Betty Anderson: A Little Clip from Peyton Place

Peyton Place, the book, the movie, the TV nighttime drama, is all about repressed sexuality, illicit sex, bastards, and unwed mothers. I love it. I can still see TV Allison (Mia Farrow) running downstairs each morning on her way to school, kissing the magazine cut-out of her “father” that her mother Constance MacKenzie had so lovingly framed and placed on the mantle. The dead war hero. Hmmm, not exactly! Connie has issues, but they’re for another time.

Then, there was Betty Anderson (Barbara Parkins) and Rodney Harrington (Ryan O’Neill), small town beauties made for each other, except… Rodney the rich boy and Betty, the not quite from-the-other side-of-the-tracks but low enough on the social ladder to be unacceptable. (Adding to the lovers’ problems was the ick factor affair between Betty’s mother and Rodney’s father.)
I could write about Peyton Place for days, and at some point I will probably return to it. Since I’m still strapped for time tonight, though I’m posing this clip from the TV show.
I love Betty’s talk with Allison at the pillory on the town square; her knowledge that they stand as a silent mediator of female transgression, especially for those who know and then reject its meaning. For the virtuous bookish Allison, the pillory is only an historic curiosity and artifact. For the sexually active Betty, the pillory is the material manifestation of her secret (at least for now) sin and the humiliation that awaits her at the hands of small town hypocrites when it’s revealed. In a larger sense, the pillory is Peyton Place.

A: You’re looking at that as though it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it.

B: Was I?

A: Yes, you were.

B: Maybe I was

B: Why do they keep it here?

A: Umm, visitors…summer tourists, I guess

B: Not for us?

A: What do you mean?

B: Well we see it too . We see it every day. We never think about it. Do you Allison?

A: Well, not exactly. I mean I know it’s here.

B: So did I.
Betty’s appointment with new doctor in town Mike Rossi (Ed Nelson) and her response to Rossi while she waits to know what she already knows, got audiences gaspy. Betty didn’t regret throwing away her virtue, only the consequences.
B: Welcome to our Puritan village

M: Well I’m no Puritan.

B: Did you happen to notice that thing in the square down there? That wooden thing with the holes for the arms and head.

M: You mean the pillory?

B: That’s how they used to to punish people.

M: That’s 200 yeas ago.

Time change

B: That’s what you think now, Dr. Rossi. You’ll change you mind if you stay here in Peyton Place.
Watching this scene, I get kind of queasy. Watching Betty I can’t help but think of The Girls Who Went Away. Betty’s defiance wouldn’t have lasted long in Peyton Place. She’d not have had her hair cut off She’d have gone away, but for the traffic accident that renders her sexual transgressions moot. Sort of. At this point, Betty got soapy, pretended she was still pregnant, nailed Rodney who was trying to trade up with Allison, and…to be continued.

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4 Replies to “Betty Anderson: A Little Clip from Peyton Place”

  1. O! Yes, remember this series well. I noticed the copyright..1964. Was the year I was pg and lost my newborn firstborn to the Adoption Mill. The Pillory is still in existence…now it’s called Closed Records..Sealed Birth Certificates, for both adoptees and their natural mothers. The punishment is still there, just not in the physical form of a “Pillory”.
    Noticed the look on Ryan’s face when he spoke the name “Betty”..was the look of disdain and he used the word “casual”. Dark haired Betty dressed in a not-so-subtle tight seductive spaghetti-strap dress…versus blonde, virginal Mia in her tame school-girl clothes. I look at that stuff now and want to throw my coffee at the screen. Effin’ Hypocrites! Everybody was doing ‘it’, just some never got ‘caught’. One has to wonder were the Social Workers having sex back then? Did any female social worker get pg out of wedlock? Where did they go and did they listen and pay heed to their own lectures…the same ones they handed us? Just thinkin’ out loud.

  2. Yes, I remember this. I had to read the book hidden inside another when I got a copy of it. I would put it inside my algebra book and read it in study hall. The series was never on at our house. It was too controversial, especially since I was the same age as the girls in the series. I remember it all….and then I also went away.

    I agree with Chris, not much has changed, really.

  3. Great post. What fun to see this clip. I was 9 in 1964 but my Mom let me stay up late to watch Peyton Place with her. Haven’t seen it since then – funny to look it at with an adult perspective.

  4. What a great clip! I don’t think I watched it much, but do remember thinking Alison was beautiful. I was much more an Alison (though not at all beautiful) than Betty in high school. I was afraid of girls like her, they all smoked in the girl’s room and were pretty mean.

    In retrospect, I think it was stuff like this in the media all over that made me not believe that I could be an unwed mother because I was “not like that.” Little did I know!

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