It is believed that Grace wrote the first draft of Peyton Place over 10 weeks in 1955. It was tentatively titled The Tree and the Blossom. The book was accepted for publication in 1956 by a small New York publishing house, Julian Messner, which was owned and operated by a non-conformist Kathryn Messner.
Peyton Place was panned by critics and banned in several cities, but the book was such a huge hit that it was made into a film starring Lana Turner. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards in 1957. The movie rights were purchased from Grace only a month after the book was released by producer Jerry Wald for $250,000. She eventually earned $400,000 in profits from the film. Grace hated the movie version, considering it a "sanitized" adaptation of her book, and although she was hired as a consultant to work on the film, she ultimately did very little to contribute to it. The film became one of the highest grossing films of 1958. The film was turned into an evening soap opera starring Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal, which ran from September 1964 to June 1969.
Metalious earned the nickname "Pandora in Blue Jeans" because the book opened up a "Pandora's Box," and Grace was known for wearing overalls at a time when women generally dressed more femininely. Because of the racy content of the book, Grace's husband was fired from his job and she and her children were taunted and threatened. Though the book spawned a sequel, Return to Peyton Place, her private life soon fell apart. She and George divorced. She married a local disc jockey and began to drink heavily, spent her money freely, and settled in the town of Meredith.
She remarried George in 1960 and wrote two more novels, The Tight White Collar and No Adam in Eden, but developed cirrhosis of the liver and passed away on February 25, 1964 at the age of 39. She is buried in Smith Meeting House Cemetery in Gilmanton.
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