The Night of the Iguana (film)

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The Night of the Iguana
The Night of the Iguana poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Howard Terpning
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byJohn Huston
Ray Stark
Written byJohn Huston
Anthony Veiller
Based onThe Night of the Iguana
1961 play
by Tennessee Williams
StarringRichard Burton
Ava Gardner
Deborah Kerr
Sue Lyon
Music byBenjamin Frankel
CinematographyGabriel Figueroa
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 6, 1964 (1964-08-06) (New York City)
Running time
125 minutes
118 minutes
(TCM print)
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$12,000,000[1]

The Night of the Iguana is a 1964 drama romance film based on the 1961 play of the same name written by Tennessee Williams. Directed by John Huston, it features Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue Lyon .

The film won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography. Actress Grayson Hall received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and Cyril Delevanti received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[2]

The Night of the Iguana drew considerable attention for its on-set drama, since Richard Burton brought his soon-to-be-wife Elizabeth Taylor to the location set.[3]


The preface to the story shows Episcopal priest the Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) having a "nervous breakdown" after being ostracized by his congregation for having an inappropriate relationship with a "very young Sunday school teacher."

Two years later, Shannon, now a tour guide for the bottom-of-the-barrel Texas company "Blake's Tours," is taking a group of Baptist school teachers by bus to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The group's brittle leader is Miss Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall), whose 16-year-old niece Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) tries to seduce Shannon. Fellowes accuses Shannon of trying to seduce Charlotte and declares that she will ruin him.

In a moment of despair, Shannon shanghais the bus and its occupants, then tries to prevent Fellowes from calling his boss by stranding the tour group at a cheap (and, he mistakenly thinks, phoneless) Costa Verde hotel in Mismaloya. Shannon assumes the hotel is still run by an old friend named Fred, but the man died recently, so the hotel is now run by Fred's widow, the bawdy and flamboyant Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner).

Another new arrival at the hotel is Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr), a beautiful and chaste itinerant painter from Nantucket, who is traveling with her elderly poet grandfather (Cyril Delevanti). They have run out of money, but Shannon convinces Maxine to let them have a room. Over a long night, Shannon battles his weaknesses for both flesh and alcohol, Miss Fellowes' niece continues to make trouble for him, and he is "at the end of his rope," just like an iguana kept tied by Maxine's cabana boys. Shannon suffers a breakdown, the cabana boys truss him in a hammock, and Hannah ministers to him there with poppy-seed tea and frank spiritual counsel.

Hannah's grandfather delivers the final version of the poem he has been laboring to finish and dies. The characters try to resolve their confused lives with Shannon and Maxine deciding to run the hotel together. Hannah walks away from her last chance at love.



James Garner said he was originally offered the role played by Richard Burton but he turned it down because "it was just too Tennessee Williams for me."[4]

In September 1963 Huston, Lyon, and Burton, accompanied by Elizabeth Taylor, arrived at Puerto Vallarta—a "remote little fishing village"—for principal photography,[5] which lasted 72 days.[6] Huston liked the area's fishing so much that he bought a $30,000 house "in a cottage colony eight miles outside town."[5]

By March 1964, months before the film's release, gossip about the film's production was widespread. Huston received a Writers Guild of America award for advancing "the literature of the motion picture through the years." At the award dinner, Allan Sherman performed a song, to the tune of "Streets of Laredo", with lyrics that included, "They were down there to film The Night of the Iguana / With a star-studded cast and a technical crew. / They did things at night midst the flora and fauna / That no self-respecting iguana would do."[7]


The film grossed $12 million worldwide at the box office,[1] earning $4.5 million in US theatrical rentals[8] It was the 10th highest-grossing film of 1964.

Time magazine's reviewer wrote, "Huston and company put together a picture that excites the senses, persuades the mind, and even occasionally speaks to the spirit—one of the best movies ever made from a Tennessee Williams play."[6]

Bosley Crowther wrote,

Since difficulty of communication between individuals seems to be one of the sadder of human misfortunes that Tennessee Williams is writing about in his play, The Night of the Iguana, it is ironical that the film John Huston has made from it has difficulty in communicating, too. At least, it has difficulty in communicating precisely what it is that is so barren and poignant about the people it brings to a tourist hotel run by a sensual American woman on the west coast of Mexico. And because it does have difficulty—because it doesn't really make you see what is so helpless and hopeless about them—it fails to generate the sympathy and the personal compassion that might make their suffering meaningful.[9]

Crowther was particularly critical of Burton's performance, calling him

spectacularly gross, a figure of wild disarrangement, but without a shred of real sincerity. You see a pot-bellied scarecrow flapping erratically. And in his ridiculous early fumbling with the Lolitaish Sue Lyon (whose acting is painfully awkward), he is farcical when he isn't grotesque.[9]

Like many other Tennessee Williams plays, it also contains a repressed gay character: 'Miss Fellowes', perpetual spinster.[10]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[2] Best Supporting Actress Grayson Hall Nominated
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Stephen B. Grimes Nominated
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Gabriel Figueroa Nominated
Best Costume Design – Black-and-White Dorothy Jeakins Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Foreign Actress Ava Gardner Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures John Huston Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama The Night of the Iguana Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Ava Gardner Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Cyril Delevanti Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Grayson Hall Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture John Huston Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Drama The Night of the Iguana Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Ava Gardner Nominated
San Sebastián International Film Festival Best Actress Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Drama Anthony Veiller and John Huston Nominated


A statue of John Huston stands in Puerto Vallarta, celebrating the film's role in making the area a popular destination.[11]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Box Office Information for The Night of the Iguana. IMDb via Internet Archive. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Movies: The Night of the Iguana (1964)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  3. ^ Alpert, Hollis (1986). Burton. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-13093-4.
  4. ^ "James Garner: You Ought to be in Pictures". Movieline. May 1, 1994. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  5. ^ a b "Mexico: Everybody's Hideaway". Time. November 1, 1963. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  6. ^ a b "Imaginary People, Real Hearts". Time. July 17, 1964. Retrieved 2010-10-08. In ten wild weeks at a sunny place for shady people on Mexico's spectacular west coast, Huston and company put together a picture that excites the senses, persuades the mind, and even occasionally speaks to the spirit—one of the best movies ever made from a Tennessee Williams play.
  7. ^ "Hollywood: Your Place or Mine?". Time. March 20, 1964. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  8. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39.
  9. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (July 1, 1964). "'Night of the Iguana' Has World Premiere". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  10. ^ Naro, Ali (16 January 2016). "The Night of the Iguana". Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  11. ^ ""John Huston" by Carlos Ramírez, 1988". Retrieved 2 November 2017.

External links[edit]