‘The Loved One’

18 Aug

August 17, 2019 – Posted by Paula for TCM’s Summer Under the Stars

Errol Reading ‘The Loved One’

First there was the book, based on Evelyn Waugh’s tour of Forest Lawn, where Errol was buried against his will! Here’s a plot summary:

“When Evelyn Waugh came to Hollywood in 1947 to discuss the film rights for Brideshead Revisited, he visited a graveyard: Forest Lawn Memorial Park. He had heard it praised as a place unsurpassed in beauty, taste, and sensitivity; a place where “faith and consolation, religion and art had been brought to their highest possible association.” But Mr. Waugh found the cemetery dripping with saccharine sentimentality, edged with macabre memorials, and repellent with cuteness. (Walt Disney’s remains, along with those of myriad other celebrities, are enshrined there.) Mr. Waugh found in that “theme-park necropolis” a grotesque denial of the reality of death, the opposite extreme of Donne’s holy sonnet. He found vulgar euphemisms marketed and crafted by entrepreneurial racketeers. He found, in the end, wonderful material for a story to satirize the bizarre American funeral-home industry.”

“… The Loved One, is a pitiless satire on the shallowness and pretensions of British expatriates and Americans in post-World War II Los Angeles. The action is set principally in two funeral parlors, one for humans and the other for pets. Most of the characters either work in one of the funeral homes or are employed by a Hollywood film studio. Waugh portrays the Los Angeles denizens as part of a culture that fosters and encourages the selfish pursuit of petty goals. In the book, almost everyone is striving to gain or maintain a place in society that they seem to believe is important because other people might envy them for it. The principal character, a young Englishman named Dennis Barlow, is a poet-cum-screenwriter who leaves his job at the studio, which he hates for its bureaucracy and lack of imagination. He takes a job at a pet cemetery, scandalizing his fellow Englishmen in Hollywood, particularly an actor named Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, who believes the expatriate British have a reputation and an image to uphold. When an old screenwriter and fellow Brit named Sir Francis Hinsley is fired from the film studio and commits suicide, Sir Ambrose enlists Dennis to take care of funeral arrangements. At a well-known funeral home called Whispering Glades (Forest Lawn) Dennis meets a young woman named Aimée Thanatogenos, who is a cosmetician in the embalming rooms. Aimée, a thoroughgoing product of Los Angeles, is empty-headed yet yearns for higher things, although she cannot really say what this means to her. Dennis becomes enamored of her. A rival for Aimée’s affections is Mr. Joyboy, the chief embalmer at Whispering Glades, who is widely considered to be a stylish and cultivated man, although he actually is a rather perverse momma’s boy.”

Then there was the movie in ’65, even more out there than the book I’d say:

The book also inspired Tom Paxton to sing the satirical Sixties song “Forest Lawn”:

— Tim


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  1. Debbyphielix

    August 18, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Really sad that Errol’s last wishes were not honoured. I hope to get the book soon. It sounded like an interesting read

  2. Ralph Schiller

    August 18, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Tin, I have read several of Evelyn Waugh novels but I prefer his brother Alec Waugh’s books. in spite of a stellar cast the MGM version of “The Loved One” (1965) was a wretched film. I did not read that novel so I have no idea if it is faithful to the novel. Was the book as bad as the movie?

    • Gentleman Tim

      August 19, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Good morning, Ralph. I haven’t seen the full movie, only various clips and the mini-doc below. Nor have I read the novel, only some excerpts. From the limited amounts of what I’ve seen and read, I believe the book was much better conceived and constructed.…

  3. Paula

    August 18, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for re-posting, GT!

    Though Errol is not formally one of TCM’S Summer Under The Stars honorees this year, a lot of his films have been shown on other people’s days, and of course, I’m looking forward to Olivia de Havilland’s day on 8/23.

    I guess you could say, THE LOVED ONE film is an acquired taste,best viewed late at night. I haven’t read the book yet, and nothing of Alec Waugh’s. This site is so educational.

    • Gentleman Tim

      August 19, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Thank you for your great photo and TCM post, Paula! I recall seeing you on TCM!……

      Party on with TCM Party, Cinema Detroit, and the EFB, Paula!!!

      P.S. Love Lemon Drop Kid, Hard Day’s Night and The Lady from Shanghai!!! Gotta get to your theater!

      • Paula

        August 24, 2020 at 5:29 pm

        Thanks so much! As soon as we re-open! We are actually hanging in there doing occasional drive-ins :)

  4. Ralph Schiller

    August 20, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    For the record, Alec Waugh wrote “island In The Sun” which was a great novel turned into a fabulous motion picture in 1957 with James Mason, Stephen Boyd, Joan Fontaine, Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge and a young Joan Collins!