Peyton Place Watching Peyton Place

Discussion in 'Sundry Prime Time Soaps' started by Gabriel Maxwell, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    A thread that begs to be resurrected is the original Peyton Place discussion @James from London began in February 2009. I can't re-post all 30 pages of it (not sure I could even find them), but James' original thoughts on the show have to be preserved.

    PEYTON PLACE (1957)

    Having heard a lot about it, but never actually seen (or read) it, I thought it was about time to actually do it. So I've started with the original 1957 movie ...

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    ... which is full of all kinds of juicy: suicide, rape, illegitimacy, alcoholism, semi-incest, (none of which are referred to as such on screen) and finishing off with a good old fashioned murder trial. What stops it being merely a succession of episodic mishaps (see the screen adaptations of RICH MAN POOR MAN and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) is its sense of small town place and period. While ostensibly set in the early 40s, it actually screams late 50s (some WWII references notwithstanding). The teens of the town, hemmed by their neurotically repressed and/or controlling parents, are desperately trying to figure out how sex works before they explode. It's like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE without a rebel, or a clue.

    While PEYTON PLACE is apparently responsible for the prime time soap genre, its influence can most clearly be seen in David Lynch's BLUE VELVET, which takes the idea of achingly earnest teens navigating the darkness that lies behind the white picket fences of suburbia to its (il)logical extreme. It's surely no coincidence that Hope Lange, the traumatised teenager of PEYTON PLACE, later shows up as the mother of the Laura Dern, the traumatised teenager of BLUE VELVET - or that Russ Tamblyn, wonderful in PP as an innocent boy with a mother complex (and a striking resemblance to Michael C Hall of SIX FEET UNDER and DEXTER fame) should later appear as seedy psychiatrist Dr Jacoby in Lynch's TWIN PEAKS (which, like PEYTON PLACE, is a soap set in a town dominated by a big mill--not to mention another incestuous father).

    Lange and Tamblyn aside, the only actors in the movie I'm familiar are Lloyd Nolan, great as the kindly doctor who risks everything to speak out against the silent hypocrisy of the town, and Lana Turner, ideally cast as a protective mother whose chilly respectability belies a sordid secret.

    Much like the characters it depicts, the movie is earnest, repressed and oddly touching.
     
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  2. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE
    (1961)


    A sequel to the original movie, but with an entirely new cast and far less location work (the fault of CLEOPATRA, apparently). Despite the story picking up only a few years from where the first film left off, there is no indication of it being set in the late 40s, and the movie essentially takes place at the time of its release. Carol Lynley is miscast in the lead role of Alison Mackenzie, her Sandra Dee perkiness replacing Diane Varsi's melancholic dreaminess that was at the heart of the original story.

    There's less sense of cohesion this time around, with the various story-lines feeling more disparate and episodic. Gunnar Hellstrom, who later directed a bunch of DALLAS episodes before getting pushed under a truck by Tommy MacKay, plays a ski instructor - the idea of Peyton Place suddenly becoming a ski resort frequented by all the townsfolk regardless of social standing feels kinda La Mirage era DYNASTY.

    Mary Astor steals the movie with a riveting performance as an obsessive mother (no shortage of them in Peyton Place) who appears to be existing in another, more gothic movie.

    The whole thing's watchable enough and there's a satisfying climax as the town convenes to discuss the banning of Alison's novel (based on the events of the original film) from the school library. It's essentially a rehash of the murder trial from the first movie, with tolerance and compassion (represented by the youth of the town) doing battle with the moral hypocrisy of the town elders. It's surprisingly touching, and the final message of the movie feels very 60s: "The kids are alright".
     
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  3. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    PEYTON PLACE (1964)

    The TV series starts at the same narrative point as the original movie, only in set in 1964 rather than the early 40s. PEYTON PLACE doesn't seem to have the stiff artificiality of daytime soaps. In fact, it feels kind of movie-ish, with the younger actors especially giving off an earnest Actors' Studio vibe. Mia Farrow makes perfect sense as Alison Mackenzie: tremulous, dreamy, with just a hint of retardation, while Ryan O'Neal as Rodney Harrington is James Dean with puppy fat: a cool jock who seems perpetually on the verge of tears. Fun to see them both so young, especially bearing in mind the divergent paths their lives and careers later took: LOVE STORY v ROSEMARY'S BABY; Farrah Fawcett v Woody Allen; Tatum v Soon Yi; methaphetamine v UNICEF.

