Yet another article has appeared linking Waugh’s 1947 novel The Loved One with Billy Wilder’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. See earlier posts. This is posted on entertainment website Den of Geek and is written by Tony Sokol:
Sunset Boulevard‘s cinematographer John Seitz said Wilder “had wanted to do The Loved One, but couldn’t obtain the rights.” British author’s Evelyn Waugh’s satirical 1948 novel was about a failed screenwriter who lives with a silent film star and works in a cemetery. At one point Norma mistakes Joe for a funeral director and asks for her coffin to be white, as well as specially lined with satin. White, pink, or maybe bright flaming red. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who plays herself in the movie, wrote that “Billy Wilder … was crazy about Evelyn Waugh’s book The Loved One, and the studio wanted to buy it.”
Norma has actually called a funeral director to bury her pet chimpanzee, and failing scriptwriter Joe Gillis is mistaken for the pet cemetery’s employee. Waugh’s character Dennis Barlow, also a failed screenwriter, worked at the Happy Hunting Ground, a pet cemetery near Hollywood. So the link to Waugh’s novel is even closer than suggested. Whether Wilder could have done a better job adapting Waugh’s novel than did Tony Richardson in the 1960s is impossible to say (although it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge). But since Sunset Boulevard has become a classic with its own story, it may be just as well things worked out as they did. Sokol’s article adds some interesting details about an actual murder that contributed to the plot of Wilder’s film.