Tuesday, May 24, 2022


The first Peyton Place movie, based on a racy bestseller, is about the scandals and hypocrisies of a small New England town. If you haven't seen it, the only thing you really need to know to follow the events of this sequel, set several years later, is that Selena Cross (played here by Tuesday Weld) was raped by her stepfather whom she later killed in self-defense. This film begins as Alison McKenzie (Carol Lynley) learns that a novel she has written based on life in Peyton Place, and in particular on what happened to Selena and how badly the townspeople treated her, has been accepted for publication by publisher Lewis Jackman (Jeff Chandler), who asks her to come to New York City so he can help her get the book into shape. She does, falling in love with Jackman, a married man. Alison's mother Constance (Eleanor Parker) worries that she will wind up pregnant, as she herself did with Alison's father, though by now, Constance is quite respectable, married to Mike Rossi, the high school principal. Alison and Lewis work together many long nights; it's unclear how much more they get into, though we do see them kiss romantically at least once (pictured at right). When it's published, the book is a hit, even in Peyton Place where, though most people don't like it, everyone reads it. When mean rich lady Roberta Carter (Mary Astor) takes exception to it, she uses her power as a school board member to get the book pulled from the shelves of the high school library. Principal Rossi reinstates it, gets fired, and goes to the town council to get his job back, leading to a climactic town hall meeting pitting Mrs. Carter against Mike and Alison.

This sequel didn't do anywhere near the business that the original did (either book or film), perhaps because the secrets here are not as scandalous as those in the original. Surely the ambiguity that clouds the Alison/Lewis relationship didn't help. Also, the first movie edged near camp whereas this one is played a bit straighter. In addition to the main plot outlined above, this has a secondary story involving Mrs. Carter and her son Ted (Brett Halsey, at left), the character who actually "returns" to set up a law practice. He brings home his new pregnant Italian wife Raffaella (Luciana Paluzzi, who was married to Halsey in real life), and his mother tries her damndest to split them up. At one point, Raffaella basically accuses Mrs. Carter of having an unnatural love for her son, and later she deliberately skis down a dangerous ski slope in an attempt to cause a miscarriage—unless I missed something, we never know the outcome of the attempt. Selena gets her own somewhat pointless plotline where she falls for a Swedish ski instructor (Gunnar Hellstrom, who is moderately attractive but no big blond fantasy Swede) but that goes nowhere. 

Actingwise, the movie belongs to Mary Astor who does a good job slightly underplaying the big bad mother. Frankly, I could have used a bit more "jungle red" melodrama in her performance, but she's still very good. Halsey (he of the puppydog eyes) and Paluzzi are fine, and though I'm not a Jeff Chandler fan, he's good here as the publisher whose intentions vis a vis his author are never quite clear. Lynley, who wasn't 20 yet,  doesn't have a strong enough presence to blend in the cast—she sometimes seems just whiny as opposed to seriously conflicted. Tuesday Weld and Eleanor Parker aren't around long enough to register much but they're fine, as is Robert Sterling as Rossi. The uncredited guy who plays the friendly heckler at the town meeting (Tim Durant, maybe?) is good as is Jennifer Howard as Jackman's wife—both have short scenes but they stand out. Generally enjoyable 60s soap opera fluff. [DVD]

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