The enormous success of The Night of the Iguana had mixed blessings for Puerto Vallarta, which struggled with its new identity as a global tourist destination, while the film’s cast and crew were plagued by misfortune. What happened to bring about such bad luck?
Inevitably, the specter of death, which clung to The Night of the Iguana, reached out its ghostly hand and touched each of the film’s participants on the shoulder. Anthony Veiller never wrote another screenplay after returning from Puerto Vallarta. In failing health, Veiller was diagnosed with cancer and died in Los Angeles in 1965. He was sixty-two. His body was flown to England, the country he most loved, and buried in the family plot at St. Mary’s Churchyard in Bepton, West Sussex.
In 1969, John Huston’s fourth wife, Ricki Soma, who had been separated from her husband for ten years, was driving with a friend through Strasbourg, France, on the way to visit her parents in Italy, when she was killed in a head-on collision. She was thirty-nine. Remorseful, Huston adopted his wife’s four-year old daughter, Allegra, who became a sister to her half-brother Danny.
The most famous survivor from The Night of the Iguana was, not surprisingly, also the strongest. In 1990, Elizabeth Taylor sold Casa Kimberly and its original furnishings, art and other personal possessions to San Diego investors Maurice Mintzer and Toy Holstein, who managed the famous home as a bed-and-breakfast hotel and museum. Ten years later, the property was listed for sale at $1.75 million. In 2006, the house was seized for unpaid liens and taxes and its owners evicted. Shortly after, the home was purchased by Janice Chatterton, a wealthy San Francisco madam, who once ran the largest escort service in the bay area. (In 1983, Chatterton and her daughter Paula Carvajal were arrested by police and charged with pandering and pimping, two separate felony counts that each carry prison sentences of three to six years.)
This unexpected turn of events, in which a convicted prostitute took ownership of Taylor’s house, put a wry smile on the aging star’s face – if not for the buyer’s audacity then for the irony of her actions. Chatteron had already bought Richard Burton’s former home Casa Bursus and converted it to a boutique hotel named Hacienda San Angel, which opened in 2003. Her acquisition of Casa Kimberly was viewed by preservationists as an attempt to reunite Hollywood’s most famous couple, the memory of which still looms large in the Mexican port and elsewhere. In 2011, Taylor died from congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. She was seventy-nine…