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Jaxon Miller
Jaxon Miller

The Night Of The Iguana (1964)



Another new arrival at the hotel is Hannah Jelkes, a beautiful and chaste itinerant painter from Nantucket who is traveling with her elderly poet grandfather Nonno. 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," similar to how an iguana is 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. Shannon frees the iguana from its rope.




The Night of the Iguana (1964)


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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]


Struggling emotionally, Shannon tries to manage his tour party, who have turned against him for having sexual relations with the minor, and Maxine is interested in him for purely carnal reasons. Adding to this chaotic scenario, spinster Hannah Jelkes appears with her moribund grandfather, Nonno, who, despite his failing health, is composing his last poem. Jelkes, who scrapes by as a traveling painter and sketch artist, is soon at Maxine's mercy. Shannon, who wields considerable influence over Maxine, offers Hannah shelter for the night. The play's main axis is the development of the deeply human bond between Hannah and Shannon.


In the process of their conversation, Hannah releases Shannon, both physically and emotionally. He becomes calmer and reaches more insight. This brings us on to the titular iguana. The iguana has been captured by the kabana boys, and is tethered to a rope with the intention of killing and eating it later.


Two more characters arrive shortly after the women take the long trek up the hill to the hotel. Miss Jelkes, accompanied by her grandfather, Jonathan 'Nonno' Coffin (Cyril Delevanti), the world's oldest practicing poet, have come from the town to work for free lodgings, as they are destitute. Maxine says they can stay one night. Miss Jelkes tells her that Nonno is working on a new poem. (He hasn't written one in many years.)


Miss Jelkes is a quick-sketch artist and her grandfather gives recitations. They have traveled the world but both are ready to stop. Without money for even one night's lodgings she tries to make herself useful to Maxine, who says "You're a hustler." Miss Jelkes tells her she will be glad to go back into town and set up her easel for the tourist trade if that is what Maxine wants. The two settle their differences quickly and start a conversation I didn't quite understand when I first saw this as a youth. The hotel chef, Chang (C.G. Kim), says he is on vacation and puffs on what I thought was a cigarette. And Maxine grabs it out of his mouth and says "I don't want you smoking that stuff even if you are on vacation." (He has let the soup burn.)


In the film's pivotal scene, Shannon decides "to take the long swim to China," meaning he plans to drown himself in the ocean. Maxine sends the beach boys after him and they tie him up in a hammock on the hotel's veranda. The other "hostage" on the veranda is an iguana that they caught earlier for the next day's dinner.


Wayward Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) is at the end of his rope. Dismissed from his Virginia pulpit for an indiscretion with a young woman, he's conducting Mexican bus tours for a run-down Texas outfit. His present trip with a group of lady teachers from a private Christian college has been a disaster. Group leader Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) has not only accused Shannon of raking off expenses and letting the women eat bad food, she's caught him several times with the under-aged troublemaker Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon). Desperate to keep his job, Shannon literally hijacks the bus to a seaside hotel, hoping to make amends and prevent Fellowes from contacting the States to get him fired. Proprietress Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) does her best for Shannon but really hopes he'll be canned so he can replace her late husband and help run the hotel. Amid all the chaos, penniless sketch artist Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her grandfather Nonno, a famous poet (Cyril Delevanti) show up to beg a roof for the night. With Charlotte still trying to corner our hero and Fellows after his scalp, things would really look hopeless for Shannon if it weren't for the combined interest of Maxine and Hannah. Night's coming on, and it's hard to say what will happen.


Shannon couldn't bear the sanctimonious disapproval of his Virginia congregation, so being shut in with a busload of spinsters is a new circle of Hell. Williams doesn't lend this chorus of church ladies much in the way of positive qualities. Poor Miss Peebles (Mary Boylan) spends her entire role with Montezuma's Revenge and looking for a bathroom. Judith Fellowes is apparently intended to be an unconscious lesbian lusting after Charlotte, but there's little evidence of this in the film, unless we're required to interpret the woman's midnight appeal to the (absent) Charlotte as proof. Actually, forty years later Grayson Hall's Miss Fellowes is the unsung characterization in The Night of the Iguana's acting ensemble; it's not easy to keep a role like that from collapsing into caricature. Weirdly, Ms. Hall was the film's only actor to be nominated for an Oscar.


Tensions continue to mount between all of these misfit characters, but then a change occurs with the arrival of an old poet (Cyril Delevanti) and his granddaughter, Hannah (Deborah Kerr), who earns a small income doing amateur sketches for tourists. Even though Hannah and her grandfather have no money, Shannon convinces Maxine to allow them to stay the night. Throughout this night of self discovery, the central three characters (Hannah, Shannon and Maxine) interact with one another, helping each other to see where their life has gone astray. Shannon, especially, has a break-through when he learns he is quite similar to the captured iguana they have tied with a rope.


Shannon symbolically frees himself from the iguana that was tied to the veranda when he liberates himself from the iguana that was tied to it. In the final scene of the film, Shannon appears to accompany Maxine to the hotel and help run it.


Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor discovered a lot of freedom while visiting Puerto Vallarta, and the iguana is a fitting symbol for that. The iguana is seen as in control while also being restrained. In other words, it represents the feeling that the characters have that they are under constant control by obligations, which is physically represented by their heads.


Ricardo and his fellow contras practiced sneaking down to the resorts undetected to steal volleyball nets off the beach. This dry run would help refine their technique, while playing volleyball up at the camp kept them in shape. One night, as luck would have it, a vacationing American journalist was strolling the beach while the contras were conducting one of their raids. As the journalist ducked under the volleyball net in the dark, her earring became caught. While she was trying to extricate herself, the contras came along, bundled her up with the net and carried her away. 041b061a72


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