The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy
(1948) is a short satirical novel by British novelist Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...
about the funeral business in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...
, the British expatriate community in Hollywood, and the film industry.
The Loved One
was written as a result of Evelyn Waugh's trip to Hollywood in February and March 1947. MGM was interested in adapting Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by English writer Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is theologically termed 'the operation of Grace', that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by...
(1945). Waugh had written that "I should not think six Americans will understand it" and was baffled and angered by its popularity in America, referring to it as "my humiliating success in [the] U.S.A."
Waugh had no intention of allowing MGM to adapt Brideshead Revisited
, but allowed MGM to bring him and his wife to California and pay him $2000 a week during negotiations. MGM was offering $140,000 if he allowed them the film rights, but Waugh was careful to ensure that the weekly stipend was paid regardless of the results of the negotiation. Waugh was negotiating with MGM producer Leon Gordon, a British playwright and screenwriter, and British screenwriter Keith Winter, whom Waugh had previously known in Europe, was to write the adaptation. Waugh compalined that Winter "sees Brideshead
purely as a love story" and that no one at MGM was able to grasp the "theological implication" of the novel. MGM abandoned its pursuit of the novel after Waugh explained to Gordon "what Brideshead
was about" and he seemed to "lose heart", citing aspects highlighted by the censor
Censor may refer to:*Censorship, the control of speech and other forms of human expression*Roman censor, a magistrate for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, etc*Cato Censor , Roman statesman...
In Hollywood, Waugh enjoyed meeting Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...
and Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...
("the two artists of the place") but complained about the accommodations, the quality of food and the lack of wine at meals, the relaxed dress and informal manners, and the small talk of service workers - "the exact opposite of the English custom by which the upper classes are expected to ask personal questions of the lower". His trip to Hollywood was very successful, however, in a literary way. He wrote "I found a deep mine of literary gold in the cemetery of Forest Lawn
-Cemeteries:Forest Lawn is a name for two major cemetery chains in the United States. The majority of these are old, elaborate cemeteries that historically had a secondary use as a public park:...
and the work of the morticians and intend to get to work immediately on a novelette staged there." Forest Lawn's founder, Dr. Hubert Eaton
Hubert Eaton was an American businessman.Born in Liberty, Missouri, he is noted as the creator of the Forest Lawn Glendale and Hollywood Hills cemeteries in the Los Angeles, California area that became the burial site for many movie stars and other film industry members...
, and his staff gave Waugh tours of the facility and introduced him to their field. Waugh also had a copy of Eaton's book Embalming Techniques
, which Waugh annotated. Since the eschatological aspects of Brideshead Revisited
had escaped Americans, Waugh was determined to highlight the eschatological aspects of American society.
: Sir Ambrose Abercrombie visits housemates Dennis Barlow and Sir Francis Hinsley to express his concern about Barlow's new job and how it reflects on the British enclave in Hollywood, which is also taken as an announcement of Barlow's impending exclusion from British society. Barlow reports to his job at the Happier Hunting Ground, a pet cemetery and funeral service, and picks up a couple's dead Sealyham Terrier
The Sealyham Terrier is a dog breed of the terrier type. The Sealyham Terrier was originally developed in Wales.- History :thumb|right|A Sealyham Terrier photographed in 1915....
: Due to the difficulty he is having rebranding actress Juanita del Pablo as an Irish starlet (having previously rebranded Baby Aaronson as del Pablo), Hinsley is sent to work from home. After his secretary stops showing up, he ventures to Megalopolitan Studios and finds a man named Lorenzo Medici in his office. After working his way through the bureaucracy he finds he has been unceremoniously fired. In the next scene, Abercrombie and other British expatriates are discussing Hinsley's suicide and the funeral arrangements.
: Barlow, tasked with making Hinsley's funeral arrangements, visits Whispering Glades. There he is transfixed by the cosmetician Aimée Thanatogenos, though he has yet to learn her name.
: Barlow continues with the funeral arrangments while Hinsley's body arrives at Whispering Glades and is tended to by Thanatogenos and the senior mortician Mr. Joyboy.
