Movie review: “The Loved One” (1965)


TCM featured “The Loved One” recently. The novel (by Evelyn Waugh) was strange enough, but the movie is stranger still. It was billed as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone.” Listen to this cast list: Milton Berle, Rod Steiger, Robert Morse, John Gielgud, Jonathan Winters, Liberace, Robert Morley, Tab Hunter.



Summary: an innocent young English poet-wannabe (Morse) comes to America in the 1960s to visit (and sponge upon) his successful uncle (the fey John Gielgud), who’s working in the movie industry. Uncle is fired from his studio and commits suicide. Nephew has nothing to fall back upon, and goes into the pet-cemetery business. His girlfriend (Anjanette Comer), who happens to be an embalmer at a high-class cemetery –



Well, you should really see the movie. It’s too funny and odd and outrageous.



Waugh’s novel is bitter enough, but the movie is far darker. It’s a bitter movie about the movie industry and the artificiality of Hollywood. Americans are shown to be shallow and stupid, but the British colony in Hollywood (led by the insufferably stuffy Robert Morley, an actor who plays “prime ministers and butlers”) is portrayed just as badly.



And the moral is: human beings are a bad lot. Bring on the replacements.



(Postscript: I couldn’t help counting up the name of gay actors in the cast: Gielgud, Liberace, Tab Hunter, Roddy MacDowell. It was a pleasure seeing them all together here. I hope they all got together after filming, and had a drink and a good laugh.)


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