On September 15, 1964, ABC began airing a twice-weekly primetime drama based on the then-scandalous best-selling novel “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious (which had been made into a 1957 theatrical feature by Mark Robson starring Lana Turner, Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn, Terry Moore, Hope Lange, Diane Varsi and David Nelson). The show catapulted ABC from No. 3 to No. 1 in the TV ratings race.
With fine acting by Dorothy malone, Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal, among others, the nightime soap opera stretched the boundaries of what was considered morally acceptable in pre-sexual revolution America.
“Peyton Place” was one of those TV series that helped mold a generation of teens, becoming the topic of conversation in school yards and on campuses around the country. Others that come to mind are “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” (as David and Rick grew into teens) and “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” which aired from 1959 to 1963.
“This is the continuing story of Peyton Place” the soothing voice of benevolent town elder Matthew Swain (Warner Anderson) would begin every episode. But the stories that followed were anything but soothing. Extramarital affairs, unwed teen pregnancies, family betrayals, mental illness and even murder were all lurking behind the storybook façade of this picture-perfect, centuries-old New England village and its citizens.
From the day Dr. Michael Rossi (Ed Nelson) arrives at Peyton Place to assume his role as town doctor, some of the townspeople’s lives begin to unravel, revealing unexpected and intersecting relationships long hidden by secrets and lies. The widow Constance MacKenzie (1950s melodrama star Dorothy Malone), her innocent daughter Allison (Mia Farrow), the wealthy but troubled brothers Rodney and Norman Harrington (Ryan O’Neal and Christopher Connelly) and their powerful father Leslie (Paul Langton), love-struck sex goddess Betty Anderson (Barbara Parkins) and others are revealed to be much more than they initially appear.
The series ran for 514 episodes until 1969.
In the 50s people were shocked by the book and teens had to carry their copies wrapped in book covers or plain paper; in the mid-60s we were shocked when Mia Farrow cut her loose, blond hair to less than a few inches in length before leaving the show and marrying Frank Sinatra in 1966; now we’re shocked that it’s taken so long for the series to come to home video.
Due May 19, 2009 is “Peyton Place: Part One,” a five-disc set with 31 episodes, to be followed by “Peyton Place: Part Two,” another five-disc set with 31 episodes, due July 14.
Both sets have a $39.99 list price.
Now if only Dobie would come to DVD.
Source: Shout! Factory press release.
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