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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 25, 2022



LANA TURNER was one of the highest paid Hollywood stars in the 40s and 50s. 

Her reputation as a glamorous femme fatale was established in films like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “The Bad and the Beautiful”. 

One of her biggest hits is “Peyton Place” in 1957, based on the best-selling novel of Grace Metallious. 

The film got nine Oscar nominations, including best actress for Lana. It was so successful it had a sequel and spawned several TV series.

We saw it when we were in high school and we remember its haunting theme song by Francis Waxman which is so catchy and hummable.

People were then talking about the book because of its sexy parts, but the movie version is so sanitized. This is understandable since it’s the conservative 50s. Even the cuss words in the book were deleted in the film version.

We’ve just seen it again after 60 years and no doubt the film is unabashed melodrama. But it works. The ending in the courtroom scenes moved us to tears, because we get to thoroughly sympathize with the character played by Hope Lange: Selena Cross. 

She got an Oscar best supporting actress nomination for her performance and she became one of the fave actress of our teen years in such films as “In Love and War” with Jeffrey Hunter and “The Best of Everything” with model Suzy Parker.

Set in 1941, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, “Peyton Place” aims to expose the secrets and hypocrisies of small town life in America’s New England. 

It is narrated by Allison McKenzie (Diane Varsi in her first movie), the daughter of Lana Turner as Constance, a dressmaker. 

Selena is Allison’s best friend who comes from a poor family. Selena’s mom is the housemaid in Constance’s home and her stepdad, Lucas (Athur Kennedy), is the school janitor. 

Allison and Selena are about to graduate from high school (but they and their classmates look more like they’re already taking post graduate courses.)

The story has many other characters like Mike Rossi (Lee Phillips), the new high school principal who becomes Constance’s eventual love interest; Dr. Swain (Lloyd Nolan), the town’s doctor who holds Selena’s deep dark secret; 

Elsie Thornton (Mildred Dunnock), the veteran teacher that the students favored to be the new principal; Betty Anderson (Terry Moore), Allison and Selena’s classmate who has the reputation of being an easy girl; 

Rodney Harrington (Barry Coe), the son of the richest man in town who’s madly in love with Betty; Norman Page (Russ Tamblyn), Allison’s good friend who’s a mama’s boy; 

Ted Carter (David Nelson), Selena’s supportive boyfriend; Marion Partridge (Peg Hillias), the town’s malicious gossip, and many more. 

The film runs for 2 and a half hours. There are several strong plotlines spiced up with rape, adultery, abortion and murder. 

No wonder it’s easy to make it into a TV series that ran for five years from 1964 to 1969. Then a sequel called “Return to Peyton Place” ran from 1972 to 1974, plus two TV movies, “Murder in Peyton Place” and “Peyton Place: The Next Generation.”

Most of the characters are interesting and intriguing. That of Constance seems to be Miss Goody-Goody but she later reveals an explosive, scandalous skeleton in her closet that causes her daughter Allison to be alienated from her. 

The acting of the whole cast is mostly capable and effective.

After this, Lana Turner would also star in more hit melodramas, like “Imitation of Life” in 1959 and the big hit “Madame X” in 1966. 

She’d also star in the hit TV soap, “Falcon Crest”, but “Peyton Place” remains to be one of her most memorable films as she got her one and only Oscar nomination for her performance as Constance McKenzie.