Shot on location in Camden and other sites in midcoast Maine in 1957, and now brought back to vibrant life in this spectacular restoration for its 60th anniversary, Peyton Place will be screened at the Camden Public Library on Tuesday, August 22, at 6:30 pm. The screening will be free. Peyton Place was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography; plus five Best Acting or Supporting Acting nominations. [157 min.]
Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it was consumed as avidly by readers as it was condemned by critics and the clergy, according to the Cornell University Press. Its author, Grace Metalious, a housewife who grew up in poverty in a New Hampshire mill town and had aspired to be a writer from childhood, loosely based the novel’s setting, characters, and incidents on real-life places, people, and events. The novel sold more than 30 million copies in hardcover and paperback, and it was adapted into the hit Hollywood film in 1957 and a popular television series that aired from 1964 to 1969. More than half a century later, the term “Peyton Place” is still in circulation as a code for a community harboring sordid secrets.
The Camden Public Library is participating in the Peyton Place revival. Some of the scenes are quite amusing, at least to local audiences, such as the “secret” place Allison is so proud of which turns out to be the top of Mt. Battie, and the bus to New York which comes down the street from Hope and heads off to Bangor. Other scenes are challenging, in trying to place where they were taken and how they were edited to make Allison skip merrily from Chestnut Street to Belfast and back.
Ardis Cameron says, author of Unbuttoning America, says, “[Peyton Place] was considered an outrageous book, so it is startling to realize that one in 29 Americans bought a copy. It was the bestselling novel of the 20th century until The Godfather came along. So many of the unconventional sexual and gender behaviors that were going on in the 1950s were under the radar screen. But the women of Peyton Place — Selena Cross, Allison MacKenzie and Betty Anderson — dealt with issues such as unwed mothers, incest, homosexuality that resonated for many people. Readers could identify with these stories. They could use the stories to describe their own feelings and describe behaviors they felt were beyond words, like incest. It attracted all kinds of readers, from Julia Child, who found it a great read, to John Waters.”