The Loved One


1h 56m 1965
The Loved One

Brief Synopsis

An Englishman in Hollywood moves into the funeral business.

Photos & Videos

The Loved One - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
The Loved One - Scene Stills
The Loved One - Lobby Card Set

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Black Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Oct 1965
Production Company
Filmways, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh (Boston, 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Dennis Barlow, an English poet whose speciality is plagiarism, arrives in Hollywood to stay with his uncle, Sir Francis Hinsley. Sir Francis, a long-time art director for motion picture productions is fired by his studio in an economy move and commits suicide by hanging himself. Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, leader of the British film colony, asks Dennis to arrange Sir Francis' funeral at Whispering Glades Memorial Park, the most exclusive Hollywood Cemetery. Whispering Glades is run by the Blessed Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy. Dennis gets a job with Wilbur's twin brother, Harry, as a preacher at The Happier Hunting Grounds, a pet cemetery; and he falls in love with Aimee Thanatogenos, a Whispering Glades cosmetologist who is wooed also by Mr. Joyboy, the chief embalmer. Aimee spurns both of them because of her dismay in learning that Dennis steals his poems and her disgust for Joyboy's gluttonous mother. She is still confused about what to do after consulting the Guru Brahmin and asks the Reverend Glenworthy for advice, but she is driven to suicide by embalming herself when Glenworthy makes advances to her. He has been plotting to disinter the caskets and launch them into space, thus freeing the cemetery for valuable land use as a senior citizen's home. He had planned to initiate this program with the cooperation of Air Force General Brinkman by using the body of an astronaut. Aimee's body is substituted for the dead astronaut and lifted into space on a rocket developed by a child prodigy. Dennis goes back to England.

Photo Collections

The Loved One - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of the black comedy The Loved One (1965), directed by Tony Richardson and starring Robert Morse and Jonathon Winters.
The Loved One - Scene Stills
Here are a number of scene stills from Tony Richardson's The Loved One (1965), starring Robert Morse, Jonathon Winters, Rod Steiger, and many others.
The Loved One - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Loved One (1965). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Loved One - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Loved One (1965). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Black Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Oct 1965
Production Company
Filmways, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh (Boston, 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Loved One


The Loved One (1965) was advertised as a film with something to offend everyone and it mostly succeeded in this boast though not always in the way it intended. Based on Evelyn Waugh's brilliant and macabre novella that satirized the funeral industry in California, the film departed from Waugh's concise narrative to include numerous subplots, one involving a junior inventor and a plan to dispose of corpses in outer space. The new additions not only outraged Waugh but they also changed the focus of his original satire to include jabs at the youth culture, gluttony, Oedipal relationships, and the military. Of course, this was not the plan when The Loved One was first acquired for the screen.

At one time Waugh's book was rumored to be a project for director Luis Bunuel but over the passage of time the rights were acquired by cinematographer Haskell Wexler and producer John Calley who hired Tony Richardson to direct (The latter was still reeling from the unexpected success of his previous film, Tom Jones, 1963). Richardson, who admired comedians like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, wanted to inject a similarly barbed and uniquely American style of humor into the film. But he also wanted to retain Waugh's very British take on Los Angeles so he hired fellow Englishman Christopher Isherwood to adapt the novel along with Terry Southern, co-author of Candy and the screenplay of Dr. Strangelove (1964), the latter providing the 'hip' humor. Richardson even managed to acquire the services of Jessica Mitford, who had previously written a critically praised critique of the California funeral industry entitled The American Way of Death. So much for good intentions. The Loved One quickly became an unwieldy project that spun out of Richardson's control.

In Richardson's memoirs, The Long-Distance Runner, the director recalled that, "most of the actors entered the film with the same sense of fun and pleasure. An exception was Robert Morley, who became a boorish prima donna. Terry Southern had written a very funny scene, an appearance by Morley in drag at a leather-bikers' bar which was meant to be the key to the secret life of his character. Once he'd been shot in another scene and therefore knew he couldn't be replaced, Morley refused to perform this, saying it would upset his children. Liberace, on the other hand, loved his role as the casket salesman so much that he wanted more."