    Just like DARK SHADOWS, the first episode begins with a newcomer travelling into town by train. Instead of Victoria Winters, it's Ed Nelson as Michael Rossi, now a doctor instead of the school principal he was in the movies. Either way, he's clearly A Man With A Past.

    Sensitive Norman Page, Russ Tamblyn in the first movie, has been transformed into sensitive Norman Harrington, Rodney's younger brother with a secret crush on Alison.

    Rodney's involved with semi-trashy Barbara Parkins, until he finds his father and her mother together - hugging!! So he dumps her in favour of a chaste romance with Alison. As Alison's mother Constance, Dorothy Malone is kind of Sue Ellen-ish: warmer than Lana Turner's version, ditzier than Eleanor Parker's. She runs a book store instead of dress shop (all the better for such dated customer enquiries as, "Has the new Agatha Christie come in?"). The second episode ends with her realisation of where she's seen Dr Rossi before: he was working in the same hospital the night she gave birth to Mia Farrow. She's terrified he might remember that she didn't have a husband with her - after all, it was only seventeen years ago!

    Episodes 1-75

    The same sort of configurations that show up on later prime time soaps can be seen in the early episodes of PEYTON PLACE. For example, the business and romantic relationships that exist between the rich Harringtons and the middle class Andersons are similar to those between the Carringtons and the Blaisdels in early DYNASTY - if Krystle were married to Matthew instead of Blake, that is, and started seeing her boss behind his back.

    The rich Harrington son (Rodney), sort of a three dimensional Jeff Colby, is dating (and more) the poor Anderson daughter (Betty), but drops her like a hot tamale when he finds his father and her mother together. He seeks salvation in the virginal Allison. This leads a desperate (not to mention pregnant) Betty to try and split them up by gatecrashing their first date and doing a sexy dance.

    Interestingly, the original plan was to kill Betty off in a car crash six weeks into the series, but she proved such a hit with the viewers that she ended up sticking around till the final episode. However slutty she must have seemed in 1964, there's something earthy and relatable about the character, certainly in comparison to the ethereal (albeit likeable) Allison.

    So Betty survives the car crash, but her unborn child does not. On the advice of her father, she neglects to inform Rodney, who reluctantly marries her believing her to still be pregnant. Thus Betty becomes the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who marries into a rich and hostile family - shades of Krystle in DYNASTY and Pam in DALLAS - but it's Maggie in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF whom she most resembles.

    When the truth about her un-baby is revealed, Betty runs away to New York, and straight into a story-line that serves as dry run for Barbara Parkins' big screen role in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. In both stories, she's a small town New England girl who comes to the Big Apple where her friendship with another girl exposes her to a world of booze and pills, fur coats and married men.

    The characterisations on PP are remarkably rounded and non-judgmental. One of my favourite characters is Betty's father George, a drunken, mentally unstable wife beater whom we are invited to feel compassion towards. It's hard to imagine any soap opera today (certainly in Britain) depicting him as anything but a monster. Even the kept woman who (almost) leads Betty astray in New York is portrayed sympathetically, and the man who (almost) rapes her ends up taking pity on her instead.

    Ed Nelson as Dr Rossi and Dorothy Malone as Constance Mackenzie comes closest to conventional romantic leads. Malone, with her glamorous blonde bouffant, is delightfully unconvincing as a humble, bookstore owning spinster. As for the fluttering eyelashes and breathy delivery--I swear to God, it's Linda Gray playing Krystle Carrington.

    There seems to be a cast shake up every thirty episodes or so. The first departures are Leslie Harrington's enjoyably cynical sister Laura, who leaves on a one way trip to Europe, and his brittle, bitchy wife (imagine a bedridden Sable Colby) who becomes the series' first fatality. This leads directly into a story-line in which Leslie, in order to have a codicil to his wife's will overturned, tries to have her declared mentally incompetent. Any similarity to a certain DALLAS story-line is, presumably, coincidental.

    Then we're introduced to Elliot Carson, played by Nick Toscanni's kindly hospital boss from DYNASTY Season 2. Here he's a very different, haunted sort of character who returns to Peyton Place after serving an eighteen year jail sentence for murdering his wife. He also happens to be Allison Mackenzie's real daddy. Can he prove his innocence while protecting Allison from the discovery of her own illegitimacy? (Short answer: No.)

