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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Peyton Place (1957)

In the small New England town of Peyton Place in the year 1940, several lives are about to be changed forever: a widow (Lana Turner) and single mother raising her daughter (Diane Varsi), an abusive alcoholic (Arthur Kennedy) whose wife (Betty Field) has a teen age daughter (Hope Lange) from a previous marriage, a mama's boy (Russ Tamblyn), the town's leading citizen (Leon Ames) who objects to his son (Barry Coe) marrying the town tramp (Terry Moore) and the town's doctor (Lloyd Nolan). Mark Robson's film is a textbook example of turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. Based on the scandalous best seller by Grace Metalious, the screenwriter John Michael Hayes (REAR WINDOW) has turned a lurid trashy potboiler (yes, I've read it) into an often incisive look at small town hypocrisy. Where gossip and speculation take precedence over truth, where people cover up their own indiscretions while pointing fingers at others, where normal sexual awakening is made dirty. This is that rare case of where societal restrictions of the era actually made a film better than if allowed to merely replicate the tawdry elements of Metalious' book. The film garnered 9 Oscar nominations including best picture but also 5 for its cast (Turner, Varsi, Lange, Kennedy, Tamblyn). Curiously, the film's underscore by Franz Waxman, one of the most beautiful film scores ever written was not nominated. With Lee Philips, Mildred Dunnock, Lorne Greene, David Nelson and Robert H. Harris.

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