Unfortunately, the numerous cameos increased the film's budget and running time and some ended up on the cutting room floor like Jayne Mansfield's racy scene. Richardson also had major creative differences with crew members over how to shoot the cadavers in the morgue sequences and how to stage the moving statues in the climactic scene where cosmetician Aimee Thanatogunos (Anjanette Comer) has a graveyard fantasy.

Even more problematic, Richardson clashed with producer/cinematographer Wexler over the look of the film: "We had envisaged everything in high-contrast black and white. Haskell still subscribed to the absurd myth....that you couldn't photograph pure black and white. Clothing next to the skin - shirts, blouses, etc. - had to be dipped in tea to give it a beige look. To come out black, paneling had to be brown. It was all rubbish, and their eyes should have told them so. We had converted the former mansion of the mining prospector turned oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny into the headquarters of Forest Lawn. Rouben (Ter-Aruntunian) had painted it a shiny glossy black. When we got to the set to shoot it, it was a muddy brown - Haskell had been in the night before and ordered a crew of painters, all on overnight overtime, to repaint it. I reordered it black, so there was no shooting that day. And that was how the production was run."

Under the circumstances, it was inevitable that The Loved One would end up a chaotic mess but it's also a lot of fun and enjoys a better reputation now then when it was first released. Critic Pauline Kael put it best when she wrote: "This botched, patched-together movie is a triumphant disaster - like a sinking ship that makes it to port because everybody aboard is too giddy to panic. They're so high and lucky they just float in. Perhaps they didn't even notice how low they'd sunk."

Producer: John Calley, Neil Hartley (associate producer), Haskell Wexler
Director: Tony Richardson
Screenplay: Evelyn Waugh (novel), Terry Southern, Christopher Isherwood
Production Design: Rouben Ter-Arutunian
Cinematography: Haskell Wexler
Film Editing: Hal Ashby, Antony Gibbs (supervising), Brian Smedley-Aston
Original Music: John Addison
Principal Cast: Robert Morse (Dennis Barlow), Jonathan Winters (Henry/Wilbur Glenworthy), Anjanette Comer (Aimee Thanatogunos), Dana Andrews (General Buck Brinkman), Milton Berle (Mr. Kenton).
BW-122m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
The Loved One

