Momma's Big Tub
Director Tony Richardson takes no prisoners as he lambastes the funeral business, the government, religion, ideology, and anything else held sacred by many. Richardson does this in the most comically satiric manner with subtlety, restraint at times, over-indulgence at other moments, and a unique blend of English reservedness and wit mixed with American vulgarity and frankness. I loved this film and was laughing throughout. The story starts off with a young Englishman(Robert Morse) arriving in LA with no job or prospects other than visiting his famous uncle John Gielgud - who is in the movie business. Gielgud invites the young man to stay, introduces him to the strong acting British community, and provides him with living essentials as the young man decides what to do with his life(apparently after a romantic break). We see Gielgud at work and Richardson has no problems making fun of the movie industry at all as Gielgud, a veteran of 31 years, has been reduced to helping an American hick become an Englishman - not even remotely possible. He fails, is let go, and hangs himself. At this point we have a wonderful satire about the film industry, but what follows balloons into something even more grandiose. Character actor Robert Morley insists that this man be buried at the best place possible - Whispering Glades. We then watch Morse go there and see the hyperbolic excesses of the funereal business for those who least need their services - the dead. Morse meets beautiful Anjanette Comer, a make-up artist for the dead, as well as a series of people to help bring his uncle to "peace." Richardson, taking Waugh's novel, really has a knack at steamrolling his satire here with decadent grounds, huge rooms for repose, a bureaucratic network designed only for the wealthy, white, and people of "merit." Liberace, giving a great performance, plays a man who helps Morse decide on what casket, suit, and even shoes his dead uncle will have. The film then turns into a myriad of directions from a rich reverend who has a godlike complex but only a desire to make money, the help of the government to foster this big business, and a romantic triangle like no other with Morse, Comer, and Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy - the chief embalmer. While the end of The Loved One does not carry the impact now that it did in 1965, the film as a whole is a witty, incredibly black comedy de farce in many ways. Richardson made a film his way with his ideals firmly planted. Yes, this film will and I am sure did offend many. It also opens one's eyes to a number of things. The acting is great with Morse doing very solid work. Comer, as I said before, is lovely. Steiger - Steiger is great! His Mr. Joyboy with effeminacy reeking, long white curls, and fastidious outfits matched with his outlandish hand gestures steals every scene he is in...EXCEPT the ones with his mother(more on that shortly). His accented dialog was a real treat to hear. "I am saving for Momma's big tub!" His mother, "every inch a queen," is in one of the most bizarre film scenes I have ever seen in any "mainstream" picture. Words fail me. See it. I shall never look at a roast pig again - or a turkey - in the same way. I could go on, but I think you get my favorable stance toward this film which is most definitely under-viewed. Jonathan Winters is superb as well in two roles. Catch Paul Williams in his first film role. Watch Milton Berele give a great cameo as a husband fighting with his wife over a bereaved loved one. What a funny scene that was too!