    Another brilliantly dark character, Paul Hanley, shows up around the same time. He's Allison Mackenzie's new teacher with a touch of the Norman Bates about him, who has been travelling in Europe and therefore given to much existential philosophising. He's also the brother of Elliot Carson's murdered wife, and it was his childhood testimony that sent Elliot to prison all those years ago. Now Paul thinks his own father, a religious zealot who runs the local drugstore, may have manipulated him into falsely identifying Elliot as the murderer.

    Fast forward another thirty episodes and Elliot Carson's just been shot by poor deluded George Anderson. He was aiming for Leslie Harrington at the time, having been goaded by Paul Hanley who believes Leslie to be his sister's true killer. And it's at this point that Constance Mackenzie chooses to tell Allison that not only is she illegitimate and that her real father is a convicted murderer, but he's also dying in hospital.

    The scene in which Ryan O'Neal learns from his father that his mother was the real murderer is unexpectedly brilliant.

    Leslie Harrington is the nearest thing to an out and out villain on PEYTON PLACE. A loving but ruthless family man, he bears more than a passing resemblance to early Blake Carrington, even down to the name. So it's a bit of a shock when, after about seventy episodes, he abruptly leaves town for pastures new without so much as a farewell scene. Even more surprising is who replaces him as boss of Peyton Mill: one Jeremy Wendell.

    Other DALLAS connections include Ed Nelson, who was the original Jeb Ames, and writer Robert J Shaw who penned three episodes of DALLAS in Season 3.

    The whole thing's so wonderfully knotty, and the characters are so inter-connected, that a chance meeting between any two people is invariably fascinating. One of my favourite scenes so far is the one where Paul Hanley tells Betty Anderson that he's figured out where she fits in the "emotional geography" of Peyton Place - "at the latitude of my sister [a murdered slut] and the longitude of Allison Mackenzie [the town virgin], a dangerous place to be."

    As far as production values go, it's streets ahead of DARK SHADOWS or any other US daytime soap I've seen. It's closest equivalent, I guess, would be the UK year-round soaps like CORONATION STREET - but in the 1960s, CORRIE's studio bound, "as live" recordings give it the feeling of a stage play caught on film, whereas PEYTON PLACE feels more cinematic, combining something of the slick glamour of the original films with an edgy B-movie grittiness.

    Something else it inherits from the PP films, which I've never seen in any other soap, is an acute awareness of the seasons. The show begins during a sultry Indian summer. Much mention is made of the summer that ended just before the series began which Rodney and Betty spent doing unspeakably erotic things to one another. Then abruptly, the show moves forward in time to winter, and it proceeds to snow solidly for at least three months. Then just as suddenly, we jump forward to spring, and the unexpected wedding day of Constance and Elliot. (I was surprised: I always figured she'd end up married to Michael Rossi like in the movies.)

    Future Monkee Mickey Dolenz turns up in the role of the prophetically named Kitsch, a naughty delinquent who spikes Norman Harrington's (soft) drink and then ties him to the pillory in the town square. Norman is Ryan O'Neal's sad-eyed younger brother, a fragile hunk cast from the same mould as the original Steven in DYNASTY and Alec Baldwin in KNOTS LANDING.

    There seems to be a shift around the Episode 70 mark. Darker characters like Leslie Harrington, George Anderson and Paul Hanley disappear to be replaced by characters with less of a connection to the town's past - Dr Morton's mysteriously too-good-to-be-true daughter and Jeremy Wendell's drag queeny wife and deaf daughter. It's starting to feel less like a "television novel" and more like a conventional soap opera. I wonder if its best days are already behind it?
     
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  4. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I fear this might be all I'll be able to resurrect. Bing doesn't seem to have more pages. And though I saw page 2 of the thread in Google cache only yesterday (I believe there was the next batch of episodes) I didn't copy it then and now it's gone. I suspect Google bots failed to re-index the page in the meantime (since we no longer have it here), so it got wiped out of cache.
     
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  5. Angela Channing

    Angela Channing Soap Chat Winner

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    I started watching Peyton Place today, not sure how long I'll stick with it but if I do, I'll share some of my thoughts on the series.
     