The Loved One

The Loved One (1965) was advertised as a film with something to offend everyone and it mostly succeeded in this boast though not always in the way it intended. Based on Evelyn Waugh's brilliant and macabre novella that satirized the funeral industry in California, the film departed from Waugh's concise narrative to include numerous subplots, one involving a junior inventor and a plan to dispose of corpses in outer space. The new additions not only outraged Waugh but they also changed the focus of his original satire to include jabs at the youth culture, gluttony, Oedipal relationships, and the military. Of course, this was not the plan when The Loved One was first acquired for the screen. At one time Waugh's book was rumored to be a project for director Luis Bunuel but over the passage of time the rights were acquired by cinematographer Haskell Wexler and producer John Calley who hired Tony Richardson to direct (The latter was still reeling from the unexpected success of his previous film, Tom Jones, 1963). Richardson, who admired comedians like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, wanted to inject a similarly barbed and uniquely American style of humor into the film. But he also wanted to retain Waugh's very British take on Los Angeles so he hired fellow Englishman Christopher Isherwood to adapt the novel along with Terry Southern, co-author of Candy and the screenplay of Dr. Strangelove (1964), the latter providing the 'hip' humor. Richardson even managed to acquire the services of Jessica Mitford, who had previously written a critically praised critique of the California funeral industry entitled The American Way of Death. So much for good intentions. The Loved One quickly became an unwieldy project that spun out of Richardson's control. In Richardson's memoirs, The Long-Distance Runner, the director recalled that, "most of the actors entered the film with the same sense of fun and pleasure. An exception was Robert Morley, who became a boorish prima donna. Terry Southern had written a very funny scene, an appearance by Morley in drag at a leather-bikers' bar which was meant to be the key to the secret life of his character. Once he'd been shot in another scene and therefore knew he couldn't be replaced, Morley refused to perform this, saying it would upset his children. Liberace, on the other hand, loved his role as the casket salesman so much that he wanted more." Unfortunately, the numerous cameos increased the film's budget and running time and some ended up on the cutting room floor like Jayne Mansfield's racy scene. Richardson also had major creative differences with crew members over how to shoot the cadavers in the morgue sequences and how to stage the moving statues in the climactic scene where cosmetician Aimee Thanatogunos (Anjanette Comer) has a graveyard fantasy. Even more problematic, Richardson clashed with producer/cinematographer Wexler over the look of the film: "We had envisaged everything in high-contrast black and white. Haskell still subscribed to the absurd myth....that you couldn't photograph pure black and white. Clothing next to the skin - shirts, blouses, etc. - had to be dipped in tea to give it a beige look. To come out black, paneling had to be brown. It was all rubbish, and their eyes should have told them so. We had converted the former mansion of the mining prospector turned oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny into the headquarters of Forest Lawn. Rouben (Ter-Aruntunian) had painted it a shiny glossy black. When we got to the set to shoot it, it was a muddy brown - Haskell had been in the night before and ordered a crew of painters, all on overnight overtime, to repaint it. I reordered it black, so there was no shooting that day. And that was how the production was run." Under the circumstances, it was inevitable that The Loved One would end up a chaotic mess but it's also a lot of fun and enjoys a better reputation now then when it was first released. Critic Pauline Kael put it best when she wrote: "This botched, patched-together movie is a triumphant disaster - like a sinking ship that makes it to port because everybody aboard is too giddy to panic. They're so high and lucky they just float in. Perhaps they didn't even notice how low they'd sunk." Producer: John Calley, Neil Hartley (associate producer), Haskell Wexler Director: Tony Richardson Screenplay: Evelyn Waugh (novel), Terry Southern, Christopher Isherwood Production Design: Rouben Ter-Arutunian Cinematography: Haskell Wexler Film Editing: Hal Ashby, Antony Gibbs (supervising), Brian Smedley-Aston Original Music: John Addison Principal Cast: Robert Morse (Dennis Barlow), Jonathan Winters (Henry/Wilbur Glenworthy), Anjanette Comer (Aimee Thanatogunos), Dana Andrews (General Buck Brinkman), Milton Berle (Mr. Kenton). BW-122m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

The Loved One - The Movie With Something to Offend Everyone - THE LOVED ONE, a 1965 Black Comedy by Tony Richardson based on Evelyn Waugh's Novel


Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern's Dr. Strangelove was probably the first official "out there" black comedy of the 1960s. But for purity of form, Southern and Tony Richardson's The Loved One takes the cake, or perhaps better, the funeral bouquet. As the story goes, English author Evelyn Waugh spent a discouraging stint in Hollywood trying to adapt his Brideshead Revisited for the screen. No film resulted but his effort inspired him to write a book about the garish lifestyles he found in Southern California. For his scathing satire on Yankee materialism and cultural depravity, Isherwood focuses on the aggressive tastelessness of our Disneyland-like mortuary establishments. He uncovers a vision of America as one giant Death Wish.

MGM's film version, advertised as "The Motion Picture with Something to Offend Everyone!" is two hours of deliciously wicked lampooning of mortuaries and movie studios, dragging in some military types and effete English expatriates to serve as additional targets. Southern's co-screenwriter is Christopher Isherwood, the English author of the book source for Cabaret. That the film is equally willing to skewer stuffy Englishmen is a wise writing choice, so that Americans wouldn't think they were being unilaterally offended. The Loved One has enough acid to go around.

