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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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
The Night of the Iguana was a Tennessee Williams masterpiece, probably the last one he ever did. It ran 316 performances on Broadway during the 1961-1962 season and starred Bette Davis, Margaret Leighton, and Patrick O'Neal in the roles played on the screen by Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Burton. For some astonishing reason, John Huston changed the ending and ruined the whole thing. Why couldn't Huston follow the wise example of Elia Kazan who brought A Streetcar Named Desire intact to the screen is beyond me.
Not that the performers do so bad here. Ava Gardner for instance is wonderful in the part of the earthy hyper sexed hotel owner from Puerto Vallarta living on her meager income and her two Mexican beach boys for those cold nights. Then again this was no stretch for Ava because she was merely playing herself in this part at this time of her life.
Ava is reunited with Deborah Kerr who she co-starred back in their salad days at MGM in The Hucksters. Kerr is the itinerant artist who travels with her 97 year old grandfather Cyril Delevanti doing sketches for supper.
Richard Burton chews up the scenery with his part as the disgraced Episcopal minister who let his libido get the better of him. With nubile Sue Lyons around, he's about to let it happen again.
Margaret Leighton got a Tony Award for her performance on stage, but the only acting nomination for this film went to Grayson Hall as the repressed lesbian tour guide who takes an uncommon interest in Sue Lyons's virtue. Words like 'butch' and 'dyke' are used in the script to describe her character showing the Code was coming down. Tennessee Williams's work is loaded with sexual innuendo, but this was even kind of daring for him to be that upfront. Grayson Hall was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Lila Kedrova for Zorba the Greek.
I'd see a stage production of The Night of the Iguana before seeing this film. It's the only way you can understand my critique about how the new ending turned a great film into a good one.
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