Saturday, March 17, 2007

Overlooked Movies: Night of the Iguana

"When I played drunks I had to remain sober because I didn't know how to play them when I was drunk." ~Richard Burton

When defrocked American minister Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) is expelled from his Virginia church, he travels to Mexico in search of his destiny and sanity. There he becomes a tour guide for a bus load of spinsters and a teenage nymphet named Charlotte Goodall, who is being chaperoned by the group's leader, the inflexible Judith Fellowes. Miss Fellowes, who is quite jealous of Charlotte's attentions to Shannon, discovers the young woman in his room and vows to have him fired. To thwart her plot, Shannon takes control of the bus from Hank, the bus driver, and speeds the tour group on a wild ride through the Mexican jungle to the crumbling, secluded hotel of an old friend, the recently widowed Maxine Falk (Ava Gardner). Eventually Shannon becomes enamored with another guest at the hotel, the rather genteel Hanna Jelkes (Deborah Kerr), an itinerant quick sketch artist and her poet grandfather Nonno. As the wise Hanna partially restores Shannon's fractured world, Shannon struggles to get back the rest of his sanity and his self-respect. It's Tennessee Williams at his best.

Click here to watch the trailer:

Man And Woman - Love And Lust - Ruin And Redemption - One Night They All Meet.
One man... three women... one night

Fun Trivia:
In order to diffuse the tension prior to shooting (due mainly to the isolated location the stars would be working in together), John Huston made each lead actor a gold encrusted pistol with bullets- one with each actor's name on it. This way, when the actors wanted to kill one another, they would use the designated bullet. This proved to be successful. No problems between the cast arose.

This movie put Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, on the map - it didn't even have scheduled air service before John Huston shot the film there. Elizabeth Taylor's appearance on the set and her ensuing scandalous affair with Richard Burton made headlines around the world. Now it's a top resort destination with thousands of hotel rooms and is a popular cruise ship port.

Nearly half the film's $3 million budget was used to pay the three major star's salaries: Richard Burton ($750,000), Ava Gardner ($400,000) and Deborah Kerr ($250,000).

Fun Quotes:
T. Lawrence Shannon: Miss Fellowes is a highly moral person. If she ever recognized the truth about herself it would destroy her.

T. Lawrence Shannon: Nothing could be worse for a girl in your unstable condition, to be mixed up with a man in, in my unstable condition because two people in unstable conditons are like two countries facing each other in unstable conditons. The, eh, destructive potential, eh, could blow the whole world to bits!

Hannah Jelkes: There are worse things than chastity, Mr. Shannon.
Lawrence Shannon: Yes, lunacy and death.


Dr. Zaius said...

I hated this movie, but then again I was like 9 at the time! It was on TV. The only thing I remember was that it was very slow, and everybody was sweaty! a little kids perspective, unfortunately.

Becca said...

I can't even imagine seeing this movie at 9. It's a great movie if you love sweaty over melodramatic films with Richard Burton. And I do so...

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie at the Castro Theater on a double bill with another overlooked Tennessee Williams film "Boom" (based on "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore"). Everything about "The Night of the Iguana" is astonishing--the magnificent script, the tremendously evocative and moddy cinematography, and the superb acting. Ava Gardner was never better. The character of the Oldest Living Poet is one of Williams's creepiest. This is a great film.

Eleazar said...
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