: Barlow visits Whispering Glades seeking inspiration for Hinsley's funeral ode. While touring a British-themed section of the cemetery, he meets Thanatogenos and begins his courtship of her when she learns he is a poet.
: Six weeks later, Thanatogenos is torn between her very different affections for Barlow and Joyboy. She writes to the advice columnist "The Guru Brahmin" for advice. Joyboy invites her over for dinner and he meets his mother.
: The office of the Guru Brahmin consists of "two gloomy men and a bright young secretary." Tasked with responding to Thanatogenos' letters is Mr. Slump, a grim drunk who advises that she marry Joyboy. She instead decides to marry Barlow.
: Joyboy learns that the poems Barlow has been wooing Thanatogenos with are not his own, and arranges that Thanatogenos, who still does not know Barlow works for a pet cemetery, attend the funeral of her mother's parrot at the Happier Hunting Ground.
: Some time after Thanatogenos' discovery of Barlow's deceptions, Barlow reads the announcement of her engagement to Joyboy. Barlow meets with her and she is again torn between the two men. She tracks down Mr. Slump to seek the advice of the Guru Bramin and finds him, via telephone, in a bar after he has been fired. Slump tells her to jump off a building. She commits suicide by injecting herself with chemicals in Joyboy's workroom at Whispering Glades.
: Joyboy discovers Thanatogenos' body and seeks assistance from Barlow. Then Barlow meets with Abercrombie, who, fearing Barlow's plans to become a non-sectarian funeral pastor will further damage the image of the British enclave, pays his passage back to England. Joyboy returns, unaware of Barlow's impending departure, and in exchange for all his savings, Barlow says he will leave town so it will appear that he ran away with Thanatogenos. After cremating the body, Barlow signs Joyboy up for the Happier Hunting Ground annual postcard service so every year Joyboy will receive a card reading "Your little Aimée is wagging her tail in heaven tonight, thinking of you."
, a celebrated 28 year old British poet who is brought to Hollywood to write a script for a film biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...
. He is fired from his job and, as the novel opens, he is working for the Happier Hunting Ground, a funeral service for pets. He frequently quotes lines of poetry in his speech and writing, especially when he is wooing Aimée Thanatogenos, whom he allows to believe is the author of those lines. The sources include Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...
, and others. One quotation, from the poet Richard Middleton
Richard Barham Middleton was a British poet, who is remembered mostly for his short stories, in particular The Ghost Ship....
, was not publicly identified until 1981, 33 years after the publication of The Loved One
, a cosmetician at Whispering Glades. She was named for evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson
Aimee Semple McPherson , also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-American Los Angeles, California evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church...
. Her first name is French for "loved one" while her last name is Greek for "born of death". Waugh describes her eyes as "greenish and remote, with a rich glint of lunacy."
, senior mortician at Whispering Glades. His trademark is a beaming smile he leaves on the faces of embalmed bodies. He lives with his mother, Mrs. Joyboy, and is dominated by her.
Sir Francis Hinsley
, Barlow's Hollywood housemate. In his youth, Hinsley authored the widely-acclaimed novel A Free Man Greets the Dawn
, but has long since abandoned writing. Former chief scriptwriter for Megalopolitan Pictures, as the novel opens he works for their publicity department and is struggling with rebranding an actress named Juanita del Pablo into an Irish starlet. He is fired from Megalopolitan and hangs himself.
Sir Ambrose Abercrombie
, a distinguished British actor and leader of the British enclave in Hollywood, primarily concerned about keeping up the image of his country in the eyes of Hollywood. It is believed that he is based on actor Sir C. Aubrey Smith.
Publication and reception
Waugh began writing The Loved One
in May 1947. After initial "very slow" going, he finished the first draft in early July and completed the novel in September.. It was published in its entirely by Cyril Connolly
Cyril Vernon Connolly was an English intellectual, literary critic and writer. He was the editor of the influential literary magazine Horizon and wrote Enemies of Promise , which combined literary criticism with an autobiographical exploration of why he failed to become the successful author of...
in the February 1948 issue of Horizon
Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art was an influential literary magazine published in London, between 1940 and 1949. It was edited by Cyril Connolly who gave a platform to a wide range of distinguished and emerging writers....
