10 February 2012

"What Do You Think We Were Doing Out There, Mrs. Fellows, Spawning?": Tennessee's The Night of the Iguana (1961, play, Tennessee Williams; 1962)

Poster and Cover of MGM Promotional Booklet

I re-watched John Huston's film of Tennessee Williams' play The Night of the Iguana one afternoon recently. Tennessee Williams' poetry washed over me -- delightful as the gentle "Indian Summer" shower that starting during the film. I had to pause the film to enjoy the music of the much-needed rain, then on my way back in the apartment, stopped at the computer to jot down these lines.
The post title comes from a confrontation at the beach between disgraced minister T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) and Ms. Fellows (Sue Lyon). A young girl on the tour of the Pacific coast of Mexico Rev. Shannon follows him into the water when he escaping the group and taking a much needed swim. Shannon's remark about spawning made me bust out laughing.
There's much to come, and I'm going back to my Tennessee Williams / John Huston gem now, but trust me. You won't be sorry if you give this classic a chance. Right now, I feel like I'm getting my own private showing of the film, and the gentle rain is turning this into one fine afternoon.
Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner have established their characters now. Ava, a fishing widow now running her Mexico resort hotel with her "night-swimming" dancing, simple, obedient young men. Maxine keeps her young men around as told off butch spinster Ms. Fellows after Fellows has Rev. Shannon fired from his last chance at a meaningul existence before what's left of his nerves and restraint shatter.
Mr. Shannon continues his fall as Deborah Kerr steps in both as chef to the closed-for-the-season tourist hotel as well as therapist to the Reverend as he abandons his anxiety about being fired and steers toward the often lethal combination of rum cocoas and suicidal ideation.
All that, the fate of the Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shanning hanging in the balance -- whether to crack or pull himself together with the help of the world's oldest practicing poet and a woman who is clearly not in command of her carnal desires, or take that long westward swim from the beach just south of Puerta Viarta, Mexico. Williams brings his poem to a close with Burton and Miss Jelkes playing God and cutting the at-the-end-of-his rope iguana free.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a film I would enjoy very much. Thanks for reviewing it so well.

Paco Malo said...

Thank The Rev. Minister T, Lawrence Shannon and the former WWI Pearl Harbor dime-a-dance girl Deborah Kerr. I'd mention John Huston but Clint Eastwood's break through White Hunter Black Heart clearly is thes the definition of hubris in the early 1960s hubris when it came to socially slapping down bigots in the age of anti-Antisemitism in The African Queen's Jewish main unit screenwriter in Africa on the river, the boat and vs. the Nazis on the lake and the river convinced John Huston to give us that happy ending that made the film we've needed since the War to End All Wars.

Jim aka Paco