‘Peyton Place’: The Series Outraged Residents of the ‘Real’ Peyton Place

Grace Metalious endured a significant amount of criticism and backlash after publishing her book Peyton Place, and then again when it was made into a hit TV show.

It earned high appraisal from Americans and would go on to make her millions of dollars. Her fame wasn’t without sacrifice, however. She went to extremes when it came to writing her novel, but it would become a book of dirty truths her hometown would forever condemn.

The series truly outraged residents of Gilmanton, NH (the ‘real’ Peyton Place). So much so that some of the reported comments might make you cringe as much as they did when they read (or watched) Metalious’s story.

The controversy of ‘Peyton Place’ and the book the TV series was based on

PEYTON PLACE | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Set in a time around WWII, many storylines addressed sex, murder, scandals, incest, suicide, and more. The controversy was that it uncovered the more forbidden topics that many were reluctant to talk about, despite being an ‘explosive bestseller.’

According to an Australian blog Banned, Peyton Place was “published at a time when small towns were seen as America’s moral compass [and it] exposed the seamy side of northern New England town life.”  

While all forms of literary creativity are widely accepted nowadays, Metalious received considerable backlash after publication. Critics went as far as to say she wrote “literary sewage,” and she was “shunned by her town folk for writing so frankly on taboo subjects.”

On the other hand, Sentinel Source reports that the book became a hit for Americans, who quickly turned it into a movie and TV series following its publication. They explain that “novels usually sold 2,000 or 3,000 copies at a maximum” in the 1950s, but Peyton Place “sold 60,000 copies in its first 10 days of release.”

Grace Metalious’ life and her work

RELATED: Frank Sinatra Pushed Mia Farrow Into Leaving ‘Peyton Place’

It may come as no surprise that Metalious has been writing since she was a little girl. The difference is “princes” and “heroines” changed into more realistic characters that many people in her hometown weren’t ready for the world to learn about them. What you’ll find the most shocking about Metalious and her book is its relation to her hometown and the intense commitment to writing it – despite being a mother.

According to Vanity Fair, the Peyton Place author left her children to fend for themselves while writing her book, The Tree and The Blossom. “Writing was neither hobby nor diversion, but [a] lifeline,” they reported. “Grace often locked her children out of the apartment, so she could write, leaving her runny-nosed charges to fend for themselves in the cold by knocking on neighbors’ doors, asking to be let in.”

The book would make its round from publisher to publisher with declines but land successfully on Kitty Messner’s desk, making her say, “I have to have it,” but the novel title had to be changed to the town it was set in. Stories much like her hometown of Gilmanton, NH, were brought to light in her book, including “a local 20-year-old [Barbara Roberts] who in 1947 shot and killed her father, then buried his body in a goat pen on their farm” that her BFF Laurose Wilkens told her about. A story of a young girl repeatedly raped by her father that you’d quickly recognize in her book. 

What residents of Gilmanton, NH had to say about the book/TV series 

Despite its incredible success in book sales, film, and television, residents of Gilmanton, NH, weren’t happy with it or the author. Even big names like Ryan O’Neal, Mia Farrow, and Barbara Parkins couldn’t persuade them. In fact, some of the comments were downright shockingly cruel to the author and her works.

According to New Hampshire Magazine, after her death, ” there were some in Gilmanton who were adamant that they didn’t want that ‘bitch’ buried in their sacred ground.”

Furthermore, Sentinel Source reports one resident by the name of Mrs. Bryant said, “Nobody gives a hoot anymore about Grace Metalious and her trashy book.” And another by the name of Susie Margraf remembers not being allowed to read it throughout her school years – although it encouraged many more to seek it out. 

The series may have outraged residents of the ‘real’ Peyton Place, but it certainly had a significant impact in other areas of the world. Not to mention it inspired and influenced a lot of the popular soap operas we love to watch today. Fortunately, writers have more freedom to explore the dirty truths in their works today, thanks to writers like Grace Metalious and some before her.