Synopsis: Penniless Brit Dennis Barlow (Robert Morse) comes to Los Angeles in the hope that his Uncle, long-time studio art director Sir Francis Hinsley (John Gielgud) will help him find a job. Hinsley bows and scrapes before studio executive D.J. Jr., (Roddy McDowall) while the sweaty junior producer Henry Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters) tries in vain to promote a drawling western star (Robert Easton) in the role of an English Lord. When D.J. unceremoniously fires him, Hinsley commits suicide. Hinsley's obnoxious "British Colony" associate Sir Ambrose Ambercrombie (Robert Morely) forces Barlow to have his Uncle's funeral arranged by the Whispering Glades super-cemetery, a sanctimonious racket organized by Henry Glenworthy's brother, the Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy (also Jonathan Winters). Also fired from his studio job, Henry begs his brother for a handout position and is put in charge of a new moneymaker, a pet cemetery. Dennis becomes a bereavement associate, which basically means picking up dead pooches from crazy rich people like the Kentons (Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton).

Things get morbid at Whispering Glades, where poor Uncle Hinsley's corpse is put through a demeaning process of embalming and beautification. Top embalmer Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) has an infantile crush on beautician Aimee Thanatogenous (Anjanette Comer) but saves the bulk of his affection for his gluttonous, gross mother (Ayllene Gibbons). Dennis braves the insincere tour guides (among them, Tab Hunter) and is sold a ridiculously lavish casket by the unctuous Mr. Starker (Liberace). Dennis falls head over heels for Miss Thanatogenous but has to compete for her attentions with the jealous Mr. Joyboy, who is only too quick to point out his young rival's employment at the pet cemetery. Aimee gets no help from the newspaper advice columnist Guru Brahmin, especially when she finds out her Guru is an alcoholic cynic (Lionel Stander).

The depraved Rev. Glenworthy wants to ditch his funeral empire and remove the bodies from his valuable real estate, and his brother is the one to come up with the solution: Henry has hired adolescent rocket genius Gunther Fry (Paul H. Williams) to engineer funerals that launch dead pets into outer space. The Reverend seizes on this concept to rocket his entire inventory of corpses into orbit, starting with a deceased astronaut! All he needs is the consent of the astronaut's stripper wife (Barbara Nichols) and access to surplus Atlas missiles from General Buck Brinkman (Dana Andrews).

The rotten taste of the average American television show has so outpaced The Loved One that this pioneering black comedy is most likely to appeal to those few film fans possessing a sense of historical proportion. As a movie idea The Loved One definitely sprang from Dr. Strangelove but isn't quite as universal in its appeal: Most of its satirical targets are either too obvious or are sacred cows shielded by standards of good taste. The Loved One slams the money-grubbing mortuary industry and its blasphemous misappropriation of religious symbols, but the average 1965 viewer likely thought it a sick-minded attack on religion.

A writer like Terry Southern liked nothing better than to shock complacent moviegoers with irreverent comedy, and The Loved One is much more a conceptually based than the relatively forthright Strangelove. James Coburn's immigration officer suspects Dennis Barlow the moment he says he's an English poet, a clear expression of the notion that foreign intellectuals are enemies of The American Way. Dennis' Uncle Hinsley is clearly coded as a gay Brit veteran of the Hollywood studios, an aesthete incapable of dealing with unemployment. The film is strewn with exaggerations of American types, mostly gargoyles and weird-o's (that's a 60s expression) but all instantly recognizable: Desperate businessmen, corrupt Army officers, grossly disturbed husbands and wives. Poor Milton Berle just wants to get a dead dog out of the house but his wife Margaret Leighton is five levels into a maudlin denial of reality and threatens to shoot him. Mr. Joyboy worships his disgusting pig of a mother yet rhapsodizes over Aimee, the mortuary worker. Dennis freaks out when he finds Aimee living in a condemned cliff house that threatens to collapse at any moment. Aimee is in love with death and sees nothing wrong with swinging gaily over an abyss, while her house crumbles around her.

