Film Spotlight: The Night of the Iguana

Who do you rank higher? Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams as the best American playwright of the 20th century? I think Tennessee is more influential because several of his stage classics became film classics and provided the meaty roles that propelled the careers of stars I hold in the highest regard.

Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Vivien Leigh, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor all benefited from the plays of Tennessee Williams.

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I watched the 1964 John Huston classic, The Night of the Iguana, followed by a documentary on the making of the film. There’s plenty to like about this dark comedy. It’s a provocative story about morality and lust and redemption and the relationships between men and women. 

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The Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) falls from disgrace from his pulpit and ends up as a tour guide, escorting women on his bus to Mexico.

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Temptation comes in the curvaceous form of young Charlotte Goodall, (Sue Lyons), a “Lolita” (Sue Lyons was the sexy seducer in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film version of the fantastic book and screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov.) bent on seducing Shannon. The god-fearing women on the bus point recriminating fingers at Shannon, especially the possessive guardian, Miss Judith Fellowes, played to perfection by Grayson Hall. Remember her in the T.V. show, Dark Shadows?

Deborah Kerr’s character was Hannah Jelkes, an artist and philosopher who counseled Shannon during the long night. Ava Gardner’s character, Maxine Faulk, was the hotel keeper where Shannon brought his group of visitors. She was practical, smart and fell in love with Shannon.  I liked the bit part of Hannah Jelkes’s  grandfather who created a poem, stanza at a time that mirrored the plot of the story.

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Director John Huston built the entire set at Puerto Vallarta making the Mexican harbor a popular vacation destination thereafter. Engaged to Burton then, Elizabeth Taylor stayed as a guest on the set and offered moral support. Which woman did Elizabeth Taylor need to worry about? Kerr, Lyons, or Gardner?

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Check out the trailer:

The acting and gorgeous setting make this dark comedy worth watching. There’s enough layers of witty intellect and sultry fun, 1960s style, for anyone. I highly recommend it.

37 thoughts on “Film Spotlight: The Night of the Iguana

Add yours

  1. Haven’t seen it, but I’ll check it out at some point.

    As to the first question. I’d agree Williams is a bit more influential. But I have always like Arthur Miller more. Williams is probably better at nailing his themes, but I think Miller develops characters a little better, and the latter is simply more important to me.

    1. Hi, there, James. No complaints from me! I love Arthur Miller, too–The Crucible and Death of Salesman–how can you beat those two plays? Williams can be quite depressing–I think that’s why I am fond of the comedy. Still dark, but not as sad as Streetcar Named Desire or The Glass Menagerie.

  2. I can’t believe I haven’t seen any movie by Richard Burton, I mean he kinda looks like Gerry Butler w/ his piercing eyes, seriously I need to watch more of his films 😉 I’m curious to see this one now.

  3. The Night of the Iguana.
    A lot of movies of that time were way too “Adult” for me. There’s probably a hundred movies in that category that I should go back and catch up on .. now that I’m sort of an adult.
    John Huston .. and what a cast. I’m betting this movie did better overseas. Sleepy Middle America may not have appreciated John’s attempt to awaken them from a puritanical comma.
    Did the censors have a field day with this thing? I’m guessing YES.

    1. You’d find it interesting to note that the starring role was first offered to James Garner who turned it down saying
      “No thanks, it’s too Tennessee Williams for me.” I guess James didn’t neet the melodrama. 😉

  4. This is excellent movie. And superb cast. I watched it about a decade ago. Fell in love with it almost instantaneously.
    I love all the classic cinematic adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ plays I’ve watched. Not so crazy about latter versions though. Cat on a Hot tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor is my favourite.
    And about Taylor needing to worry about Kerr, Lyons, or Ava Gardner. My answer would be none. They are all beautiful and talented actresses I love, but none can hold a candle to the violet eyed bewitching beauty that Elizabeth Taylor was.

  5. Out of the fabulous array of actors in “Night of the Iguana” I think I most enjoyed watching Ava Gardner. Her sultry character Maxine reminded me a lot of the fun-loving free-spirit she played in Mogambo.

    Cindy, while I’m here I’d like to wish you and your readers all the best for 2014.
    I may not be as active as I once was in the blogosphere, but I enjoy your site, and the variety of your content surely keeps luring me back.

    I’ll see you in 2014.

    1. Well, what more could a blogger ask for but your readership and kind comments? I always appreciate when you pop round and share your comments. Best wishes to you, too! Yes, Ava Gardner was my favorite in the film, too. I loved her facial expressions and she was the weight that kept the other characters from flying away.

  6. Ooh that’s a tough one – I was in The Crucible in middle school, and it was the first play that really had an impact on me, and I wrote my dissertation on it (and Twelve Angry Men) years later, so Arthur Miller will always have a special place in my heart. That said, I think I probably agree with Tennessee Williams overall – I feel as though his writing helps me to understand the American psyche, which is just what a great American writer should do!

    1. Hi Claire! Very happy for your comments. Yes, I love ‘The Crucible’ and Death of a Salesman. Tennessee is pretty depressing. However, the American psyche is always struggling with individualism and a need for conformity, so who better than Tennessee, and Miller, too, to express that conflict! 🙂

    1. We both have great tastes, yes? Oh, I was curious: do you like Eastwood in ‘Gran Torino’? His Korean experience with his neighbors is fantastic. He reminds me of my dad who served in Korea.

  7. Usually I do not read writeup on blogs, nevertheless I wish to say that this writeup extremely forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, really wonderful post. fagddfdgcb

    1. Hi Mr. Smith. Thank you so much for the kind words! I love the film–I stumbled on to it on television one evening and couldn’t break away. The acting and the location and the 60s sexiness was a lot of fun. Tennessee is the best 😉

  8. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I
    guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.

    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing.

    Do you have any points for first-time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    1. Welcome! What’s your name? Thank you for the kind words. Personally, I am flattered and happy when people take the time to comment rather than just scroll through the reader and hit like. So I’m sorry I missed your long post. Tips. I recommend short, to the point title. Pictures and text but not too much at one time or you will lose people. Concise and if you are witty, all the better. Most people don’t care much for swear words or graphic talk. While a younger crowd doesn’t mind much, if you want a lot of followers you have to be politically correct and courteous. Having said that, write for yourself an not for your followers. Meaning, write what truly interests you — there will be people out there who find your topics interesting. Some people focus on one topic for their blogs, like films or photography. Others, like me, write about various topics. I stick to films, books, and travel/photography and label them so those who only like my film posts can bypass the book or photo shots. It’s a fun hobby. I try to post 2 -4 times a week depending how busy I am and make sure I write as well as I can and edit my words so I don’t sound ignorant. Of course, depending on how many glasses of wine I consume ;), my mistakes vary, therefore, I compose in the mornings usually while I’m alert and caffeinated. 🙂 Hope that helps!

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