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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Peyton Place

Steve Hayes on the popular "dirty" movie that later spawned a sequel and a hit sixties TV show - a prime-time soap opera, really - of the same title:
"The book that could never be filmed!" In 1957, screenwriter John Michael Hayes faced this kind of stigma over the film version of "Peyton Place," Grace Metalious's scandalous bestseller about the dirty secrets of small town life in America. Hayes, however, beat the odds and turned in an Oscar-nominated screenplay that eventually earned the film the reputation of being "The best film ever made from a bad book!"

In the lead role of Constance, the repressed mother, director Mark Robson cast Lana Turner against type and she received her only nomination as Best Actress. For the teenagers, he cast virtual unknowns, Diane Varsi, Hope Lange and Russ Tamblin, all nominated as well, along with screen veterans Terry Moore, Betty Field, Mildred Dunnock and Arthur Kennedy, who got an Oscar nod as the town drunk. Nominated as Best Picture and shot on location in Technicolor, with a glorious score by Franz Waxman, "Peyton Place" proved to be more than just fodder for soap operas. The end result is a valentine to young love, innocence and life before and after World War II.

Knowing this movie is essential to understanding the punch line of Texan Jeannie C. Riley's wildly popular 1968 country-pop crossover smash:

No, wait - yes, really - a megahit, swear to God - number one on both charts - summer of '68, I remember it well - everybody was humming it, turning up the radio when this came on.  The teen station and the country station.  SRSLY. 

I love it.  Even if Jeannie later got saved and "renounced" the song for its "rebellious" attitude.  I guess Christians aren't supposed to speak truth to power like the lady in the song did, huh.


dave said...

True Confessions - I remember all the young girls on the school bus reading the book when it was still deemed an outrage...

Mareczku said...

I still have my Harper Valley PTA 45 somewhere. I remember when it was #1. I think right before "Love Child." Don't know if I saw Peyton Place, the movie. But I was a faithful viewer of the TV show. Thank God for that. I was so innocent, at least I learned a think or two from watching Peyton Place on TV. :)

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