The San Francisco Chronicle has reprinted an interview with scrptwriter Terry Southern from 28 October 1964. This would have been after he had finished the script for the film adaptation of The Loved One and perhaps while the film was still in production. The interview was reported by Judy Stone and begins with a discussion of how Southern changed the name of a dog belonging to Mrs Heinkel that was buried in The Happy Hunting Ground. In the book it was named Arthur; he changed it to Barry. He then launches into a history of the script:
Southern said that the Waugh novel, published in 1948, was a classic of that time. But four early drafts, including ones by Elaine May and Luis Bunuel, showed that it had to be brought up to date if it was to retain its impact. Christopher Isherwood, author of “Prater Violet” provided the basic structure of the new version.
“We’ve reduced the emphasis on the British writers’ colony and added the retirement cities. (“Resurrection … Now!” is their motto.) Jessica Mitford’s book caused renewed interest in the racket aspects of funerals. And we’ve brought in the religious cultists and the strange architectural thing in Southern California. I think that what will emerge in “The Loved One” will be a very strong comment on the charlatan aspect of the funeral business, smugness and hero worship. We even go after the military again, inasmuch as it falls within the scope of what we’re doing.” (A 10-year-old science prodigy designs a rocket with possibilities for private enterprise. It could be launched with the cooperation of Air Force Gen. Foster Brinkman to orbit human remains inexpensively and “get the stiffs out of the cemetery” and the land back on the real estate market.)
The story continues with a discussion of some of Southern’s other work and concludes with his thoughts on the importance of satire.
A little Six Feet Under here, some Golden Age romanticizing there, and you’ve got Evelyn Waugh’s crackling The Loved One. A poet and pet mortician becomes enraptured by the golden gates and paradise aesthetic of Whispering Glades Memorial Park, located in the heart of Los Angeles, where he falls into a bizarre love triangle.