Return to Peyton Place (film)

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Return to Peyton Place
Original film poster
Directed by José Ferrer
Produced by Jerry Wald
Written by Ronald Alexander
Based on the novel by Grace Metalious
Starring Carol Lynley
Tuesday Weld
Jeff Chandler
Eleanor Parker
Mary Astor
Robert Sterling
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Charles G. Clarke
Edited by David Bretherton
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • May 5, 1961 (1961-05-05)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,785,000[1]
Box office $9,996,178

Return to Peyton Place is a 1961 drama film produced by Jerry Wald and directed by José Ferrer. The screenplay by Ronald Alexander is based on the 1959 novel Return to Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. The film is a sequel to Peyton Place.

The film centers on the life and loves of bestselling author Allison MacKenzie, who follows in the footsteps of her mother Constance by having an affair with a married man, her publisher Lewis Jackman.


The film takes place some eight to ten years after the events of the original 1957 movie.

Allison MacKenzie receives a phone call from Lewis, who shows interest in publishing her book and promises to turn her into a household name whose books are exclusively bestsellers. Allison is ecstatic after hearing the news, unlike her best friend Selena Cross, who is still receiving a lot of criticism from the townspeople for her shameful past. Among these people are Mrs. Roberta Carter, an old-fashioned, domineering woman who is unamused her son Ted has had a close bond with Selena. Later that day, Mrs. Carter is visited by her son, who currently lives in Boston. Ted shocks her with the information of having married an Italian fashion model, Raffaella. Mrs. Carter looks down on Raffaella and contacts Selena to drive them apart, but Selena looks through the scheme and refuses to cooperate. She angrily leaves and is involved in a car accident. Young ski instructor Nils Larsen helps her out, and although she treats him coldly, she feels attracted to him.

Meanwhile, Constance reluctantly allows her daughter to visit New York for a meeting with Lewis. Allison is unamused to find out Lewis wants to make several changes in the book, but agrees on cooperating. Constance calls her the next morning and is worried to find out Allison and Lewis have been working all night long, expecting the worst. Back in Peyton Place, Raffaella threatens to ban Mrs. Carter from Ted's life if she continues to treat her horribly. Raffaella and Ted go skiing later that day and Ted is surprised to see Selena with Nils, who Selena finally agreed on dating after bumping into him several times.

The following weeks, Allison spends her time promoting her book, doing interviews for talk shows and radio programs. She is slowly turned into a celebrity, and flirts with Lewis along the way. She is angry to find out Lewis is married, but after she is awarded the first copy of her book, she nevertheless kisses him. The book soon becomes a commercial success due to its meaty contents, but it is heavily criticized by the townspeople of Peyton Place. Constance is disappointed in Allison for allowing the many changes that have been made in the editing room. Selena is disgusted by the way she is portrayed and loses her mind, knocking Nils down with a poker, mistaking him for her abuser Lucas.

Meanwhile, Mike Rossi, principal of the local high school, husband of Constance and only defender of Allison's book, risks being discharged by the school board, of which Mrs. Carter is the head, for refusing to remove Allison's book from the school library. At the Carter home, Ted confronts Raffaella with her quarrel with his mother. Raffaella, realizing Ted will never stand up against his mother, reveals she is pregnant, before angrily leaving her husband. Determined to terminate her pregnancy, she purposely causes a skiing accident.

When Allison finds out Mike has been fired, she finally decides to face the wrath of its residents, who are still incensed by their barely disguised counterparts and the revelation of town secrets in the book. She is immediately confronted by her mother for having sold her decency and self-respect for success and money. Despite the quarrel with her mother, Allison decides to support Mike, who has taken his case over being discharged to the town hall. Among the people defending Mike are Lewis, Nils and Ted. Nils points out that the bigoted townspeople have driven away Selena, who is nowhere to be found, and reveals his plans to marry Selena. Selena shows up not much later and blames the townspeople for making her feel ashamed, before thanking Allison for having written the truth. In the end, Roberta is denounced and Mike is given his job back when Constance publicly says that the older townspeople have been leading the lives of their children too long. Afterwards, Allison has finally become an adult and breaks her affair with Lewis, explaining she does not want to ruin his marriage. She also decides to leave town and start a brand new life.


