‘Peyton Place’: The Film That Spawned the Series Was Filmed In 1 Of Maine’s Most Beautiful Towns

Incestuous relationships. Dark homicides. Salacious scandals. When the controversial movie Peyton Place began production on the northeastern shores of America, residents of the town it was being filmed in raised their eyebrows and rumors spread rapidly.

After all, this was taking place back in the more conservative 1950s, and the book the movie was based on was already infamous for its controversial storylines. But Peyton Place would prove to be a Hollywood blockbuster, getting nominated for numerous Academy Awards and even inspiring a modern take in a TV show adaptation.

Today, real-life residents of the mystery town look back with much fonder memories of their experiences while Peyton Place was being made.

‘Peyton Place’ proved very controversial during its day

The cast of American soap opera 'Peyton Place', circa 1966.
The cast of American soap opera ‘Peyton Place’, circa 1966. Back row, left to right: John Kerr, Lana Wood, Stephen Oliver, Leigh Taylor-Young, Gary Haynes, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Ruth Warrick, George Macready, Evelyn Scott and Frank Ferguson. Front row, left to right: James Douglas, Barbara Parkins, Ed Nelson, Dorothy Malone, Tim O’Connor, Pat Morrow, Chris Connelly and Ryan O’Neal. | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Peyton Place was released in 1957, just one year after the release of the novel that inspired it. The plot follows the residents of Peyton Place, a fictitious town in New England, from the late ’30s to the years after World War II. 

It centers around three women: The sad and isolated Constance MacKenzie, her daughter Allison who was born out of wedlock, and her impoverished employee Selena Cross. In the years surrounding the war, the women get caught up in the small town’s dramas that quickly grow to scandalous and oft-tragic proportions. For example, Selena becomes pregnant after being abused and raped by her stepfather. Accused by the town’s doctor and residents of lying about the assault and rape, Selena takes matters into her own hands and kills her stepfather. 

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The storyline may sound like something you’d see on a daytime soap or a premium cable drama today, but back in the ’50s, Hollywood stories about sex, murder, rape and a woman’s right to bodily autonomy were a rarity. Despite the controversy, Peyton Place launched the careers of many celebrities and even got a TV spinoff. 

‘Peyton Place’ put the spotlight on many of the film’s central cast

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The film starred a massive ensemble cast of the day’s biggest stars, including Lana Turner as Constance MacKenzie. Meanwhile, Diana Varsi played Allison MacKenzie, Hope Lange starred as Selena Cross, and Arthur Kennedy played the villainous stepfather Lucas Cross. 

Critics praised the cast for their performances, and they were nominated for many Academy Awards. The success of the film even led to an Emmy award-winning TV adaptation that aired on ABC from 1964 to 1969 and starred famous actors like Mia Farrow as Allison MacKenzie. 

Of the 1957 movie, the critics at From the Front Row declared that “once you fall in love with Peyton Place, you may never want to leave.” And while the town of Peyton Place is fictitious, the town the movie was filmed in is very much real. And it’s so beautiful, you may never want to leave.

The real-life version of Peyton Place is set in Maine

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The producers of Peyton Place began filming in June 1957. According to Turner Classic Movies, most of the movie’s set was based in the town of Camden, Maine.

“When movie makers wanted to film Peyton Place in this small seaside town in 1957, the best-selling novel the movie was to be based on was so scandalous that the local library didn’t even keep a copy,” reports the Columbus Dispatch. “But that didn’t keep Camden from welcoming 20th Century Fox to turn its streets, homes and people into Peyton Place.”

The outlet reports that more than 500 Camden residents acted as extras in the blockbuster film. And it still plays a role in Camden today, with the town featuring its part in the movie in various tourist activities.

The Columbus Dispatch interviewed one tour guide in Camden named Terry Bregy. “If there was a seminal event that changed the mind-set of the people here, [Peyton Place] was it,” he told the Dispatch. The publication points out that the town has kept its quaint charm, and stunning vistas, almost exactly the same as it was when the movie was filmed.

Today, the real-life Peyton Place continues to wow visitors for its natural beauty, with Penguin Random House’s DK even naming Camden as one of the most beautiful towns in the world. “Though at its best when under a canopy of fall foliage, the coastal town of Camden is picturesque year-round,” it reports. You just might never want to leave.