It seems fitting that my last review for the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon would be published at the end of the month. While looking through the marathon roster for Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) marathon, I came across a film titled, Return to Peyton Place. Despite the fact that I was not familiar with who Mary Astor is, as an actress, I found the film’s description to be interesting. When I was learning more about this film, I discovered that it was the sequel to Peyton Place. So, I decided to watch the 1957 production in order to educate myself on the movie I was about to watch. To me, Peyton Place was just ok. The run-time was too long and the story felt like it belonged on a television show. How will the sequel compare to the first movie? Read my review of 1961’s Return to Peyton Place to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Some of the cast members from the first film didn’t return to reprise their roles. Two of them are Diane Varsi, who portrayed Allison MacKenzie, and Hope Lange, who portrayed Selena Cross. Taking their places in the sequel are Carol Lynley and Tuesday Weld. The great thing about their performances is how they were able to bring a sense of continuity to their characters. Just like in the first movie, Allison is a head-strong woman who is determined to make a name for herself. Meanwhile, Selena is trying her best to move forward from her traumatic past. While returning faces made their appearances in Return to Peyton Place, new characters were also introduced. One character is Mrs. Roberta Carter, who is the mother of Ted Carter. Portrayed by Mary Astor, Roberta was one of the most memorable characters in this movie! Mary effectively brought the unlikeable qualities that Roberta contains. With her demeanor, facial expressions, and reactions, Mary gave the audience a reason to dislike Roberta.
The subplots: Like Peyton Place, the sequel featured several subplots that come together to create one larger plot. What’s different about the subplots in this movie is they were much more interesting than those from the first movie. Return to Peyton Place features three subplots; Allison becoming a best-selling author, Roberta dealing with her son and his new wife, and Selena rebuilding her life after the events of the first film. These subplots led to the main plot, which revolved around the controversy of Allison’s book. These stories not only propelled the narrative from the predecessor forward, but also added depth to the returning characters. It gave new characters a reason to participate as well, providing some interesting interactions and conversations.
The ideas expressed: What I liked about Peyton Place was the ideas that were expressed in the story. A few examples are honesty, the effects of gossip, and reaching out to those in need. This was also a highlight in Return to Peyton Place! Through each story, realistic and relatable ideas were presented. For example, during the main plot, where the town is deciding what to do about Allison’s book, the subjects of censorship and which version of the truth should be respected are brought up. The way they were incorporated into the overall narrative felt natural and made sense within the movie. It also gives the audience the ability to connect with the characters as well as the world they reside in.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The run-time: Return to Peyton Place is a little over two hours. While it is shorter than the first film, I still think this story didn’t need to be that long. Personally, I believe that Return to Peyton Place should have had a run-time of about one hour and thirty minutes. This would allow the narrative to get to the point sooner.
Overshadowed subplots: As I previously mentioned, Return to Peyton Place is told through several subplots. However, some of these subplots received less screen-time than others. Because Allison is the film’s protagonist, her subplot is focused on the most. While this creative decision made sense, it put the other subplots at a disadvantage. Ted and Raffaella’s subplot is a good example of this. Since their story was explored for a limited amount of time, it didn’t receive a satisfying conclusion. I also felt the same way about Selena and Nils’ subplot.
No explanation provided: When Allison published her book, some of the people in Peyton Place had a problem with the novel’s content. While they complained about how the book was “vulgar” and “lewd”, an explanation for why the book was bad was never given. This frustrated me because, as a viewer, I wanted to understand both perspectives on the issue. Because the book’s content was barely referenced in the movie, it made the argument against the book seem weak. This part of the movie reminded me of Chesapeake Shores’ third season, where the O’Brien family had an issue with Bree’s book, but never shared what exactly was in the book.
My overall impression:
As a movie, I thought Return to Peyton Place was decent. But as a sequel, I liked it more than the first movie! With more interesting stories, a smaller cast, and a tighter script, this movie was entertaining and enjoyable. Like its predecessor, Return to Peyton Place is a film that has something to say, providing ideas that are thought-provoking and relatable. While it does have its flaws, it also has its merits. There are things this movie does that improves upon the first one. One example is featuring a collective story that feels more cinematic. I’m really glad that I watched Peyton Place before watching Return to Peyton Place because I would have been so confused if I hadn’t. While there is less problematic content in Return to Peyton Place, some things would need to change if it were released in the Breen Code era. These things are:
- There were several instances where unpleasant or questionable statements and phrases were spoken by the characters. One example is when Lewis says to Allison, “It takes two to make a love affair”. Statements like this would need to be rewritten.
- On two separate occasions, Selena’s traumatic past is talked about by Selena herself. Because it involves dark subjects, this part of the story would have to be revised in order to meet Breen Code standards.
- There is one scene where Ted and Raffaella are seen passionately kissing while laying on a bed. Even though these characters are married to each other and this act never leads to sex, this scene would have to be changed. The kiss itself would be shorter and would not take place on the bed.
- Kisses in this movie are more passionate and last longer than kisses in Breen Code films. If Return to Peyton Place premiered during the years of 1934 and 1954, the kisses would be shorter in time length.
- Some of the female characters wear outfits that have low necklines. These outfits would need to be changed to reflect more modesty.
- There are two times when Allison is seen disrobing on screen. Even though she is shown wearing a full-body slip, these moments would end up being removed from the film.
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
What are your thoughts on Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under the Stars marathon? Which review from this blogathon has been your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!