  • Carol Lynley as Allison MacKenzie, a stubborn young writer who agrees to turn her book into a controversial novel in order to become successful.
  • Jeff Chandler as Lewis Jackman, a married editor and publisher who helps Allison become a celebrity, while a romantic affair ensues.
  • Eleanor Parker as Constance Rossi, Allison's overprotective mother and wife of Mike, who is upset with her daughter's novel. However, she changes her mind, and defends her daughter at the end.
  • Mary Astor as Mrs. Roberta Carter, a snobbish, domineering woman who is reluctant to allow her son to lead his own life, and is among the people boycotting Allison's novel.
  • Robert Sterling as Mike Rossi, the high school principal and husband of Constance, and one of the few supporting Allison's novel.
  • Luciana Paluzzi as Raffaella Carter, a former Italian fashion model and the current pregnant wife of Ted, who deals with the judgment of her mother-in-law.
  • Brett Halsey as Theodore 'Ted' Carter, the son of Roberta, who is afraid to stand up to his mother's dominant behavior.
  • Gunnar Hellström as Nils Larsen, a ski instructor who constantly bumps into Selena, resulting in a relationship.
  • Tuesday Weld as Selena Cross, Allison's best friend a former victim of rape who is still looked down upon because of her past.


The 1957 screen adaptation of Metalious' first novel had been a critical and commercial success, ranking second at the box office and garnering nine Academy Award nominations. But production costs for Cleopatra were affecting the studio's solvency,[2] so 20th Century Fox executives were unwilling to meet the salary demands of the original's A listers and opted to cast the sequel with lesser names.

In June 1959, producer Jerry Wald announced Diane Varsi, who originated the role of Allison MacKenzie, was the first choice of the role, with Diane Baker as a substitute in case Varsi declined.[3] Lana Turner had already passed the role of Constance MacKenzie, which was then offered to Joan Crawford.[3] In the same month, it was also revealed that none of the original cast of Peyton Place signed on for the sequel.[3] In August 1959, Wald announced Varsi was not reprising her role, and that he was planning on replacing her with Anna Maria Alberghetti, with production slated to begin in November 1959.[4] By the time, producer Buddy Adler had already cast Robert Evans as Nils Larsen.[4] Both Alberghetti and Evans were eventually replaced.

While shooting Hound-Dog Man in the fall of 1959, Wald met Carol Lynley. With no announcement of Baker's withdrawal, Wald announced in September 1959 Lynley was set to star as Allison MacKenzie.[5] Despite rumours that Varsi changed her mind and was signed on after all, Lynley eventually was cast. When Wald was later asked be a possible return of Varsi, he responded: "Ridiculous. She hasn't been back to Hollywood since she left here, and I doubt that she'll ever make another movie again."[6] The same month, it was revealed Brett Halsey was among the co-stars of the film.[7] It is doubted if he was cast as Ted, the role he eventually played, because a February 1960 news article reported Dean Stockwell was cast in that role.[8] Later that month, it was reported he was in talks for playing the ski instructor.

In early 1960, it was revealed Crawford would not replace Turner, but the psychotic Roberta Carter, with Norma Shearer in talks to play Constance.[9] Two days later, it was reported Suzy Parker was in talks to appear in the movie in the eventually scrapped role of 'Stephanie'.[10] Parker's character was not dropped until months later. The production was stalled in early 1960 and the following summer because of a writer's strike.[11] It allowed Wald in June 1960 to travel to the East to offer a role in the film to Mary Ure, a stage actress.[11] He announced he was planning to delay production until September 1960 "to avoid the influx of tourists".[12]

When Norma Shearer declined the role of Constance, Bette Davis was offered the part in October 1960, but she had to turn it down due to commitments to Broadway.[13] At one point in late 1960, Gene Tierney and Lee Remick were cast in the starring roles, but it was reported in November 1960 that both withdrew due to pregnancy.[14]

The film was shot in CinemaScope on location in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Shooting began in the Winter of 1960. Tuesday Weld replaced Lois Smith as Selena Cross at the last minute in December 1960, while Luciana Paluzzi took over Barbara Steele's role as Ted's wife.[15] By this time, Crawford also pulled out as Mrs. Roberta Carter, and Davis was unsuccessfully searched as her replacement.[15] Mary Astor was eventually cast in the role. However some of her scenes were cut before the final release. After failing to have Michael Rossi discharged, she goes home and burns her house down in order to kill Ted and his wife. In the trailer for the film we see the fire but not in the movie itself. There is even reference to a fire as one of the characters refers to it.

