The night of Robert James Waller’s movies: ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ and ‘Puerto Vallarta Squeeze

Classic readers and movie-goers alike would have at least heard of Robert James Waller. Hitting the shelves with his best-selling book “The Bridges of Madison County” around 1992, this romantic tale has become an inspiration of a hit Hollywood film. Riding on the coattails of this success was “Puerto Vallarta Squeeze” – with both materials being adapted to film.

Now, the Washington Theatre is proud to announce that two months from now, we’ll be showcasing these cinematic gems in our very own theatre. Come and join us for a night of romance, thrills, and sentiments that love does conquer all… or at the very least, gives you a ride you won’t forget.

The Bridges of Madison County

Who was Robert James Waller?

An avid guitarist and singer, Robert James Waller grew up in Iowa’s Rockford, a little way northeast of Des Moines. A business-minded man, Robert pursued a bachelor’s degree of business education, a masters in education, then finally a doctorate of business administration. However, the poet underneath the suit was always there: remarkably, his thesis was on the American guitar industry.

While Robert did eventually teach at the University of Northern Iowa, the call of wild was always there, urging the romantic in him. On the side, he started writing travel and nature essays for the local paper and eventually left teaching around 1990.

Two years later, he would go on to write one of the best-selling romance stories of its time.


Crossing the Bridge

While away from teaching, Robert stopped by the covered bridges in Iowa’s Madison County for some photographs. Standing there with a friend, with his musical inclination and talent behind him, he felt the first stirrings of a story coming to life … half inspired the view before him, and half by a song he had written years earlier about a muse called Francesca.

Returning home, he hunkered down and wrote “The Bridges of Madison County,” a manuscript that took an astonishing two weeks to complete. It weaves the tale of Francesa, a middle-aged Italian war bride living with her husband and children on their farm in Iowa, and her encounter with Robert, a photographer who awakens feelings in her she previously thought lost. Also published under the name “A Love In Black And White,” the novel stayed at the top of the charts for years.



The film would eventually be adapted by Clint Eastwood a few years later. With the brilliant Meryl Streep as Francesca (a role that would earn her an Academy Award,) the film would go on to become a hit, being praised for adapting the source with the limitations of film.

Eastwood shines beautifully as the passionate, if somewhat wandering, Robert – accurately portraying the wanderlust in every artist. Like his counterpart, Streep steps right into the shoes of a woman who’s looking for a world that’s far beyond the one she moves in. These two characters weave an arresting tale of love, passion for life, and the ramifications of choice.


Welcome to Puerto Vallarta

This theme – that the choices one makes determine the passions in life that they will ultimately end up following – shows up again in the next movie on our list. Puerto Vallarta Squeeze follows the adventures of Danny, Luz, and their new friend Price as they journey from America to Mexico.

Avoiding dangers, pitfalls, and other misadventures on the way, the three of them begin to realize the price of keeping one’s feelings – and secrets – to themselves, and how that ultimately affects the people they love.

While another romance, the book – and the eventual film – follows more of a thriller storyline, interspersed with brief flashes of personal drama. Ultimately, the journey involving these three characters becomes less about where they’re going and how they’re getting there, but how the trip itself transforms them along the way.

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, the film is a little more loosely adapted than “Bridges,” but still remains somewhat faithful to its original source. It also features a Spanish performance by the renowned Vikki Carr, undoubtedly one of the highlights of the film.


Settle in for the journey

Why these films? Well, aside from their tribute to one of America’s famous romance novelists, these films (and their source material) are some of the most classic depictions of romance found in the early 90’s. Immensely popular and relatable to readers all across the country, it’s a fitting tribute to the spirit of love that translated from book to film.

So what are you waiting for? Come down the Washington Theatre two months from now (plenty of time to invite someone else to come with you!) and come enjoy a romantic evening. Whether it’s the old-school, classical style of romance that you’re after or a charming tale about the resilience of the human spirit, you’ll be sure to get it in spades.

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