Saturday, January 14, 2006

Those Small Town Values

A Movie Review

Based on the novel by Grace Metalious that scandalized America in the 1950's, Director Mark Robsons Peyton Place spawn a theatrical sequel, television soap, and a host of imitators (even serving as a sort of template for my favorite TV show, Twin Peaks). The story begins in the spring of 1941 and follows a string of characters centering on that years high school graduating class in the small community of Peyton Place Massachusetts. Idaho native Lana Turner, just 11 years removed from her sultry preformance in The Post Man Always Rings Twice, is Constance 'Connie' MacKenzie a local dress shop owner who has been hiding the illegitimate circumstances of her daughters birth from the community for nearly 18 years. Her daughter Allison MacKenzie (Diane Varsi) is a good girl who would like just a little more freedom then her mother gives her. Lee Philips, who comes across as a kind of cross between John Kennedy and Treat Williams, is the new principle in town Michael Rossi. Other characters include Barry Coe as Rodney Harrington the popular son of the owner of the towns primary employer a textile mill, Selena Cross (Hope Lang) Allisons best friend from the poor side of town, and Russ Tamblyn (who incidently was on Twin Peaks) as the shy mothers-boy Norman Page.

Though on the surface everything seems fine in Peyton Place in reality the town is crawling with secrets and its citizens oppressed by its gossipy small-town New England ways. A story of love, lies, adultery, rape and suicide, one can understand why Eisenhower era America was a little taken aback by this tale. After all Peyton Place wasn't New York or Chicago, it was a Rockwellian style every place that struck close to middle-Americas self-image. Slightly hampered by some ham acting, Payton Place features beautiful color photography, a fine Franz Waxman score, and an important lesson about compassion. Of special note is Lloyd Nolans (Dr. Matthew Swain) courtroom monologue at the end, it is really the highpoint of the movie, and by the way that's Bonanzas Lorne Green as the prosecutor.


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