Each year hundreds of new feature films in every conceivable genre are shown around the world. Few of these movies have any enduring social or cultural impact; most of them are quickly forgotten. One unique film has transcended all others in the last fifty years. It is talked about nearly as much today as when first released in cinemas.
The Night of the Iguana, which was shot entirely in Mexico, put the small fishing village of Puerto Vallarta on the world tourist map. Never before had a mainstream movie generated so much controversy over its depiction of ethnicity, religion and sex – and what could and could not be portrayed on the screen. Behind the highly publicized scenes of this famous love story is an ambitious tale of greed and exploitation between two countries: the USA and Mexico, whose ideologies were as diametrically opposed as the motives of the film’s characters. Fifty years later, these cultural differences, which provide the basis of a fascinating new book, reveal that while times have changed, many things remain the same.
Here, for the first time, is the incredible true story of the making of The Night of the Iguana – from its creation as an acclaimed stage play by Tennessee Williams, regarded as the greatest playwright of the twentieth century, to its transformation as an Oscar-winning movie directed by one of the era’s most respected filmmakers: John Huston. Sharing the spotlight in this riveting saga are two international megastars whose love affair dominated news coverage for much of that millennium: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, together with the highly combustible superstar Ava Gardner, and a third equally impressive star, Deborah Kerr, who lived side-by-side with each other for three months in the Mexican jungle during the film’s grueling production.
Everyone involved hoped they would benefit from the movie’s success. But what was the personal and professional cost to each of them? Through extensive archival research and firsthand interviews, which uncover many previously unknown facts, Howard Johns brings to life the real people and events surrounding the filming of The Night of the Iguana. This richly detailed account of moviemaking is more than an exposé of Hollywood or a sentimental wallow in nostalgia; it is also a time capsule of world events. Johns combines elements of American pop culture, Mexican history and Aztec mythology to tell a prescient saga of human conquest and its surprising, often tragic, consequences.