This was fun to read. I liked the way it starts, as if it's set in one of the British colonies in Africa or Asia, with the "native huts" and the "barbarians", and gradually reveals that it is talking about Hollywood. It gives a humorous -- but not entirely unreal -- sense of the ambivalent British attitude towards the U.S. as a primitive culture, on which they are nonetheless financially dependent. The British characters don't come off all that well, either -- they're only slightly more perceptive than the Americans, which isn't saying much.
The description of the Southern California funeral industry is hardly an exaggeration -- notice that the book is dedicated to Waugh's friend Nancy Mitford, whose younger sister Jessica wrote a nonfiction account 18 years later called The American Way of Death -- I looked this up to see which came first, thinking that the nonfiction work might have been the source, but maybe Waugh's satire was an inspiration for the later book.
The gullibility of the American characters, especially with regard to religion -- from Aimée Semple McPherson, to New Thought, to the "non-sectarian clergy" -- is funny and all too true. Aimée, the "Loved One", believes everything she is told; the expression "too stupid to live" comes to mind.
There are other little touches of satire here as well; just to mention two, the turn to "healthy movies" in deference to the Catholic League for Decency (which resulted in some of the most trivial output in Hollywood History) and the way Aimée calls Dennis "UnAmerican" because he's British.
posted 2 years ago. ( permalink )