Confused by her dishonest suitors, Aimee doesn't know whom to turn to. Even the fake Guru betrays her. The crass Reverend has turned her beloved Whispering Glades into a depraved empire, and tries to draw her into his spider's lair with a display of pornographic stained glass windows. Aimee has put her faith in the Reverend and is crestfallen when he proposes merging his operation with The Space Race. "How do I get rid of all these Stiffs?" Glenworthy cries, and the heavens call. Nothing stands in the way of making a buck.

Most black comedies are limited in appeal or lose track of their bearings altogether. Lord Love a Duck and The President's Analyst are reasonably focused and funny, but neither equal the mordant sobriety of The Loved One. Its ultimate effect is to induce despair and dismay for a mad world where even the jokes go sour. Just the same, Richardson's film is both unique and wickedly on target.

Even dissenting critics are impressed by the film's near-perfect ensemble of bizarre star turns. Robert Morse is better here than anything except How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Milton Berle is a fine henpecked husband and Dana Andrews a suspiciously inebriated General. Robert Morley is hatefully selfish and Lionel Stander a viable condensation of everything in Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts. Jonathan Winters' twin roles are some of his best film work. And Rod Steiger's mincing, Mom-obsessed ghoul deserves special billing -- it's fascinatingly on-target.

The Loved One came out in 1965 when the Production Code was still in force. Comedies are usually given a little more censorship leeway, and Richardson and Southern's work seems nasty mostly for its ideas, and not what is shown on screen. Hal Ashby's editing makes the Kama Sutra silhouettes in the stained glass windows seem dirtier than they are. The scene with the girls popping out of coffins to entertain the boys in uniform gets away with Liberace rising from a casket like a smiley-faced Bela Lugosi, to the delight of one of the Generals. A lot is implied, and little actually shown.

The funniest moment is a wonderful comment on the working grind. Dennis Barlow has just gone through an ordeal to collect the body of Margaret Leighton's dog, which he assured her would be treated with great respect. Dennis drags himself in out of the heat of the San Fernando Valley and unceremoniously dumps the dead pooch in a freezer like it was a bundle of trash. Another dog, another dollar...what's for lunch?

Warners' DVD of The Loved One is the first video presentation with a transfer that allows us to appreciate the care and craft of this B&W classic. Haskell Wexler's cinematography strikes a number of effective moods, especially in the manicured grounds of Whispering Glades (actually Graystone Manor in Beverly Hills) where Acacia shadows are painted on the lawn for a Last Year at Marienbad effect. The trailer doesn't know how to sell the movie except to billboard the stars and emphasize the film's weird nature.

Trying to Offend Everyone is a superior featurette that offers great interviews with Wexler, Robert Morse, Anjanette Comer and others. Morse remembers the irreverent tone and the fact that he had to re-dub every one of his lines to produce even a hint of a British accent. Comer still wonders at the "go with the flow" wildness of the film, and remarks that she didn't see anything disturbing about it at all. And she's the mortuary attendant in a tight-fitting dress and veil, gliding through the halls of Whispering Glades like one of the Brides of Dracula.

For more information about The Loved One, visit Warner Video. To order The Loved One, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The Loved One - The Movie With Something to Offend Everyone - THE LOVED ONE, a 1965 Black Comedy by Tony Richardson based on Evelyn Waugh's Novel

Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern's Dr. Strangelove was probably the first official "out there" black comedy of the 1960s. But for purity of form, Southern and Tony Richardson's The Loved One takes the cake, or perhaps better, the funeral bouquet. As the story goes, English author Evelyn Waugh spent a discouraging stint in Hollywood trying to adapt his Brideshead Revisited for the screen. No film resulted but his effort inspired him to write a book about the garish lifestyles he found in Southern California. For his scathing satire on Yankee materialism and cultural depravity, Isherwood focuses on the aggressive tastelessness of our Disneyland-like mortuary establishments. He uncovers a vision of America as one giant Death Wish. MGM's film version, advertised as "The Motion Picture with Something to Offend Everyone!" is two hours of deliciously wicked lampooning of mortuaries and movie studios, dragging in some military types and effete English expatriates to serve as additional targets. Southern's co-screenwriter is Christopher Isherwood, the English author of the book source for Cabaret. That the film is equally willing to skewer stuffy Englishmen is a wise writing choice, so that Americans wouldn't think they were being unilaterally offended. The Loved One has enough acid to go around. Synopsis: Penniless Brit Dennis Barlow (Robert Morse) comes to Los Angeles in the hope that his Uncle, long-time studio art director Sir Francis Hinsley (John Gielgud) will help him find a job. Hinsley bows and scrapes before studio executive D.J. Jr., (Roddy McDowall) while the sweaty junior producer Henry Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters) tries in vain to promote a drawling western star (Robert Easton) in the role of an English Lord. When D.J. unceremoniously fires him, Hinsley commits suicide. Hinsley's obnoxious "British Colony" associate Sir Ambrose Ambercrombie (Robert Morely) forces Barlow to have his Uncle's funeral arranged by the Whispering Glades super-cemetery, a sanctimonious racket organized by Henry Glenworthy's brother, the Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy (also Jonathan Winters). Also fired from his studio job, Henry begs his brother for a handout position and is put in charge of a new moneymaker, a pet cemetery. Dennis becomes a bereavement associate, which basically means picking up dead pooches from crazy rich people like the Kentons (Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton). Things get morbid at Whispering Glades, where poor Uncle Hinsley's corpse is put through a demeaning process of embalming and beautification. Top embalmer Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) has an infantile crush on beautician Aimee Thanatogenous (Anjanette Comer) but saves the bulk of his affection for his gluttonous, gross mother (Ayllene Gibbons). Dennis braves the insincere tour guides (among them, Tab Hunter) and is sold a ridiculously lavish casket by the unctuous Mr. Starker (Liberace). Dennis falls head over heels for Miss Thanatogenous but has to compete for her attentions with the jealous Mr. Joyboy, who is only too quick to point out his young rival's employment at the pet cemetery. Aimee gets no help from the newspaper advice columnist Guru Brahmin, especially when she finds out her Guru is an alcoholic cynic (Lionel Stander). The depraved Rev. Glenworthy wants to ditch his funeral empire and remove the bodies from his valuable real estate, and his brother is the one to come up with the solution: Henry has hired adolescent rocket genius Gunther Fry (Paul H. Williams) to engineer funerals that launch dead pets into outer space. The Reverend seizes on this concept to rocket his entire inventory of corpses into orbit, starting with a deceased astronaut! All he needs is the consent of the astronaut's stripper wife (Barbara Nichols) and access to surplus Atlas missiles from General Buck Brinkman (Dana Andrews). The rotten taste of the average American television show has so outpaced The Loved One that this pioneering black comedy is most likely to appeal to those few film fans possessing a sense of historical proportion. As a movie idea The Loved One definitely sprang from Dr. Strangelove but isn't quite as universal in its appeal: Most of its satirical targets are either too obvious or are sacred cows shielded by standards of good taste. The Loved One slams the money-grubbing mortuary industry and its blasphemous misappropriation of religious symbols, but the average 1965 viewer likely thought it a sick-minded attack on religion. A writer like Terry Southern liked nothing better than to shock complacent moviegoers with irreverent comedy, and The Loved One is much more a conceptually based than the relatively forthright Strangelove. James Coburn's immigration officer suspects Dennis Barlow the moment he says he's an English poet, a clear expression of the notion that foreign intellectuals are enemies of The American Way. Dennis' Uncle Hinsley is clearly coded as a gay Brit veteran of the Hollywood studios, an aesthete incapable of dealing with unemployment. The film is strewn with exaggerations of American types, mostly gargoyles and weird-o's (that's a 60s