one day! :)

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