Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Peyton Place (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Peyton Place (1957)

In director Mark Robson's sanitized and toned-down, yet still torrid soap-opera adaptation of Grace Metalious' best-selling, shocking and scandalous 1956 novel about small-town repression, incest, suicide, rape, nudity, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, and patricidal murder; a sequel followed, director José Ferrer's Return to Peyton Place (1961) (starring Eleanor Parker, Carol Lynley, and Tuesday Weld), and a TV series from 1964-1969 (starring Dorothy Malone, Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal):

  • the opening credits and sequence portrayed calm, picture-postcard views of a New England town, Peyton Place, that was actually a hotbed of scandal and dysfunctional families; the town was divided by the "right" and "wrong" side of the tracks
  • in voice-over narration, one of the main characters introduced later, Allison MacKenzie explained how time in Peyton Place was divided told by the seasons
  • two prominent families in town were - the MacKenzie family (composed of prudish, blonde, widowed dress shop owner Constance "Connie" MacKenzie (Oscar-nominated Lana Turner) and her studious daughter Allison MacKenzie (Diane Varsi)), and the Cross family (composed of alcoholic step-father Lucas Cross (Arthur Kennedy) - the school's custodian, his wife Nellie (Betty Field) - housekeeper for the MacKenzies, and two step-children: Paul Cross (William Lundmark) and Selena Cross (Hope Lange))
  • in the film's opening, step-son Paul Cross was leaving home permanently, on account of his no-good, embittered, drunken step-father Lucas stealing his savings
  • idealistic newcomer to town Michael Rossi (Lee Philips), who was looking for employment, was hired as the new high school principal after being interviewed by local school board member and mill owner Mr. Harrington (Leon Ames) and the local doctor Dr. Matthew Swain (Lloyd Nolan)
  • in an early scene, HS senior Allison MacKenzie, an aspiring writer, met her friends, including best friend Serena Cross, at her mother Constance's dress shop; there, red-dressed, overtly-sexual, fast-living trampish sexpot Betty Anderson (Terry Moore) realized that showing cleavage had its advantages, as she told her high-school girlfriends: "Allison, according to my philosophy, what other people think will not pay the rent. So if you're accused of bein' fast, you might as well run. That way you get to all the good things first. Just remember: men can see much better than they can think. Believe me, a low-cut neckline does more for a girl's future than the entire Britannica encyclopedia."
  • an important event in town was the 18th birthday party of the aspiring, sexually-curious writer, and coming-of-age daughter Allison MacKenzie; Rodney Harrington (Barry Coe), the son of the mill owner, brought his disapproved, fast-living, trampish girlfriend Betty to the party, and ultimately caused the party to be shut down by Constance when he encouraged everyone to engage in a necking session
  • Allison was beginning to have a romantic relationship with nerdy, shy and virginal Norman Page (Russ Tamblyn) (with a possessive mother), and delivered her first kiss (in her 'secret place') to him on a large boulder on the hillside overlooking town
  • Allison also caused a rift between Rodney and Betty as a couple, when she agreed to Rodney's request to take her to the school's graduation dance; Betty was incensed and slugged Rodney, not knowing that his wealthy father (who regarded her as a sexpot) had offered him a new car if he'd break his date with Betty, to save his son's reputation
  • the tormented, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Selena Cross was forced to fight off the advances of her drunken stepfather Lucas Cross in their tarpaper shack, after she returned from a date with her boyfriend-fiancee, aspiring lawyer Ted Carter (David Nelson)
  • during the film's incestuous rape scene, her alcoholic father suggested they drink to celebrate her "growing up." He approached her: "About time I started teaching you something...Never had nothing I ever wanted. Never had a beautiful woman." She fought off his lecherous and drunken advances - with views of her straining hands holding onto the bedframe. She pleaded: "Let me up" with her face seen in full close-up, as the scene shifted
The Incestuous Rape of Selena Cross (Hope Lange) by Her Father Lucas Cross (Arthur Kennedy)
  • following Selena's rape by her father, she became pregnant and consulted with Dr. Swain, requesting an 'abortion' (the word was not used in the film); the outraged doctor, who promised to keep her situation a secret, threatened Lucas with jail-time, and was able to force him to sign a confession that he had fathered the child
  • but then when Selena returned home, she was again attacked by her spiteful father; she fled from him into the woods, and fell - suffering a miscarriage; Dr. Swain reported his operation on her as 'appendicitis'
  • on the same day as the Labor Day picnic, after going off to swim in the lake, Allison was reported as skinny-dipping with Norman, although - due to a misunderstanding and a malicious town gossip, it was really Betty and boyfriend Rodney who were swimming naked; during their naked swim, Betty challenged Rodney to oppose his father's wishes and marry her
  • during a subsequent, vicious argument in the MacKenzie household after hearing the town's rumors about Allison, Connie stunningly revealed to her shocked daughter that she was born out of wedlock (illegitimate), and that she had been lied to about her father: (Connie: "Wonderful and fine and good. That's what I told you? Well, I lied. I lied about him because I was ashamed of him and of myself" Allison: "Well then, why did you marry him?" Connie: "I didn't! And he didn't marry me, because he already had a wife!...He had a wife!")
  • horrified by the revelation, Allison fled to her upstairs bedroom, where she found her mother's maid, Nellie Cross (Lucas' oppressed wife, who knew about the sexual attacks on Selena) dead from a suicidal hanging
  • during the war years, Betty was widowed when her married husband Rodney was killed in battle; although he had always disapproved of Betty, Mr. Harrington kept his promise to his dead son to care for Betty and welcome her to the family; also, Connie and the new HS principal Michael Rossi, who had been steadily interested in her, finally made plans to marry
  • upon Lucas' return to the family's shack on Christmas Eve while he was serving in the Navy during WWII, Selena was forced to bludgeon her father to death with a piece of firewood during a second rape attempt, and then buried his body in the backyard; a few months later when Lucas was considered AWOL, Selena confessed her crime to Connie, who then reported the murder to the authorities
  • in the film's climactic courtroom trial for murder, during an unapologetic confessional testimony as a witness for the defense, Dr. Swain claimed that Selena's act of murder was not pre-meditated; he produced a signed confession from Lucas that stated the father's responsibility for Selena's pregnancy, and that she had fought him off in self-defense: ("I assisted her (Selena) in a miscarriage - a miscarriage of Lucas Cross' baby"), although earlier in the film, the doctor had claimed that she had an appendectomy; Selena was acquitted
  • in the film's ending, Allison was touchingly reconciled to her mother on the front steps of the MacKenzie house; in voice-over, Allison remembered: "We'd finally discovered that season of love. It is only found in someone else's heart. Right now, someone you know is looking everywhere for it, and it's in you."

Opening Credits

Trampish Betty Anderson (Terry Moore)

First Kiss: Allison with Norman

Later: Allison and Norman Swimming

Betty Reunited with Boyfriend Rodney (Barry Coe) at the Labor Day Picnic After a Broken Date

Betty and Rodney 'Skinny-Dipping' By the Lakeside

Connie's Revelation to Her Daughter Allison That She Was Born Out of Wedlock

Dr. Swain's Climactic Courtroom Murder Trial Confession About Selena's Rape-Pregnancy and Her Act of Self-Defense

Ending: Allison Reconciled with Her Mother Constance

Pull-back Shot From The MacKenzie House During Allison's Final Voice-Over


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