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Entries in Night of the Iguana (3)

Monday
Jun302014

Smackdown 1964: Agnes, Lila, Gladys, Grayson and Dame Edith

Behold the Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1964: two wealthy matriarchs with strained relations to their children, one desperate widow who would very much like relations of any kind, an irritable church group leader watching your every move and one sweaty possessive housekeeper lurking around the corner.

THE NOMINEES

Moorehead, Evans, Kedrova, Cooper, Hall 

1964's shortlist is one of the most senior in any acting category ever with an average age of 61. This 50 year old Oscar contest also acted as a finale for three enduring character actresses who Hollywood adored (Cooper, Evans, and Moorehead) but never quite enough at the right time to hand them the gold man. (In truth Dame Edith Evans, who did not attend the ceremony, was nominated one last time and quite deservedly for The Whisperers but that nomination is sadly almost as forgotten as the confused woman she masterfully played.) 

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

The actress Melanie Lynskey (Happy Christmas, Heavenly Creatures) joins returning panelists Joe Reid, Nick Davis, Nathaniel R, Stinkylulu and You! We also tabulate reader votes and quotes from those ballots appear.

Without further ado, the main event...

1964
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun272014

Introducing... The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1964

You've met the panelists and this Monday (June 30th) the Smackdown arrives. So, let's meet the characters we'll be discussing.

As is our Smackdown tradition we begin by showing you how the performances begin. Do their introductions scream "shower me with gold statues!"? Do the filmmakers prepare us for what's ahead? Here's how the five nominees we'll be discussing are introduced (in the order of how quickly they arrive in their movies). Do any of these introductions make you want to see the movie?

THE INTRODUCTIONS

-Dr. Shannon
-Miss Fellowes 

7 minutes in. Meet "Judith Fellowes" (Grayson Hall in The Night of the Iguana)
After a prologue where Dr Shannon (Richard Burton) appears to have some sort of loss of faith mental breakdown in a church where he preaches, we see that he's now giving tours of Mexico. Enter Judith Fellowes with a gaggle of old women, immediately questioning his fees. Her gaze is direct (he doesn't return it) and they enter the bus where she leads her women in a sing-along. Dr Shannon doesn't appear to like her. At all. More friction is surely ahead on their travels.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar252011

Tennessee 100: Night of the Iguana

JA from MNPP here, continuing Tennessee Williams Centennial Week with a look at John Huston's 1963 film The Night of the Iguana. I chose Iguana because it's one of the few adaptations of Williams' work that I hadn't seen already, and because IMDb's summary made it sound torrid in the best Williams way. Defrocked priests and wanton teen girls and sapphic spinsters all flitting about a Mexican beach cut off from civilization? Yes please.

But truth be told, I found the film a little wanting, not wanton. Richard Burton's in full bluster, screaming and sloshing about as the drunken ex-man-of-the-cloth Shannon, Deborah Kerr barely registers as the sexless traveling painter he's too big a mess to end up with, and not a whole lot seems to gel.

 


I was fond of Grayson Hall as the lesbian intent upon Shannon's destruction (she was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Lila Kedrova in Zorba the Greek), and kind of loved Ava Gardner as Maxine, the owner of the motel where they all end up marooned who keeps a couple of cabana boys for herself...

Photobucket

 

... but then, she was speaking my language. Bette Davis played the role of Maxine in the original staging of the play for four months before, according to her, her co-stars undercut her and she left the production and was replaced by Shelley Winters. I can picture both of them doing exquisite work in the role, but I really did like Ava Gardner here. (And scanning through Gardner's filmography I realize this is the first time I've ever seen her in anything!)

Iguana was shot in the Fall of 1962, right at epicenter of the tabloid insanity over the affair between Burton and Elizabeth Taylor - they'd just worked (among other things) together on Cleopatra - and Taylor actually accompanied Burton on the shoot in Puerto Vallarta, which led to all kinds of scrutiny upon the set. From Wikipedia comes this fun fact:

"By March 1964, months before the film's release, gossip about the film's production became the subject of a public parody when Huston received an Writers' Guild of America award for advancing "the literature of the motion picture through the years"; at a dinner where the award was presented, 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."

As you can tell, the stories surrounding the production are more interesting to me than the movie itself now. Perhaps the mega-quake that was Burton-Taylor was too strong a distraction to gel together an entirely satisfying, coherent film. Still there's some gorgeous black-and-white photography to be had...
And it did walk away with an Oscar for Best Costume Design (B&W), beating Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Edith Head for A House is Not a Home, so in summation let's take a look at a couple of those. It's refreshing to see an example of a non-period film winning a prize for its costumes, isn't it?