Peyton Place

Director: Mark Robson
Year Released: 1957
Rating: 3.0

Early - and quite famous - soap opera examining the inner workings of a small town in New England, arguing that gossip and fear of gossip are corrupting the populace: if we only bring these things out into the open, it's saying, and be honest with ourselves and respect the lives of others, we won't have to worry about our own skeletons in our closet. There's a lot of truthfulness in this about people misjudging others and having to live lies to avoid scandal - which is wrong - but surely going in the opposite direction, of parading our dysfunctional home lives and darkest of secrets in front of everyone is no solution either (it's surprising to me that the most noble person in the town is the level-headed doctor, played by Lloyd Nolan). The critics at the time went after it for being 'tame' (including the usually questionable Bosley Crowther of the New York Times), but I'm not sure a sleaze-fest could have been appropriate - the 'whitewashing' (as some called it) keeps it from being too explicit and nasty and makes it more of a pop-Freudian affair (it does, after all, touch on some major 'sins': underage drinking, make out parties, Sex Ed. books in brown wrappers, alcoholism, rape, teen pregnancy, abortion, adultery, skinny dipping, suicide, murder). True, it is gaudy and a little long, but these things are forgivable - unforgivable, naturally, is the courtroom trial that ties up all loose-ends (it's a bit distressing to think - nowadays, at least - that the legal system can fix all problems).