Basically Return to Peyton Place is a high-class soap opera. The screenplay preserves the nature of Grace Metalious’ novel, alternately building three or four separate but related story veins into individual crescendos, then welding the moving parts into a single grand climax in which everything falls neatly into place.
The basic stories are: (1) Carol Lynley’s, as the tyro novelist whose close-to-home fiction produces civic repercussions and whose romantic relations with her editor-publisher (Jeff Chandler) accelerate her maturity; (2) Tuesday Weld’s, as the emotionally-troubled girl whose past misfortunes are soothed when Lynley’s book sheds new light into the matter; and (3) Mary Astor’s, as a super-possessive Peyton Place mother who attempts to wreck the marriage of her son.
Jose Ferrer’s direction of this material is deliberate, but restrained and perceptive. The cast is a blend of polished veterans and young players. The lovely Lynley does a thoroughly capable job, although a shade more animation would have been desirable. But it is the veteran Astor who walks off with the picture.