The cast of The Night of the Iguana arrives in Puerto Vallarta. The actors are greeted by the townspeople, unaware that planeloads of intrusive journalists and photographers will shortly be descending on their peaceful village. Elizabeth Taylor rents a house with Richard Burton:
To be close to Burton and Taylor, his two orbiting superstars, John Huston had taken bigger accommodations at Casa Tabachin. Named after the prolific trees with their bright orange flowers, the four-bedroom Mexican colonial-style mansion was built by Fernando Romero, who arrived in Puerto Vallarta in 1951 – the same year as the city’s centennial. There was an added incentive for Huston’s move to larger premises: the arrival of his English-Indian mistress Zoë Sallis, who now stood in the doorway of the home with their sixteen-month old son, Daniel, in her arms.
Huston stroked Sallis’ long black hair and she gazed up at him with unquestioning love in her wide brown eyes. He removed the cigar from his mouth and placed his lips firmly against hers. The couple kissed for a long time in silence – just the two of them standing in the foyer. Then Huston took the baby and lifted it above his head and the boy made a happy gurgling sound. Huston’s relationship with Sallis had to be kept secret, because he and Ricki Soma were still legally married. However, the illicit affair had its compensations. In a declaration of his love, Huston chose Sallis to play the role of Hagar, the Egyptian handmaiden, who was given as a concubine to Abraham by his wife Sarah, and bore Abraham his first child Ishmael, who became the leader of the Israelites, in Huston’s next film The Bible.
Perhaps that is the reason why Huston enjoyed a good rapport with Burton and Taylor; he empathized with them, especially Burton, who had been admonished by the world’s press for deserting his wife and family. Huston and Sallis were also living in sin, but with one major difference: they had conceived a child out of wedlock. Huston risked shame and persecution for this indecent act. But divorce was not a viable solution for him. His wife was devoutly catholic and he did not want to jeopardize the welfare of his children. So Huston decided to tough it out. He invited Sallis to live with him in Mexico, where their indiscretion would have less of an impact. Ensconced in their new home with a cook, chauffeur and maid, Sallis could care for Danny, who had curly dark hair and the same mischievous expression as his father…
NEXT: Part 4