Saturday, March 17, 2012



A few days after returning from Puerto Vallarta, David, Scott, Ted and I watched "The Night Of The Iguana", set in Puerto Vallarta.

When John Huston, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr arrived there in 1962 to film the Tennessee William's play, the city had only a few thousand residents.

Though a small coterie of adventurous travelers had been coming to the small beach town since the early '50s, Puerto Vallarta was far off standard tourist maps. There were no large hotels or luxury inns, and the notion of million-dollar condos overlooking the bay was beyond conception.

But within weeks of the crew's arrival, things changed dramatically, with the bayfront village making front-page news and journalists and photographers descending en masse to implant the image of Puerto Vallarta in ihe imagination of millions of movie fans around the globe. lt wasn't the movie itself that attracted the attention but rather the illicit affair between Burton, the film's primary star, and Elizabeth Taylor, who had tagged along to be with her paramour. The fact that both were married to other people at the time made their romance a major scandal.

More than 50 years later, "The Night of the Iguana" remains entrenched in the city's history but things have changed so much that only a few physical reminders of the film remain. You can make a quick tour of them in a single day.

Begin at Casa Kimberly, a few blocks above the main church. Liz stayed here during filming, and afterward Burton bought the home for her. The couple liked Puerto Vallarta so much they continued visiting for years after and subsequently bought a neighboring casa to house guests, connecting the structures with a bridge spanning the street.

Taylor sold the properties in 1990 and bought a new home in Marina Vallarta, but the casas remain, drawing a steady stream of gawkers. Huston lived several miles south of town at Los Caletas; you can visit his estate as part of the "Rhythms of the Night" tour.

At night, Burton and frequent guest actor Peter O'Toole would often meet Huston a few blocks from Casa Kimberly at a bar where reportedly they would drink till they passed out.

The movie was shot south of town of Playa Mismaloya, then accessible only by boat. The set remains standing but has fallen into disrepair and has been fenced off.

For other reminders of the movie, a somewhat cheesy statue of Burton and Taylor stands inside the Fuente del Puente restaurant.

On the lsla Cuale, is a classier statue of John Huston.

The most peculiar tribute to the stars has to be the Elizabeth Taylor Theater which now shows porno movies.


Caliban said...

Oh, dear. So sad about the Elizabeth Taylor Theater. I love your use of the word "paramour" to describe Elizabeth's relationship with Richard Burton. I also love your use of the word "cheesy" to describe on of the statues to Burton and Taylor. Wonderful that people still gawk at Casa Kimberly. It speaks to the power of the legend of Burton and Taylor. What a steamy romance and what a pair of dreamy lovers!

Don Voth said...

Robert, Thanks for the kudos. Yes, what a romance.