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PV Celebrates 50 Years of 'Night of The Iguana' Fame

November 15, 2013
On the Trail of the Iguana - John Huston's behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana in 1963. (This clip include great footage of Puerto Vallarta at the time of its "discovery" by the outside world.)

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - If ever a movie transformed a town, Night of the Iguana was the one that turned Puerto Vallarta from an anonymous fishing hamlet into a magnet for tourists and a regular stop for luxury liners sailing the Mexican Riviera.

Fifty years ago, when John Huston filmed Night of the Iguana with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner in a picturesque cove just south of town called Mismaloya, Puerto Vallarta was just a sleepy little fishing village on Mexico's Pacific Coast.

But Liz Taylor came to keep an eye on her lover Richard Burton while he was filming with the voluptuous Ava Gardner. The publicity buzz about Burton and Liz’s torrid affair and the movie put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist - and the paparazzi's - map.

When the director arrived (legend claims his plane skimmed the runway several times, before managing to shoo cows off the landing strip,) the rustic fishing village had just 12,500 inhabitants. Today, (according to the 2010 census,) Puerto Vallarta is a world-class vacation destination with a population of 255,725, (making it the 2nd largest city in the state of Jalisco,) and tourism accounts for 50% of the city's economic activity.

To celebrate the impact that the making of this film has made on our city, the Centro Universitario de la Costa in Puerto Vallarta (CUC), in conjunction with private citizens and governmental authorities, will present a series of conferences, lectures, and film screenings, as well as photo, audio, and video exhibitions relating to the 1963 filming of the movie from November 25 through 29, 2013.

Some of the Night of the Iguana Tribute events scheduled to take place include:

• A variety of movies starring the main protagonists of the film (John Huston, Richard Burton, Liz Tylor, Deborah Kerr, Gabriel Figueroa, Ava Gardner, Sue Lyon, and Emolio "El Indio" Fernández) will be shown at mini-auditoriums set up on the CUCosta campus, as well as at Los Arcos Amphitheater, and the Cuale Cultural Center.

• William Vaidovits, Jorge Sánchez, Ernesto Rodriguez, Ivan Trujillo, David Martin del Campo and Pavel Cortés will hold roundtable discussions on the film and its cultural and historical significance at Biblioteca Los Mangos.

• A Talk / Coffee with Nelly Wulff, Jan Lavender, Laura Quiroz, Luis Reyes Brambila, Marcella Lepe, and Sergio Toledano - Vallartenses who witnessed the filming of the movie and its aftermath will be held at Biblioteca Los Mangos.

• Since John Huston is a legend and Puerto Vallarta is honored to be part of his past, a 'John Huston International Film and Literature Chair' will be created at the CUC.

Regardless of its artistic and entertainment value, one of the most remarkable features of "Night of the Iguana" is its journalism. The movie does an extraordinary job of capturing sense of place. The jungle, beaches, tropical heat and humidity, and the blend of outsiders and locals are all very accurately represented. Shot 50 years ago, the film is an invaluable peek back in time at Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding areas.

Click HERE for more information and the full schedule of events (in Spanish), or HERE for a list of movie screenings and times.