Cast: Lana Turner, Lee Philips, Diane Varsi, Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn, Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, Terry Moore, David Nelson, Barry Coe, Betty Field, Mildred Dunnock, Leon Ames, Lorne Greene, Robert H. Harris, Tami Conner, Staats Cotsworth, Peg Hillias, Erin O’Brien-Moore, John Doucette, Scotty Morrow
In 1941, in the New England town of Peyton Place, Allison (Varsi), a high school student and aspiring writer, endures the overprotective care of her mother, Constance MacKenzie (Turner). When not working in her dress shop, Constance, an attractive widow, is dedicated to raising her daughter in a way she considers cautious and proper, but which Allison finds stifling. Allison’s best friend is Selena Cross (Lange), who has family problems of her own. Selena lives with her mother Nellie (Field), brutish stepfather Lucas Cross (Kennedy), and young half-brother Joey (Morrow) in a ramshackle house on the poor section of town. When the position of High School principal becomes vacant, the school board passes over veteran teacher Elsie Thornton (Dunnock) and hires outsider Michael Rossi (Philips). Disappointed, Miss Thornton tells Allison, “A person doesn’t always get what she deserves. Remember it. If there’s anything in life you want, go and get it. Don’t wait for anybody to give it to you.” Leslie Harrington (Ames) is the richest man in town. His influence is felt by all who live there, and particularly by his son, Rodney Harrington (Coe). Rodney, against his father’s will, seeks the company of his unconventional girlfriend, Betty Anderson (Moore). Michael Rossi, the new principal, makes the acquaintance of teachers, students and parents. He is attracted to Constance MacKenzie. Constance is also drawn to Rossi, although something in her past makes her repress her feelings. Norman Page (Tamblyn), a shy boy dominated by his mother, is Allison’s closest male friend. The two are constant companions, their introversion distancing them from others, and their bashfulness making talk about sex awkward. Selena’s stepfather, a violent drunkard, becomes increasingly abusive. The local physician, Dr. Matthew Swain (Nolan), is aware that something is very wrong in the Cross household, but he is unable to help, because both Selena and her mother are fearful of Lucas Cross and keep secret the worst. Despite Constance’s inner fight against her attraction to Rossi and her fear of the town gossips, she and the principal develop a close personal relationship. The lives of the residents of Peyton Place face turbulent times, not mainly because of the looming war, but because beneath the town’s placid exterior lie many dark secrets. Repression, coercion, gossip and hypocrisy bring about scandal, deaths, and a shocking trial that tests the resolve and integrity of the best of the residents. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Based on the novel of the same name by Grace Metalious, born Marie Grace de Repentigny. The towns of Gilmanton, Alton, and Gilford, in New Hampshire, were the models for the fictional Peyton Place.