expression) but all instantly recognizable: Desperate businessmen, corrupt Army officers, grossly disturbed husbands and wives. Poor Milton Berle just wants to get a dead dog out of the house but his wife Margaret Leighton is five levels into a maudlin denial of reality and threatens to shoot him. Mr. Joyboy worships his disgusting pig of a mother yet rhapsodizes over Aimee, the mortuary worker. Dennis freaks out when he finds Aimee living in a condemned cliff house that threatens to collapse at any moment. Aimee is in love with death and sees nothing wrong with swinging gaily over an abyss, while her house crumbles around her. Confused by her dishonest suitors, Aimee doesn't know whom to turn to. Even the fake Guru betrays her. The crass Reverend has turned her beloved Whispering Glades into a depraved empire, and tries to draw her into his spider's lair with a display of pornographic stained glass windows. Aimee has put her faith in the Reverend and is crestfallen when he proposes merging his operation with The Space Race. "How do I get rid of all these Stiffs?" Glenworthy cries, and the heavens call. Nothing stands in the way of making a buck. Most black comedies are limited in appeal or lose track of their bearings altogether. Lord Love a Duck and The President's Analyst are reasonably focused and funny, but neither equal the mordant sobriety of The Loved One. Its ultimate effect is to induce despair and dismay for a mad world where even the jokes go sour. Just the same, Richardson's film is both unique and wickedly on target. Even dissenting critics are impressed by the film's near-perfect ensemble of bizarre star turns. Robert Morse is better here than anything except How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Milton Berle is a fine henpecked husband and Dana Andrews a suspiciously inebriated General. Robert Morley is hatefully selfish and Lionel Stander a viable condensation of everything in Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts. Jonathan Winters' twin roles are some of his best film work. And Rod Steiger's mincing, Mom-obsessed ghoul deserves special billing -- it's fascinatingly on-target. The Loved One came out in 1965 when the Production Code was still in force. Comedies are usually given a little more censorship leeway, and Richardson and Southern's work seems nasty mostly for its ideas, and not what is shown on screen. Hal Ashby's editing makes the Kama Sutra silhouettes in the stained glass windows seem dirtier than they are. The scene with the girls popping out of coffins to entertain the boys in uniform gets away with Liberace rising from a casket like a smiley-faced Bela Lugosi, to the delight of one of the Generals. A lot is implied, and little actually shown. The funniest moment is a wonderful comment on the working grind. Dennis Barlow has just gone through an ordeal to collect the body of Margaret Leighton's dog, which he assured her would be treated with great respect. Dennis drags himself in out of the heat of the San Fernando Valley and unceremoniously dumps the dead pooch in a freezer like it was a bundle of trash. Another dog, another dollar...what's for lunch? Warners' DVD of The Loved One is the first video presentation with a transfer that allows us to appreciate the care and craft of this B&W classic. Haskell Wexler's cinematography strikes a number of effective moods, especially in the manicured grounds of Whispering Glades (actually Graystone Manor in Beverly Hills) where Acacia shadows are painted on the lawn for a Last Year at Marienbad effect. The trailer doesn't know how to sell the movie except to billboard the stars and emphasize the film's weird nature. Trying to Offend Everyone is a superior featurette that offers great interviews with Wexler, Robert Morse, Anjanette Comer and others. Morse remembers the irreverent tone and the fact that he had to re-dub every one of his lines to produce even a hint of a British accent. Comer still wonders at the "go with the flow" wildness of the film, and remarks that she didn't see anything disturbing about it at all. And she's the mortuary attendant in a tight-fitting dress and veil, gliding through the halls of Whispering Glades like one of the Brides of Dracula. For more information about The Loved One, visit Warner Video. To order The Loved One, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

'Ruth Gordon' and Jayne Mansfield were both cut from the released print of the film.

After WWII, Evelyn Arthur Waugh came to Hollywood to work on a movie adaptation of his novel "Brideshead Revisited". While in Hollywood he went to a funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Waugh was offended by the pretense of both the American film industry and the American funeral industry, and wove the two together into the novel on which this film was based.

Notes

Location scenes filmed at Greystone Mansion in Los Angeles.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1965

Released in United States 1994

Released in United States 1965

Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Laughter in the Dark: Tony Richardson" August 26 - September 13, 1994.)

Based on the novel "The Loved One," written by Evelyn Waugh and published in 1940.