. (Hinsley is seen reading a copy of Horizon
in the opening chapter of The Loved One
.) It was enthusiastically greeted by readers who thought Waugh had returned to early form with this short comic novel, but later critics have felt that this caused audiences to overrate the book.
The novel was successfully published in America as well, though Waugh had feared lawsuits so much that he employed his friend Lord Stanley of Alderley
Edward John Stanley, 6th Baron Sheffield, 6th Baron Stanley of Alderley and 5th Baron Eddisbury was a British peer....
to add a codicil
A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will. Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions , or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will...
to his will instructing that he be buried at Forest Lawn.. Waugh also claimed that American morticians would refuse to service his body should he die in the US. The novel was well-reviewed, however, and sales were good.
The New Yorker
New Yorker may refer to:* A resident of New York City * A resident of New York state * The New Yorker, a magazine* A predecessor newspaper to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune...
, though, refused to publish the novel because they thought the themes of the novel had already been well-handled by American authors, such as S. J. Perelman
Sidney Joseph Perelman, almost always known as S. J. Perelman , was an American humorist, author, and screenwriter. He is best known for his humorous short pieces written over many years for The New Yorker...
, Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...
, and Nathaniel West, the later of whom had written two novels on themes (Hollywood studios and advice columnists) Waugh tackled in The Loved One
. The magazine wrote "The freshest part of Mr. Waugh's story is the part which refers to the English in Hollywood, and we wish, wistfully, that he had concerned himself more exclusively with that theme."
The book was adapted in 1965
The year 1965 in film involved some significant events, with The Sound of Music topping the U.S. box office.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :Academy Awards:...
by Terry Southern
Terry Southern was an American author, essayist, screenwriter and university lecturer, noted for his distinctive satirical style...
into a sprawling film of the same name, billed as The motion picture with something to offend everyone!
Not particularly true to the book, the film features many in-joke cameos and familiar California filming locations like the Greystone Mansion
Greystone Mansion, also known as the Doheny Mansion, is a Tudor-style mansion on a landscaped estate with distinctive formal English gardens, located in Beverly Hills, California, United States. The architect Gordon Kaufmann designed the residence and ancillary structures, with construction...
. Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...
worked on an early version of the screenplay and can be glimpsed as one of 'Uncle Frank's' mourners.
Allusions/references from other works
The 1985 Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...
television serial "Revelation of the Daleks
Revelation of the Daleks is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in two weekly parts on 23 March and 30 March 1985...
" is loosely based on "The Loved One" and "Soylent Green
Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer. Starring Charlton Heston, the film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution,...
," as noted by scriptwriter Eric Saward
Eric Saward was born on 9 December 1944 and became a scriptwriter and script editor for the BBC, resigning from the latter post on the TV programme Doctor Who in 1986....
on the 2005 DVD commentary for the story. The serial, which sees the swanky space-age necropolis Tranquil Repose turned into a front for the Dalek
The Daleks are a fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Within the series, Daleks are cyborgs from the planet Skaro, created by the scientist Davros during the final years of a thousand-year war against the Thals...
breeding activities of the maniacal Davros
Davros is a character from the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Davros is an archenemy of the Doctor and is the creator of the Doctor's deadliest enemies, the Daleks...
, has set designs and scenes which clearly reference the 1965 film, while the characters Joyboy, Thanatogenos and The Blessed Reverend all have direct analogs in the episode. The story was widely criticized for its sick humour and unorthodox structure, but today is seen as one of the more successful productions of its era.
Thomas Richard Paxton is an American folk singer and singer-songwriter who has been writing, performing and recording music for over forty years...
mentions The Loved One
, along with Jessica Mitford
Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford was an English author, journalist and political campaigner, who was one of the Mitford sisters...
's book The American Way of Death
The American Way of Death was an exposé of abuses in the funeral home industry in the United States, written by Jessica Mitford and published in 1963...
, as one of the inspirations for his satirical song "Forest Lawn".