The Night of the Iguana
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Differences in film and play: “The Night of the Iguana”
May 13, 2006
John Houston carries a common theme throughout most of his movies, the theme of religion. The same holds true for his theatrical presentation of Tennessee Williams short play “The Night of the Iguana.” The main character of the play, Reverend Shannon, is known to be a teacher of the word but this is not portrayed in the play even close to as much as it is in Houstons film. I will discuss three major differences between Williams play and the way it was interpreted onto the screen by Houston.

The first and most obvious difference between play and film is the opening scene. In the opening of the film the Reverend Shannon is preaching a typical Sunday sermon from the pulpit when he starts to deviate from his speech. The reverend begins to lash out at the churchgoers saying hes tired of preaching the holy word in the wrong manner and in an evil, preposterous, almost “devilish” way continues to yell and scream at the people listening to him until they all get up and begin shuffling out of the church. He then follows them out the door and onto the sidewalk still yelling and screaming at them until they all leave. The play on the other hand begins with the bus tour arriving at Maxines hotel and the whole scenario in the church only comes through during a conversation between Hannah and Shannon.

I believe this is one example of Houstons inclusion of religion in his film. He is establishing that Shannon is a man of God, but one who is beginning to head in the opposite direction. This shows that Houston felt even though this was a small, almost empty part of the play it would be a big introduction and place setter for the rest of his film.

The second difference I noticed between the play and the film was the way that Maxines husband Fred passed away. In the play Shannon is coming up the hill to Maxines hotel and he is yelling Freds name. Maxine informs Shannon that Fred is no longer here, he is dead. She tells Shannon that Fred died from an infection caused by a hook that got caught in his hand while fishing. This was not the way Fred would come to pass in Houstons film. Houston borrowed a part from one of his previous movies “Moby Dick” and inserted a similar scenario into this film. In “The Night of the Iguana” Maxine tells Shannon that Fred died while battling a big Marlin and was pulled into the ocean trying to bring the fish in and drowned. This sounded pretty familiar to the way the captain in the movie “Moby Dick” died. He was battling the big whale and it took his life.

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Reverend Shannon And Short Play. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from