Thursday, January 21, 2010
PEYTON PLACE (1957). Director: Mark Robson.
Surprisingly entertaining film version of Grace Metalious' once-notorious novel with a screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Constance MacKenzie (Lana Turner), who has a secret and a "past," is afraid that her daughter Allison (Diane Varsi) will follow in her footsteps and become like the town "bad girl" Betty (Terry Moore). "Roddy liked flashy girls so that's what I became," Betty says. Alison's friend Selena (Hope Lange) is raped by her step-father and the town seems to blame her. Norman (Russ Tamblyn) has a domineering mother and may have been intended to be a stereotypical gay character. School teacher Elsie Thornton (Mildred Natwick) is passed over in her hoped-for promotion to principal when the town hires much younger Michael Rossi (Lee Philips) instead. [This sub-plot, unfortunately, isn't developed.] Along with Natwick, Varsi, Lange, and Moore come off best, with nice turns by Arthur Kennedy, Lloyd Nolan, little Scotty Morrow as Joseph, and Lorne Greene as a prosecutor. Contrived at times; admirably frank at others. Beautifully photographed by William Mellor, and Franz Waxman's theme music is a classic. The only problem with the movie is that it's supposed to take place pre-WW 2, but it hardly has any late 30's period atmosphere at all.
Verdict: Sex and suffering cloaked in classy sounds and images. ***.