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John Huston and Puerto Vallarta

  • Born as John Marcellus Huston, August 5, 1906 in Nevada, Missouri, USA
  • Died August 28, 1987 in Middletown Rhode Island, USA
  • Renounced his USA citizenship in 1964 and became an Irish Citizen.
  • Married five times: Dorothy Harvey, Lesley Black, Evelyn Keyes, Enrica Soma and Celeste Shane
  • Five children: Pablo, Anjelica, Tony, Danny and Allegra.

If we journey through movie history, John Huston's work is listed as mandatory stop.

He started off an avalanche that built the history of film making, from being responsible for the first starring role of Marilyn Monroe, creating a new movie style "Film Noir" and being the catalyst of a tourist boom to the city of Puerto Vallarta, giving it a chic and jet set reputation, among other important contributions.

Walter Huston in John Huston's movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Walter Huston in John Huston's movie "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)

His family was very much linked to the movie and theater industry, building up what was to be called, by some, the Huston Dynasty. He was part of three generations of Oscar winners, his father, Walter Huston, who was his first teacher, himself and his daughter, Anjelica Huston.

Anjelica Huston and Danny Huston

During his 57-year career, he boasts 15 Oscar nominations (won twice) and developed outstanding works, now considered classics: The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Concrete Jungle (1950) , the African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), the Misfits (1961), The man who wanted to be king (1975), The Night of the Iguana (1964), the latter represented the awakening of still undiscovered town of Puerto Vallarta, where this Hollywood baptism brought along a series of changes, including tourism at a scale it had never experienced before.

John Huston observes the Cuale River (1963)
John Huston observes the Cuale River from Gringo Gulch (1963)

In his own life he participated in many professions and interests: boxer, singer, horseman, hunter, painter and writer, scriptwriter, director and producer. His work was full of diverse experiences, from a corner of the world to the other, experiences such as his wandering through Europe, his incursion into the bohemian Paris of the time, his stay in Hollywood, voyages into Africa, his participation in the Mexican Army and his role as manager of a film unit of the US army during World War II; experience that resulted in two very important productions: The Battle of San Pietro (1944) and Let there be light (1946).

Title from The Battle of San Pietro (1944)
Titles from The Battle of San Pietro (1944)

He was a wanderer, enchanted by what each land could offer him, however, it was Puerto Vallarta that was to witness his last years, the place he chose to heal his old wounds, to follow the old Irish piece of advice about living near the sea, with what could be called a boomerang effect, where the city the famous director exposed to the world was the one to say good bye to him, closing a cycle that began even before 1963 with the arrival of John Huston to Puerto Vallarta.

John Huston during the filming of The Night of the Iguana (1963)
John Huston during the filming of The Night of the Iguana (1963)

Few cities have as much international history as Puerto Vallarta, it is a script they shared, including John Huston, his cast, the locals who all became part of the experience of filming and moviemaking, and the spectators who came to enjoy the end product of this mixture concocted by the US-Irish filmmaker. He said in an interview with Vogue magazine: "This area is close to my whole life."

Mismaloya Beach 1963 from the movie
Mismaloya Beach 1963 from the movie

The presence of John Huston injected life and substance city, he was the booster of tourism and interest in the area, thanks to the shooting of the film "The Night of the Iguana", that took place around Mismaloya's Beach south of Puerto Vallarta; a film adaptation of the homonymous work by Tennessee Williams.
This work remained in the memory of many fans at the time because the main cast was immersed in a complex cobweb of relationships, such as the romance experienced by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the most persecuted couple by the media at the time. There was no going back to what was once a remote village in western Mexico.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Puerto Vallarta (1963)
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Puerto Vallarta (1963)

By the time John reached the shores of Mismaloya it was basically a small fishing community with a single cab and a few small hotels, one called 'Paraíso' (Paradise).

Nowadays it is a tourist stop where you can enjoy various activities like snorkeling, boating, diving, fishing trips, whale sighting, and get to know nearby beaches such as Las Animas, Yelapa, Majahuitas and Quimixto.

Las Caletas in the 1970s
Las Caletas in the 1970s

We must add Las Caletas beach to the ones above, an area owned by the Chacala tribe, however, in the 70s, it was the shelter of this big screen legend, where he shared it with his fifth wife and daughter.

John Huston, Richard Burton and his wife Susan Hunt (March 13, 1978)
John Huston, Richard Burton and his wife Susan Hunt (March 13, 1978)

On March 13, 1978, John Huston was awarded the title of distinguished friend of Jalisco, along with Richard Burton, as a way to honor such figures of international stature, whose passage through the city had forever marked it.

John Huston sculpture Isla Río Cuale, Puerto Vallarta
John Huston sculpture Isla Río Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

John Huston also was honored with a small square by the Cuale River Island's Cultural Center, where he was immortalized with a statue of himself sitting in a typical film director's chair.

Waldemar Verdugo-Fuentes, Maricela Hernández and John Huston at Las Caletas 1982
Waldemar Verdugo-Fuentes, Maricela Hernández and John Huston at Las Caletas (1982)

John Huston, as the poet he was, he always described his home located in Las Caletas, as a refuge, more than a normal house. He also said during the interview with Waldemar Verdugo for Vogue: "I have no idea how I got to this point in my life, but I am happy to have arrived precisely here".

John Huston in Puerto Vallarta
John Huston and his parrot

His work made this land known worldwide, it was no longer a traditional fishing village, but the dreamland of a famous Hollywood director and the most famous actors and actresses, and this attracted so many visitors, the city and its surroundings were transformed.

Puerto Vallarta is nowadays a tourism metropolis, and a much of this is thanks to the influence of John Huston's work and the love he gave this land.

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