Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Loved One: Books I Enjoyed

If Terry Pratchett had written about Hollywood morticians, he would have crafted Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One", a short comic novel of exceptional morbidity that was recommended to me earlier this month. It took little time to read; Waugh doesn't pad his material, but lets each character act according to his or her nature; the result should draw a laugh even from, or especially from, today's most angst-ridden Goth.
The ending is as inevitable as it is unexpected; true to the nature of each of the characters, and yet shocking in its unconventional resolution of a love-triable based in a mortuary.
I'm delighted to see it was made into a movie that I'll have to try to find on DVD; for those who don't mind spoilers, here's a fair review from Amazon:
"In olden days, as Cole Porter famously observed, a mere glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. So it's heartening to report that this 1965 black comedy still delivers on its billing as "the motion picture with something to offend everyone." Tony Richardson, fresh off the liberating Tom Jones, brings Evelyn Waugh's self-described "little nightmare" to the screen with all its sacrilegious shocks (and then some!) intact, courtesy of screenwriters Terry Southern (Dr. Strangelove) and Christopher Isherwood. Robert Morse stars as Dennis Barlow, an Englishman abroad and a fish out of water in Southern California. Stumbling across the Hollywood landscape like a cross between Candide and Jerry Lewis. Barlow gets a unique perspective of the American experience when he finds employment at the Happier Hunting Ground, a ramshackle pet cemetery, and the flipside of the fabulously vulgar Whispering Glades. In a virtuoso dual role, Jonathan Winters costars as glad-handing Happier Hunting Grounds proprietor Harry, whose brother, Whispering Glades' Blessed Reverend, has some out-of-this-world plans for the "Loved Ones." The mad, mad, mad mad cast also includes John Gielgud as Dennis's ill-fated expatriate uncle, an artist unceremoniously booted from the movie studio where he has worked for 31 years; Anjanette Comer as Aimee, a Whispering Glades cosmetician torn between Dennis and embalmer Mr. Joyboy (an unforgettable Rod Steiger), who registers his broken heart on the faces of his corpses; a teenage Paul Williams as a science prodigy; Liberace as a funeral salesman peddling eternal flames both "perpetual or standard"; Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton as "a typical well-adjusted American couple" whose deceased dog puts a crimp in their dinner plans; and even Jamie Farr, seen fleetingly as a waiter."
Surely Waugh puts the "dead" in "deadpan humor"!

No comments: