Deborah Kerr’s diary while the shooting of Night of the Iguana – Part 4.
(Continues from part 3)
NOVEMBER 7: Did extremely well today. Three and a quarter pages. I really like working with Richard. Easy, sensitive, and great fun. He has a remarkably retentive memory – and can positively spout poetry and verse; Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, the Bible – you name it, he can recite it. He is riding the crest now, powerful, confident – and yet with it he as the sense of humour and humility of a really god artist. I hope I shall be able to see his new Hamlet. It should be something.
NOVEMBER 9: SATURDAY: Generator broke down today, so a fairly unproductive day was had by all. Yesterday, Richard and I polished off three pages of script. It went well and John staged it well – our first shot was two whole pages – difficult moving from mark to mark to mark. But it played well between us and I think it should be effective. This took us up to the sketching scene and although Dorothy had done some profiles of Richard when we rehearsed it, of course it worked out differently – he was face on to me. So John just sat down and did a really remarkable drawing of Richard in a few moments. Perhaps it’s rather strong in style for Hannah, because as strong as she is I feel her drawings and watercolors should be very delicate. Tomorrow is Richard’s birthday. Ava gifted him with a bottle of whiskey, the inevitable results of which were well on their way by the afternoon! But Richard is not only a good actor, a good mimic, a good brain and a great wit but a marvelous drinker! His only equal I have met and worked with is Mitchum, and Bob can give him a close run for his money in the acting, mimicry, rains and wit departments too.
NOVEMBER 11, MONDAY: Generator still out – so another hanging-around day resulted. John was able to shoot the departure of the bus with all the teachers, as it is a dusk scene and not much light is needed. Then a small scene where Richard (as Shannon) tears the crucifix round his neck and rushes into the jungle and down to the sea in an attempt to kill himself, and I call to Mrs. Faulk (Ava) to try and stop him. Today was Armistice Day – at twelve o’clock I stood for a second to remember the dead of two wars. It all seemed extremely remote, here in tropical Mexico, surrounded by the people that I suppose were hardly aware of those two wars. I am sure no one in Puerto Vallarta knew or cared that exactly twenty-five years ago on November 9, Hitler was burning synagogues, beating up Jews, looting their property and hauling them off to concentration camps by the thousands.
NOVEMBER 12: Generator finally repaired by lunchtime, and we waded into the drink.cart pushing scene. Ava and Richard really went at it; it was both hilarious and a little frightening in its viciousness, exactly what I had always felt the scene should be – not that my opinion is any criterion, but it’s always satisfying when a scene takes shape the way you imagined it! Went on to the rather heated exchange between Ava and myself – doing my close-ups always come at the end of the day when you are hot, weary and exhausted, or first thing in the morning when you are puff-eyed sleepy and still weary!
NOVEMBER 13: Ava’s close-up first thing this morning! But she was excellent in it – really flashing-eyed and fiery and jealous. I had a natter with John about the very long scene that is coming up between Richard and myself – twenty-two pages: whether it will hold – if we can pull back the audience from the almost farcical events that precede it and get them to listen to the marvelous things that Tennessee has both of them (but particularly Hannah) say. It is really the guts of my part. I am nervous ad afraid much of it will en on the cutting-room floor. Movie audiences are so accustomed and conditioned to action, action, action that is hard to ask them to sit and listen.
NOVEMBER 14: Today I was delighted. John let me put back into the script the whole piece of Hannah’s “hustling” from the play – a delightful bit about sketching the Queen when she was Princess Elizabeth, in five minutes, but of course she (Hannah) couldn’t get very close, so she had to use field glasses! I think it will help argument Hannah’s rather quaint character which I felt (and still feel) has been watered down from the original. We had a great deal of “sitting around and waiting” today. Ava got mad at there being so many photographers and newsreel people clicking and whirring while she was working. I agree with her – it is terribly distracting. But, unfortunately, it completely throws her, and the anger inside her gets on top of the situation an she just can’t function. So she disappeared to her room. To pass the time Richard and I had an old English music-hall songfest! Including the really old one that went:
There was I waiting at the church,
waiting at the church,
waiting at the church,
Then I found he'd left me in the church
Lor' how it did upset me,
all at once he sent around a note,
Here's the very note,
This is what he wrote:
"Can't marry you today,
my wife won't let me."
Richard, laughing said, “I think we’re singing my song, aren’t we?”
NOVEMBER 16, SATURDAY: Peter’s birthday. He celebrated by not working and going surfing and lobster-catching across the other side of the Bay. By this time we had our own speedboat, driven by a thin, slightly bearded boy called Carlos, whose only crew was a young kid of about twelve called Virginio. He was an enchanting boy with marvelous smile and personality. It was a joy to see them both each morning and evening. They took Peter to the best places for surfing, and Virginio worshiped Peter because he let him try the surfboard. Brave as a lion, he very soon caught on. Sue Lyon very sweetly had a present for Peter. The others find her very distant and cold, but she has been extremely friendly to both of us. I think they forget she is only seventeen. It’s a hell of an age. I find myself comparing her with Hayley Mills, with hom I have just worked in Tee Chalk Garden, who is also seventeen. how totally different the English and American worlds are! Hayley is seventeen and you’d think she was fourteen. Sue is seventeen and you’d think she was twenty-six! We had a spaghetti party in the evening. John came and brought Peter n unusual pre-Colombian mask. (John is a great authority on pre-Colombian art and can fascinate you for hours on the subject.) One day at the restaurant at the beach, we had found a man who could play flamenco guitar and so we asked him to come and play. We all sat around and quietly drank and ate and listened and talked. It was very pleasant. Elizabeth and Richard were supposed to come but at the last minute a very charming present arrived but not them. Next morning a disarming note from Richard saying he had been “sloshing down the tequila” and that Elizabeth wisely pointed out that he would probably have only denounced the spaghetti as “filthy foreign food” and ruined the whole evening, so they just didn’t turn up.