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  6. JROG

    JROG Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I have just watched Claire Morton's introduction. So mysterious, so interesting. The show has also just added Rita and Ada Jacks, who seem like they will be lovely. It just knows when it's time to shake things up a bit and bring in new faces. I love their ability to make up new characters, places, histories, and have them fit into the existing show like they've always been there. Meanwhile, Paul Hanley (who's always been a bit off) is starting to get a little scary... and they paired that with George! Uh oh!
     
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  7. JROG

    JROG Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    PEYTON PLACE has left me shook! I never would have seen the great drama with Elliot, Leslie, and George at the mansion coming. Nasty Paul manipulating George into doing the killing for him. Just brilliant, tense stuff. Elliot better not be dead!
     
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  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    @JROG and @Angela Channing, are you still watching this show? I'd love to read you thoughts and impressions.
    If there's enough interest, I'll ask Ome if it's possible to create a seperate forum for Peyton Place (or 60s & 70s soaps).

    This part of the forum is great for the short-lived 80s soaps, but PP had the same impact and cult-value as the big prime time soaps of the 80s.
    There's enough to discuss besides the episodes reviews.
     
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  9. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Well..ehm...I guess that's a "no" then.:shy6:
     
  10. JROG

    JROG Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    LOL

    I definitely am, although haven't watched it in a couple weeks. I'll continue shortly!
     
  11. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Awesome!:wave:
     
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  12. Angela Channing

    Angela Channing Soap Chat Winner

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    I started watching from the beginning with the plan to keep watching the for the entirety of the first season and beyond. I was really struck by just how good the production values of the show was considering how old it is. However, I after 10 episodes I paused my viewing as I had too many other things on at the time. I plan to resume my watching the show later in the year.
     
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  13. JROG

    JROG Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I gasped when Leslie told Ted that Catherine killed Elizabeth. It's so great because you can't tell whether he's lying or not.

    Constance telling Allison that Elliot is her father was done very well. Farrow played that wide-eyed but dead reaction perfectly. There was something so appealing about her suffering. You can see why she was a star and why the devil impregnated her.

    I suspect Claire Morton may have had an abortion. Don't tell me!

    Paul Hanley and Allison's chemistry was insane when Allison went over to his place and they insinuated she wanted to sleep with him to stop being a child. Hanley may be a dangerous fool but he's got sex appeal.

    I suspect something is building between Claire and Rossi. Uh oh.

    And how stunning was that moment when Allison asked to go to Betty's home and Betty, quite shocked, thought about it, smiled, and put her arms around Allison as they left? Fantastic.
     
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  14. Canon

    Canon Soap Chat Fan

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  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    For some reason I was convinced that Dorothy had died decades ago. I thought she'd died quite young.

    I'm not quite sure from where that notion came. Even Lola Albright only died last year, so I couldn't have been mixing the two of them up.
     
  16. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I´m really sorry for Dorothy Malone´s passing, I always liked her no matter what character she was playing. Her "I´m-so-horny" dance in "Written on the Wind" became history, as well as her amazing scene at the courtroom scene with a big hat (Alexis watched this movie, with no doubt!).

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    She was one of those actresses that never was an A-lister but was more talented than others. I wish she had shown up in one of the 4 major supersoaps of the 80´s, aside from that rumor of being cast as Miss Ellie´s long-long sister when BBG had her health scare (maybe then we wouldn´t have had to endure the presence of Dready Reed!). Oh and Malone had the best pair of eyelashes in movie history...

    [​IMG]

    As for Ms. Farrow, I thought that she devoted all her time to put needles into her Woody Allen voodoo doll...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2018
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  17. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    After a nine-year break (!) PEYTON PLACE is returning to DVD with the 3rd set of episodes this March.

    http://insidepulse.com/2018/02/07/peyton-place-returns-to-dvd-with-part-3-in-march/

    Though I have the entire bootleg collection of 514 episodes (missing an episode, as I recall), I'll be very happy to add this to the 2 sets from 2009 given the superior quality. Maybe after getting it (thus having the first 100 or so episodes in DVD quality) I can start my first re-watch.

    I've only seen PEYTON PLACE: The Series once, but I thought it was the best written soap I have ever seen. So, a re-watch is a must at some point.

    [​IMG]
     
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