by Vanessa Cole
Vallarta Today

A more civilized age….

After falling in love on the set of Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton came to Puerto Vallarta in 1963 so that Burton could begin work on director John Huston’s film Night of the Iguana, shot almost entirely in the ocean side jungle of Mismaloya.

Hotels for cast and crew were in short supply and primitive to say the least. The old Oceano Hotel that stood in front of the black and white striped lighthouse on the Malecon in Old Town was the production’s headquarters.

But when Elizabeth arrived to find a dirt floor and flying cockroaches in their “suite”, Burton called his buddy Huston and said “My friend, if we don’t find suitable accommodations for Elizabeth, I’m afraid I won’t be able to star in your film”.

Huston immediately offered the couple his own rented villa on the hill in Gringo Gulch, Casa Kimberly, and the rest is history.

The couple fell in love with Puerto Vallarta and Burton bought Casa Kimberly as a surprise birthday gift for Elizabeth’s 32nd birthday in February 1964, just a few months after filming completed and a month before their marriage.

The Burtons spent a lot of time in Puerto Vallarta over the years, bringing along the kids (she had three children plus the daughter she adopted with Burton), their movie star friends and Taylor’s ever present entourage.

Burton eventually purchased the house across the street, razed it and built another house around a large pool, connecting the two houses with a replica of The Bridge of Sighs in Venice, forever afterwards called “The Lover’s Arch”.

Known as “The Pool House”, this adjoining second home also became Burton’s poker lair when high jinx buddies like Peter O’Toole were in town or “the dog house” when Elizabeth saw fit to lock him out of the main house. Hence the neighbor’s name for the “The Lover’s Arch”: El Puente de Reconciliación or the “Bridge for Making Up”.