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The Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon has been living in Mexico for two years, working as a tourist guide for a cut-rate travel agency. Shannon lost his church and was defrocked after taking liberties with one of his parishioners. He's now accompanying a group of middle-aged ladies from Texas whose leader, Judith Fellowes, is keeping a close eye on her teenage ward, Charlotte Goodall, who definitely has an interest in the former priest. After Charlotte and Shannon spend the night together, Fellowes is out to have him fired and to keep her from communicating with his employer, Shannon strands them at a remote hotel run by his good friend Maxine Faulk. It's the arrival of Hannah Jelkes and her elderly grandfather that has the greatest impact however. Her approach to life and love forces Shannon to deal with his demons and re-evaluate his life. Written by
In order to defuse 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 among the cast arose. See more »
The sign in front of the church reads "St. Jame's Episcopal Church". It should be Saint James' with the apostrophe after the s, not before it. See more »
A long night for an iguana and three people at the end of their ropes
It's a shame that Richard Burton never played Shannon in "Night of the Iguana" on stage - ditto Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner - because all three are perfect casting for Tennessee Williams' wonderful play, on which this film is based. The story concerns a man of the cloth - well, sort of - Shannon, who, after an accusation of fornication and the nervous breakdown that followed, is locked out of his church and forced to take work as a tour guide for a cheap touring company. He is taking a group of Baptist women through Mexico showing them religious places when, while fighting off the advances of an underaged girl on the trip (Sue Lyon), he is accused by her chaperone (Grayson Hall) of giving into them. In order to keep her from reporting him to the tour company, he steals the bus distributor and holes up with them at the hotel of his friend, Maxine (Gardner). It is there that he meets the gentle artist, Hannah Jelks, and her aged poet grandfather Nonno. Under a dark Mexican sky, as an iguana being fattened for dinner is tethered below, the three confront their demons.
Knowing the actual play as well as I do, and having seen it performed, it's a little hard for me to judge this film, except that the acting across the board is marvelous. Gardner is fabulous as Maxine, the no-nonsense, earthy owner of the hotel who hankers after Shannon and isn't above a little jealousy. This is a role originated on Broadway by Bette Davis. It is rarely cast with someone as sexy and beautiful as Gardner, but those qualities make great additions to the role. Kerr as the spinster Jelks, facing a life of loneliness once her grandfather dies, is exquisite in the role, bringing to the role an analytical quality that normally isn't as apparent. Shannon could have been written for Burton - funny, drunk, with an underlying kindness, he is handsome, spirited, and a little nuts.
The additional characters of the underaged girl and the bus driver seem unnecessary additions, though Lyon was very good in a well-written role. Grayson Fall was great, but why was the recurring line she yells at Shannon - "Please take your hand OFF my arm!" removed from the script? Somehow the stage version is funnier and moves faster, though if you haven't seen it, you will still find this version amusing in sections and thought-provoking in others. The ending is changed as well. The play is a little heavier, a little more compelling, a little sadder, a little better and, naturally, pure Williams. But you couldn't ask for a better cast.
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