The film grossed $9,996,178 in the US, far less than the $25,600,000 earned by its predecessor.[16]

The film's theme, "The Wonderful Season of Love," was written by Paul Francis Webster and Franz Waxman and performed by Ferrer's then-wife Rosemary Clooney. The soundtrack has been released on CD by Varèse Sarabande,[17] and the film is available on DVD.

Critical reception

Variety described the film as "a high-class soap opera" and added, "José Ferrer's direction of this material is deliberate, but restrained and perceptive...The lovely Lynley does a thoroughly capable job, although a shade more animation would have been desirable. But it is the veteran Astor who walks off with the picture."[18]

TV Guide says, "the story and its themes tend to evolve to a predictable ending. Astor is marvelous in her role as the overbearing mother...and Weld, virtually unknown at the time, starred in a role that displayed her natural sex appeal."[19]

The UK website DVD Times opines the film "doesn't have the art or passion to make itself compelling, instead relying on a series of base, poorly constructed scenarios which drown quickly in melodramatic sap...The screenplay adopts the format of a daily soap opera...full of hysterical melodrama and inane meanderings...Astor, to her credit, is marvellous...Jeff Chandler...destroys every scene he's in while Carol Lynley makes a cold and unsympathetic lead, with a brittle voice and an oddly immovable face...Tuesday spirited and would have made a better Allison."[20]

Robert Firsching of Allmovie said the film was "sillier than the original, adding to its problems by completely recasting all the roles, combining several of them into existing characters." Calling it "overwrought and overblown," he said "the film is still a treat for fans of campy 'suburban sin' melodramas."[21]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p253
  2. Return to Peyton Place DVD review
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Hedda Hopper" by Hedda Hopper, Altoona Mirror, June 29, 1959, p. 11
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Borgnine Still Looks Ahead", Anderson Daily Bulletin, August 24, 1959, p. 12
  5. "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood" by Hedda Hopper, The Lima News, September 2, 1959, p. 9
  6. "'Ben Hur' Of Westerns Set With Cost Of $7,000,000" by Louella O. Parsons, Anderson Daily Bulletin, June 24, 1960, p. 9
  7. "Tony Curtis Gets Top Role In Film Of 'Great Imposter'" by Louella O. Parsons, Anderson Daily Bulletin, September 8, 1959, p. 7
  8. "Swamped With Offers" by Hedda Hopper, Rocky Mount Evening Telegram, February 11, 1960, p. 40
  9. "Hedda Hopper" by Hedda Hopper, Altoona Mirror, January 23, 1960, p. 4
  10. "Hedda Hopper" by Hedda Hopper, Altoona Mirror, January 27, 1960, p. 28
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Eddie Fisher Is Signed To Produce Two Movies A Year" by Louella O. Parsons, Anderson Daily Bulletin, June 2, 1960, p. 15
  12. "Hollywood" by Vernon Scott, The Daily News, July 23, 1960, p. 7
  13. "Tuesday Weld Is In Spot To Start Being Herself" by Louella O. Parsons, Anderson Daily Bulletin, October 10, 1960, p. 15
  14. "Gene Tierney Expecting, Film Delayed", Redlands Daily Facts, November 8, 1960, p. 6
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Ohioan On Broadway" by Earl Wilson, The Lima News, December 8, 1960, p. 12
  16. Peyton Place at
  17. Return to Peyton Place at Varèse Sarabande
  18. Variety review
  19. TV Guide review
  20. DVD Times review
  21. New York Times overview

External links