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Based on Tennessee Williams' Broadway play about a defrocked minister turned tour guide in Mexico, John Huston's film version of The Night of the Iguana (1964) was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Grayson Hall; Black and White Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design. Star Richard Burton was nominated that year too -- not for The Night of the Iguana, but for playing another man of the cloth, in Becket. The only winner was Dorothy Jeakins, for her Black and White Costume Design.
Jeakins had a 40-year career designing film costumes, beginning with Joan of Arc (1948), for which she shared a costume design Oscar. She also shared the award for Samson and Delilah (1950), and was nominated nine other times. Her final nomination was for The Dead (1987), also directed by John Huston.
The Night of the Iguana was a prestige project, based on a play by a respected writer, with a famous director and an all-star cast: Burton as the fallen clergyman; Ava Gardner as a bawdy innkeeper; Deborah Kerr as a gentle artist; and Sue Lyon, fresh from playing Lolita (1962), as a seductive teenager. But even before it went before the cameras, the film was the object of media frenzy, due to the romantic entanglements among the stars who gathered in the then-remote fishing village of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Burton was at the height of his torrid affair with Elizabeth Taylor, who had left her husband Eddie Fisher and was living openly with the still-married Burton. Deborah Kerr's husband, Peter Viertel, had once had an affair with Ava Gardner. Even John Huston had attempted to seduce Gardner at an earlier point in his career but had been rebuffed. Meanwhile, Gardner was cavorting with several Mexican beach boys on and off the set. As for Sue Lyon, she had to constantly contend with a very jealous fiance. Deborah Kerr joked that she was the only one who "wasn't having an affair with somebody." Gossip columnists sent daily dispatches from the set and it was reported that John Huston presented the cast and visitor Elizabeth Taylor with gold-plated derringers, each with bullets engraved with the names of the others. But expected fireworks never happened -- everyone got along famously. And Puerto Vallarta became a hot tourist destination and remains so to this day.
Producer: Raymond Stark
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: John Huston; Anthony Veiller
Art Director: Stephen B. Grimes
Cinematography: Gabriel Figueroa
Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins
Film Editing: Ralph Kemplen
Original Music: Ben Frankel
Principal Cast: Richard Burton (Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon), Ava Gardner (Maxine Faulk), Deborah Kerr (Hanna Jelkes), Sue Lyon (Charlott Goodall), Grayson Hall (Judith Fellowes), Skip Ward (Hank Prosner), Mary Boylan (Miss Peebles).
BW-118m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazari