During the 1960s Puerto Vallarta was a world away from the bustling, busy, and ever popular city that we know and love today; in the 1960s Puerto Vallarta was a still a sleepy fishing village of immense beauty, but little fame. That is, until John Huston decided to film The Night of the Iguana in the area and brought with him Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and their star-crossed love affair.
Long before we began to worship celebrity power couples like Brangelina (in happier days) and Kimye, there was no couple bigger, more scandalous, or more famous than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The story goes that they fell in love with each other (and the town) during Burton’s time filming in Puerto Vallarta; and as a result the sleepy fishing village became the center of a Hollywood love story that would long outlive their relationships and, indeed, their lives.
Burton and Taylor – The Puerto Vallarta Years
Though they fell in love in Puerto Vallarta, Burton and Taylor actually met whilst working on the set of Cleopatra. The Hollywood scuttlebutt had it that they were instantly attracted to each other, and were overcome by passion though each was already married (he to Sybil Williams, and she to Eddie Fisher). If they felt a sense of duty to their spouses, they paid it no heed and soon were scandalously entangled. The press went wild, and when Huston signed Burton on to work as the star of The Night of the Iguana Richard insisted that his darling Elizabeth come along.
Thus, it came to be that Burton commuted every day to Mismaloya where the movie was filmed in the shadow of Los Arcos before returning at night to his hillside casita in Puerto Vallarta’s Gringo Gulch neighborhood. Burton then rented the home across the street from his own, a charming property called Casa Kimberly, for Elizabeth. In later years Burton would buy Casa Kimberly for Taylor as a birthday gift when he realized how she loved the home.
This arrangement worked well for the couple as they were both fiercely independent, but loved to be close to each other, so much so that Burton commissioned the Lovers Arch which spanned the distance between their homes. This bridge, which can still be visited today, let them see each other quickly and privately whenever they wished, but was also a handy escape route after one of their legendary fights!
Crazy about Puerto Vallarta
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were as crazy about Puerto Vallarta as they were about each other, although hindsight would suggest that they were fonder of the town than each other as they married and divorced twice.
Despite their personal ups and downs, Burton and Taylor remained part-time residents of Puerto Vallarta for many years after the filming of the Night of the Iguana ended, and it was their influence and love of the city which helped to catapult the destination to international fame.