Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The Loved One is an absurd black comedy based on a book by Evelyn Waugh and borrowing also from Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death (highly recommended). The screenplay was co-written by Terry Southern. The film has so many stars it's almost like a funeral business version of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Check out this cast -  Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters,  Rod Steiger, Dana Andrews, Alan Napier (Batman's butler Alfred), John Gielgud, Roddy McDowall, James Coburn, Milton Berle, Liberace, Tab Hunter, Bernie Kopell (Love Boat), Paul Williams, and even Jamie Farr of M.A.S.H. has an uncredited role.

While there are no actual songs in The Loved One, there are two musicians making significant appearances. 

Liberace is superb in the part of Mr. Starker who is in charge of the casket room and funeral wardrobe selections. If the top of the line products are not chosen he shows just the slightest condescension to the buyer. He appears in one other scene where top army brass have an orgy in this room with a girl in each casket. When one of the generals opens one casket, Liberace is inside. Maybe this was an earlier simpler version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  

Paul Williams (pre-singer/songwriter fame), who was 25 at the time, but due to his short stature, appears as a wunderkind with an interest in rocket science. His part plays heavily into the ending of the film. This was Williams movie debut, but he appeared a very competent actor easily holding his own with the rest of the cast.

Johnathan Winters plays two parts in the film and as usual lights up both and has my favorite line in the film. He's a movie producer who is going to do his own version of James Bond and says "We're going to give them the one thing Jim Bond doesn't have, warmth". But, a real standout is Rod Steiger's over-the-top acting role as head embalmer, Mr Joyboy. I think I had more laugh out loud moments with him than any other character in the movie. If you enjoy a dark comedy and don't have any squeamishness about the business of death, then you'll really enjoy The Loved One.

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