1957 drama is choice for first classic film of the new year at State Theatre

20th Century Fox

Lana Turner (left) and Diane Varsi star in the 1957 film “Peyton Place,” which will be shown at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown on Jan. 17 as part of the theater’s Classic Film Series.

Today’s generation of soap operas may just have gotten their start with the 1957 film “Peyton Place” — a film with a story line of such deceit, sensuality and conflict that an entire television series followed seven years later.

And it’s this film that will be the first showing of the new year in the State Theatre’s Center for the Arts’ Classic Film Series on Jan. 17.

It’s based off the 1956 novel of the same name by Grace Metalious, which actually was the springboard to a very successful franchise over the next several years.

After the 1957 film, Metalious wrote a sequel in 1959, called “Return to Peyton Place,” which became its own film in 1961.

The original 1956 novel was adapted again in 1964 as a successful prime time television series that ran until 1969, and the NBC daytime soap opera, “Return to Peyton Place,” ran from 1972 to 1974.

There were also two made-for-television movies, which aired in 1977 and 1985.

The 1957 film is actually a bit toned-down from the book, which is set during World War II, the film concentrates on the stories of several individuals of the outwardly respectable New England community of Peyton Place.

According to the synopsis on Rotten Tomatoes, Lana Turner (“Imitation of Life” and “The Bad and the Beautiful”) plays shopkeeper Constance McKenzie, who tries to make up for a past indiscretion that resulted in her illegitimate daughter Allison (Diane Varsi, “Bloody Mama” and “Wild in the Streets”) by adopting a chaste, prudish attitude towards all things sexual.

But as it turns out, she can’t help but be attracted to handsome new teacher Michael Rossi (Lee Philips, “The American Girls” and “The Hunters”). Meanwhile, her daughter falls sincerely in love with mixed-up mama’s boy Norman Page (Russ Tamblyn, “West Side Story” and “The Haunting”).

While all this is going on, “white trash” Selena Cross (Hope Lange, “Death Wish” and “Blue Velvet”) is raped by her stepfather, drunken school caretaker Lucas Cross (Arthur Kennedy, “Champion” and “Lawrence of Arabia”).

More characters come together in the story that ends in a crazy murder trial which brings to light the dark secrets of Peyton Place.

Directed by Mark Robson, the film has no rating.

The film is slated to hit the State Theatre’s big screen with showtimes at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.

Other films to be shown as part of the Classic Film Series include: “Groundhog Day” (Feb. 7), “The Pride of the Yankees” (March 13), “Jesus Christ Superstar” (March 24), “Laura” (May 15), “Splendor in the Grass” (June 5), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (July 31) and “American Graffiti” (Aug. 21).

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