20 May 2008 | Harold_Robbins
Sequel-itis Sets In
I was pleasantly surprised that RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE wasn't as bad as I'd remembered it to be - it's a well-mounted film, again produced by Jerry Wald (who produced, among other classics, MILDRED PIERCE), but neither as glossy-slick nor as compelling as its predecessor. It suffers from the same fate most sequels do, no matter how well-done or well-intended: the magic that sparked the original is simply gone and cannot be recaptured.
RETURN, of course, is a thinly-veiled account of some of what happened to author Grace Metalious after PEYTON PLACE became the publishing phenomenon of the 1950s (no indeed, the townsfolk were not too fond of their "Pandora in Blue Jeans," as she was called, and, if memory serves, did indeed fire her schoolteacher husband). But it's kind of inconceivable that Metalious's novel would have been published at all if she'd been the snotty bitch portrayed by Carol Lynley - no publisher would have put up with such an attitude from an unknown, first-time novelist.
CLEOPATRA's budget was straining the coffers at Fox, so the cast is not as big as PEYTON PLACE, nor, with three exceptions, as notable. Three Hollywood veterans - Eleanor Parker, Mary Astor, and Jeff Chandler, show the young folks how it's done, and Astor, selfish and manipulative as were two other characters she played (Brigid O'Shaughnessy in THE MALTESE FALCON, and Sandra Kovack in THE GREAT LIE, for which she won an Oscar) simply walks off with the film. We don't like Roberta Carter, or the censorship she tries to impose, but we understand her resistance to change, to losing the values and things she holds dear (including her son). And, unfortunately, Astor/Carter's advisory to the people of Peyton Place that they will live to regret their willingness to encourage such changes in morals as Allison's book seems to exemplify, was a sad prediction of the painful price we would pay in the 1980s for the sexual freedom of the 1960s.