Novelist and screenwriter Terry Southern was born on this day in 1924. Southern worked on scripts for Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid, Casino Royale, Barbarella, and Easy Rider. In the early 1980s, he was a writer for the TV show Saturday Night Live. Southern's writing ranged from the surreal to the satirical (and sometimes managed both at once), but one of his most memorable efforts was an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel The Loved One, which Christopher Isherwood also helped script. The book is a satire of post-WWII Hollywood, focusing on the film industry and the funeral industry.

The Loved One is one of my favorite books, but I'm not fond of the 1965 movie, which was British director Tony Richardson's first Hollywood film. The film was advertised as "The movie with something to offend everyone!" and it certainly tries, perhaps too hard. In that respect, it reminds me of Billy Wilder's 1964 movie Kiss Me Stupid. Both films tugged at the unraveling edges of the Production Code to see how much they could get away with. The Loved One does not date well, either -- it is very much a product of the Sixties, with a silly subplot about ashes launched via rocket.

However, the movie is worth watching at least once, as a fascinating curiosity. Some characters, like Mrs. Joyboy and Rev. Glenworthy, truly must be seen to be believed. As shown in the above photo, Liberace has a small role as a coffin salesman. The cast also includes John Gielgud, Robert Morley, Rod Steiger, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Roddy McDowell, Lionel Stander, and Jonathan Winters. The Loved One has not been available on DVD, but Warner is finally releasing a DVD of the film on June 20. Did I mention Tab Hunter's role as a cemetery tour guide?
categories Features, Cinematical