The Night of the Iguana is a play by Tennessee Williams that had its Broadway premiere in 1961, and was based on 1948 short story by Williams. It has been made into movies twice, in 1964 and 2001, with a new movie version in production. Set in 1940s Mexico, the main character is an ex-minister turned tour guide, Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, who has been accused of statutory rape of a seductive sixteen-year-old in his party.
As leader of a tour party of church women, Shannon takes the group to a cheap hotel on the coast of Mexico run by an old friend of his named Fred. He soon finds out Fred has died and the hotel is now run by Fred's promiscuous widow, Maxine Faulk. Shannon, on the edge of a nervous breakdown, trying to manage both his tour party (who hates him) and Maxine (who is interested in him for purely carnal reasons), is struck by the appearance of the strangely virginal spinster, Hannah Jelkes, a painter who travels with her elderly poet grandfather. Hannah is at the end of her means and Shannon convinces Maxine to let her stay the night. Over a long night, and despite Maxine's attempts to separate them, Hannah and Shannon form a deeply human bond that dies out in a slow, tragic ending.
Original Broadway Stage production
The play premiered on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on December 28, 1961 and ran for 316 performances. It starred Patrick O'Neal as Rev. Shannon, Bette Davis as Maxine and Margaret Leighton as Hannah. It also featured Alan Webb, Louis Guss, Bruce Glover and James Farentino. The production was directed by Frank Corsaro and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. Leighton won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
The 1964 film version was directed by John Huston and starred Richard Burton as Rev. Shannon, Ava Gardner as Maxine and Deborah Kerr as Hannah. It also featured Sue Lyon, Cyril Delevanti and Grayson Hall, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this film. The screenplay was written by Huston and Anthony Veiller. The film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (B&W), and in addition to Ms. Hall's nomination, was also nominated for its Cinematography (by Gabriel Figueroa) and Art Direction.
The film version has removed the Nazi tourist characters from the original stage version.
The film was shot just south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on "La Jolla de Mismaloya" (The Bay of Mismaloya). Due in no small part to the presence of cast member Richard Burton alongside his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, the shooting of the film, in 1963, attracted large numbers of paparazzi, made international headlines, and in turn made Puerto Vallarta world-famous. Three of the film's stars were involved in romantic affairs while the film was made, and all four stars had their share of arguments with Huston. Today, there is a hotel and resort that now occupies the bayfront at what is now the village of Mismaloya; it maintains the old sets as restaurants and tourist attractions.
Primary cast (1964)
There was also a 2000 Serbo-Croation film version that was directed by Janusz Kica.
More stage productions
A 1976 Broadway revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre featured Richard Chamberlain as Rev. Shannon, Dorothy McGuire as Hannah and Sylvia Miles as Maxine.
Circle in the Square Theatre also staged a 1988 revival starring Nicolas Surovy as Rev. Shannon, Maria Tucci as Maxine and Jane Alexander as Hannah.
In 1996, a Broadway revival was directed by Robert Falls featuring William Petersen as Rev. Shannon, Marsha Mason as Maxine and Cherry Jones as Hannah. This was based on a 1994 production staged by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
In London, a 1992 production at the Royal National Theatre featured riveting performances by Alfred Molina as Rev. Shannon and Eileen Atkins as Hannah. This production was directed by Richard Eyre.
A critically acclaimed 2006 London production at Lyric Theatre starred Woody Harrelson as Rev. Shannon, Clare Higgins as Maxine and Jenny Seagrove as Hannah.