The Loved One-attachment0

The Loved One

Movie Information

In Brief: It was the film "with something to offend everyone," and it's my guess that while Tony Richardson's The Loved One is less shocking today than it was in 1965, it still contains more than its share of outrages against anything approaching good taste. Its tale of Hollywood funerary practices, movie studios, pet cemeteries, fad religions and general American excess as seen through the eyes of unscrupulous British poet is rich with potential offenses — and Richardson and writer Terry Southern find most of them. To put it into perspective, this is a movie with Liberace as a coffin salesman.
Genre: Dark Comedy Satire
Director: Tony Richardson (Tom Jones)
Starring: Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Anjanette Comer, John Gielgud, Lionel Stander
Rated: NR

Tony Richardson’s The Loved One (1965) was originally promoted as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone.” And though it was made before the advent of the ratings system, they weren’t kidding — which goes to prove that you don’t need an R rating if you’re determined to shake people up. The film is an adaptation — and extension — of Evelyn Waugh’s 1947 short novel of the same name, a book that Waugh wrote after his trip to Hollywood to discuss what turned out to be an abortive attempt to bring his Brideshead Revisited to the screen. (Hollywood bought the book because it was a best-seller — completely unaware that it was about Catholicism and contained homosexuality.) Waugh’s The Loved One offered his take on Hollywood and the bizarre Los Angeles funeral practices he witnessed there — with the accent on the latter. (The Hollywood British colony, pet cemeteries and phony guru advisors came under his scrutiny, too.) What Richardson’s film does — with help from screenwriter Terry Southern (and a little input from Christopher Isherwood) — is offer an updated version of the story, taking on the excesses of the intervening 18 years.

Despite the fact that the film tends to rile traditionalists, it really does follow the basics of the book quite faithfully. It is still the story of a hack (or scrupulous) English poet (Robert Morse), who find himself on his own in Hollywood when his uncle (John Gielgud) commits suicide after being dumped by the studio. He still disgraces himself with the British Colony, compounds the offense by taking a job at a pet cemetery and falls in love with a death-obsessed girl from the Whispering Glades (think Forest Lawn) funeral home. It just adds things — like Liberace as a coffin salesmen, funerals in space, 25-year-old Paul Williams as a boy genius and Jonathan Winters in the only role the movies ever gave him that tapped into his talents. Will it offend you? Oh, very likely. If nothing else, Mrs. Joyboy (Ayllene Gibbons) should do the trick.

The Asheville Film Society will screen The Loved One Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

2 thoughts on “The Loved One

  1. Ken Hanke

    I’m so used to it by now that I’m not sure I can judge. It is at least not embarassing. Never quite understood why he was cast, except I guess he was an MGM contract player at the time.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.