The temperature wasn’t the only thing that was hot in the summer of ’57 as 3,000,000 people toted copies of Grace Metalious; steamy novel Peyton Place
, to their favorite beach spots. And when Fox bought the film rights to the best-seller, no one thought that her novel could be filed without cutting most of the sex out of it. They were wrong.
When Peyton Place
hit the screens at Christmas, the majority of the scenes of suicide, abortion, adultery, rape, and murder were still intact. The film flew in the face of the by-now-impotent censors, and that was just fine with the paying public, who couldn’t wait to see it all discussed up on the bigger-than-life Cinemascope screen.
It wasn’t all no-holds-barred, however. Compared to today’s Peeping-Tom camera with its almost clinical shots of sex acts, this was quite tame; not exactly Bambi
, but tame. Set in 1941 in a small New Hampshire town (beautifully doubled here by Camden, Maine), the film left some taboos to be broken in screen dialogue. Four-letter words beginning with ‘f’ were certainly not a part of its vocabulary. Nor, oddly, was the word abortion. When the town doctor performs a then-illegal operation, he tells someone, “I assisted her in a miscarriage”. You may recall that Clark Gable
wasn’t even allowed to say that no-no back in ’39. We’d come a long way, baby.
Casting had much to do with the film’s success Lana Turner
finally played an adult role, as the mother of a teenager. Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, Leon Ames, and a pre-Bonanza Lorne Greene
completed the adult roster, while a crop of new comers – Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn, Diane Varsi, and David Nelson (yes, Ozzie and Harriet’s boy) – proved their professionalism.
In true Hollywood style, Fox came up with a sequel in a 1961 movie called Return to Peyton Place
. Most people didn’t want to.
But most surprising of all was what happened seven years after the film was released. Finally, 20th Century-Fox had found the perfect vehicle for a television spin-off. Peyton Place
went on ABC in September, 1964, and continued to run for five seasons. It was the original night-time soap. The show made stars out of two of its cast, Mia Farrow
and Ryan O’Neal, and had a stock of other prestigious actors like Leslie Nielsen
, Barbara Parkins, Lee Grant, John Kerr, Wilfred Hyde-White, Lana Wood, Leigh Taylor-Young, Gena Rowlands, Barbara Rush, and Dan Duryea. It was not until June 2, 1969, that Peyton Place
ran its full course.