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WORLD FOCUS: ‘Peyton Place’ revisited ... in Lake Placid

August 3, 2017
By FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

Occasionally, some movies have a lasting impact on viewers, altering their thinking and even influencing choices in their lives.

Some years ago, a reader of my column told me that he used to be an ardent anti-Semite, although he hardly knew anyone of Jewish faith personally.

"I grew up in a family where anti-Semitism has been a tradition, transmitted from generation to generation. I never bothered to question this attitude," he said. "Then I saw Steven Spielberg's movie, 'Schindler's List.' Seeing it, I read up on the subject and my attitude toward the Jews and other minorities has totally changed."

In a recent column, I wrote about seeing the 1957 film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," in which U. S. Navy Commander Shear, portrayed by William Holden, returns on a dangerous mission to the Japanese military prisoner of war camp in the jungles of Burma, a place from where he escaped. He is killed. I described how seeing the film may have saved my life.

Readers' reaction to my column was interesting. Many recalled the impact a movie had on their own lives.

Nanci Bond of Williamsburg, a connoisseur of quality movies, asked me if I had an opportunity to watch American movies before immigrating to the United States.

"Indeed," I replied. "My wife and I were eager to learn from movies about the American way of life."

One of the movies that had a lasting impact on us was "Peyton Place," a drama film from 1957 based on the bestselling novel by Grace Metalious. It is an expose of the residents of a small, fictional New Hampshire town, "where scandal, suicide, homicide, incest, and moral hypocrisy hide behind a tranquil facade."

According to Bond, who saw the movie as a young woman, the book and the film had a critical reception in this country.

"Americans have still been quite prim in those days" she said.

To us, the movie was an eye-opener on American mores. But what made the most significant impact on us was the film's opening shot. It was an aerial view of a small town, with a pristine lake in the middle, surrounded by green mountains. We thought it would be a most idyllic place to live once we arrived in America.

Alas, we settled first in New York City. Then I became the foreign news editor of the Hungarian Daily, in Cleveland, Ohio. When we took our first vacation in America, it was Lake Placid, and to our astonishment, we soon released that this was the town that was the setting for "Peyton Place." It was the place we dreamed about one day to call home.

Later we learned that most of the movie was shot in Maine, but the scenery around Lake Placid served as the setting for the film. For us, it seemed to be the ideal place to settle.

The only problem was how to make a living in the Adirondack Mountains. Earning a living working as a journalist writing in Hungarian and Czech languages, before the computer age, just wasn't feasible.

My wife's training in fashion design was the solution. We established a leather goods store and prospered. I kept writing on world affairs, subsequently in English, organized the Lake Placid Council on Foreign Affairs and during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games held in Lake Placid, founded the Olympic People-for-People Program.

Following the Olympics, we sold our store and bought a second home in Williamsburg, Virginia. I doubt that without having seen the movie "Peyton Place," we would have chosen Lake Placid as our permanent home and lived there for more than 50 years.


Frank Shatz's column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette. Shatz is a Lake Placid seasonal resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," the compilation of his selected columns.



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