The Loved One  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948) is a short satirical novel by Evelyn Waugh about the funeral business in Los Angeles, the British expatriate community in Hollywood, and the film industry.

Plot summary

In the novel, a young English poet, Dennis Barlow, goes to Los Angeles to live with a friend, Sir Francis Hinsley, who works at a film studio. When he is fired by the studio, Sir Francis commits suicide, and Dennis goes to the imposing necropolis called Whispering Glades (its details clearly inspired by Forest Lawn, which mesmerized Waugh) to arrange for the funeral. While there, he meets Aimee Thanatogenos, a cosmetician, and competes for her attention with the sinister embalmer Mr. Joyboy.

The comedy is savage and macabre, as biting today as it was when it was written. It attacks the commercialisation of what would normally be considered 'sacred'. The Loved One appeared on most of the 'Hundred Best Novels of the Century' lists in 2000.

Allusions/references from other works

The 1985 Doctor Who television serial "Revelation of the Daleks" is said by its author Eric Saward to be based on The Loved One. Saward confirms this in the 2005 DVD commentary for the aforementioned story, with several characters in Tranquil Repose (a space mortuary controlled by Davros) being based directly upon names from Waugh's novel.

Film, TV, Musical or theatrical adaptations

The book was adapted by Terry Southern into a sprawling film of the same name in 1965, 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 Harold Lloyd estate. Christopher Isherwood worked on an early version of the screenplay and can be glimpsed as one of 'Uncle Frank's' mourners. Tom Paxton mentions The Loved One as one of the inspirations for his satirical song "Forest Lawn" (along with Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Loved One" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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