The Loved One (film)

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The Loved One
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Richardson
Screenplay byTerry Southern
Christopher Isherwood
Based onThe Loved One
by Evelyn Waugh
Produced byJohn Calley
Haskell Wexler
StarringRobert Morse
Jonathan Winters
Anjanette Comer
Rod Steiger
CinematographyHaskell Wexler
Edited byHal Ashby
Brian Smedley-Aston
Antony Gibbs (supervising)
Music byJohn Addison
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 11, 1965 (1965-10-11)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million (est. US/Canada rentals)[2]

The Loved One is a 1965 black-and-white black comedy film directed by British filmmaker Tony Richardson. A satirical look at the funeral business in Los Angeles, it is based on Evelyn Waugh's 1948 short novel The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy, though the screenplay by noted American satirical novelist Terry Southern and British author Christopher Isherwood also incorporates elements from Jessica Mitford's 1963 nonfiction book The American Way of Death.[3] The film stars Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Anjanette Comer, and Rod Steiger, with Dana Andrews, Milton Berle, James Coburn, John Gielgud, Tab Hunter, Margaret Leighton, Liberace, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Barbara Nichols, and Lionel Stander credited as "cameo guest stars", and features the debut acting performance of songwriter Paul Williams.


Young Englishman—and aspiring poet—Dennis Barlow wins an airline ticket and decides to visit his uncle, Sir Francis Hinsley, in Los Angeles. Shortly after Dennis's arrival, Sir Francis, who has worked at a major Hollywood studio for more than thirty years, is fired by his employer, D.J. Jr., and hangs himself.

Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, a prominent English expatriate, convinces Dennis to spend most of the money from his uncle's estate on an extravagant burial at Whispering Glades cemetery and mortuary. There, Dennis becomes infatuated with Aimee Thanatogenos, a hopelessly naïve and idealistic cosmetician who says she was named after Aimee Semple McPherson. Mr. Joyboy, Whispering Glade's chief embalmer, is also attracted to her, but, although she respects him professionally, Aimee has no romantic feelings for Joyboy. Aimee's idol is the seemingly solemn and pious owner of Whispering Glades, Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy, unaware that, in private, he is a calculating businessman who regards the cemetery as just a business venture.

Dennis begins working at Happier Hunting Grounds, a pet cemetery run by the Reverend's twin brother, Harry. He discovers Aimee is fascinated by—but unfamiliar with—poetry, and courts her by reciting famous verses, changing the subject when she asks whether he wrote them. As he knows Aimee considers the pet cemetery sacrilegious, he also does not tell her where he works.

Aimee is frustrated by Dennis' cynical and disrespectful attitude toward Whispering Glades, and, when she gets a promotion, she is shocked by his suggestion that they marry and live on her income. Acting on advice from the "Guru Brahmin", who is actually a drunken newspaper staff writer, she accepts a dinner invitation from Joyboy, but any thoughts of a relationship with him end when she observes his codependent relationship with his morbidly obese mother.

Again taking advice from the Guru, Aimee becomes engaged to Dennis. She invites him to her house, which was condemned before being completed due to the risk of landslides, but he cuts his visit short, alarmed by some ominous tremblings and Aimee's lack of concern for her safety.

Dennis and Harry meet Gunther Fry, a boy genius with an interest in rocketry, and let him set up shop at the pet cemetery. Joyboy brings in his mother's pet myna bird to be buried, but agrees to have the bird shot into orbit on one of Gunther's rockets, instead. Having discovered that Dennis is his rival for Aimee's affections, Joyboy brings Aimee to the ceremony, and she is outraged when she sees Dennis performing the service.

Reverend Glenworthy, seeing little profit in Whispering Glades once all of the plots are filled, decides to convert it into a retirement community, but is unable to proceed without a plan for dealing with the interred bodies. When he learns of Harry's idea of launching bodies into space, he proceeds to obtain surplus rockets by hosting an orgy at Whispering Glades with top Air Force brass as the guests of honor. Dennis, in a desperate attempt to reconcile with Aimee, tells her that Whispering Glades is to be shut down. She flees, but is afraid that what Dennis told her might be true.

Aimee seeks out Joyboy for comfort, but he has been called to touch-up the first disinterred body—an ex-astronaut nicknamed "The Condor"—before it is launched into orbit. She tracks down the Guru at a bar, but he drunkenly advises her to jump out a window. Fleeing to the cemetery, Aimee finds Reverend Glenworthy, who confirms Dennis' story and tries to seduce her by promising continued employment with higher pay at the new facility. Her faith in everything she once held sacred now shattered, Aimee calmly hooks herself up to an embalming machine.

Joyboy finds Aimee's body. Fearing a scandal, he calls Dennis to arrange for her disposal in the pet cemetery's crematorium. In exchange for a first-class ticket back to England and all the money in Joyboy's bank account, Dennis agrees. As he is about to leave Whispering Glades, Dennis decides to put Aimee's body in the casket that is to be placed in the rocket and cremate the Condor. After watching the launch on television, Dennis boards his plane.



In 1947, Evelyn Waugh visited Hollywood when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offered him a six-figure sum for the film rights to his novel Brideshead Revisited, despite the fact that none of the studio bosses had read the book. The project was scrapped after Waugh demanded complete veto rights over the finished film,[5] but, during his stay in Los Angeles, he became fascinated by the American obsession with the funeral industry and was inspired to write a lengthy journal article on Forest Lawn cemetery and its founder, Dr. Hubert Eaton, and then the 1948 novel The Loved One.[6] In the following years, numerous people attempted unsuccessfully to produce a filmed version of Waugh's novel, including the Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the comic writer/director Elaine May.[7]


The film was shot in and around Los Angeles, with Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills, Burbank, and Los Angeles International Airport among the locations. "Whispering Glades" was inspired by Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, with the exterior and interior scenes set at the facility shot mostly at Greystone Mansion. A house under construction at 3847 Oakfield Dr. in Sherman Oaks was used for Aimee's condemned house at the edge of a cliff.


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 47% of 19 critics' reviews of the film are positive, with an average score of 6.3/10.[8]

For his work in the film, Rod Steiger won the Spanish Sant Jordi Award for Best Actor in a Foreign Film.

Home media[edit]

The Loved One was released on DVD on June 20, 2006. It was re-released by Warner Home Video on August 20, 2013, via their Warner Archive DVD-on-demand service. The film received a Blu-ray release in May 2017.


  1. ^ Loved One late, but no one seems to mind Author: From Daily Mail Correspondent Hollywood, Thursday Date: Friday, Oct. 30, 1964 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) p 12
  2. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967, p. 8.
  3. ^ Lee Hill – A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern, Bloomsbury, 2001, p. 135.
  4. ^ Koper, Richard (2010). Fifties Blondes: Sexbombs, Sirens, Bad Girls and Teen Queens. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593935214. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  5. ^ Stannard, Martin (1984). Evelyn Waugh: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge Kegan & Paul. pp. 301–302. ISBN 978-0710095480. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  6. ^ Eade, Philip (2016). Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-0805097603. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  7. ^ Taylor, Charles (July 31, 2006). "Richardson's Lively Disaster: Waugh's The Loved One". The Observer. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  8. ^ "The Loved One" at Rotten Tomatoes. (Caveat: Rotten Tomatoes was founded 33 years after the film was released and is far from the only resource for any film's reception.)

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