Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Dennis Barlow, having recently emigrated from England, hoping to establish his fortune as a screenwriter in Hollywood, arrives in Los Angeles, a city that at first seems to resemble the heart of Africa rather than a civilized Western community. At the bungalow of Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, the most dignified of English expatriates in Southern California, he learns the rules of protocol appropriate for travelers from abroad, especially the need to maintain British decorum while in Hollywood, one of the “barbarous regions of the world.” Dennis, who has pretentions to being a poet, lacks the basic skills as a writer to work for Megalopolitan Studios. The closest he can come to Megalo is to share lodgings with Sir Francis Hinsley, a shabby screenwriter, who, after having been unceremoniously fired, commits suicide by hanging himself. At Sir Francis’ funeral, Dennis’ tasteless elegy for his roommate scandalizes the English colony. They had already dismissed the young man from their society because of his employment at The Happier Hunting Ground, a glorified pet cemetery operated by Mr. Schultz.
Dennis has enjoyed one small triumph, however, to compensate for his failures. He has won the heart of Aimee Thanatogenos, assistant to the chief cosmetician at Whispering Glades. This cemetery, nestled in the Hollywood Hills, a resting place for “Loved Ones” such as Sir Francis, was established by “The Dreamer,” Dr. Wilbur Kenworthy, as a refuge where...
(The entire section is 476 words.)
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At Sir Francis Hinsley’s deteriorating Hollywood bungalow, Sir Francis and his young friend, Dennis Barlow, sip whisky and soda. Sir Ambrose Abercrombie pays a visit to his fellow Englishmen, and Sir Francis explains one of his problems in the Megalopolitan Pictures publicity department. His client, Juanita del Pablo, has been deemed too sexy given the current religious climate. Dennis has also had work troubles; his contract at Megalopolitan expired three weeks before and was not renewed. Sir Ambrose gives Dennis a lecture about the “responsibility” of being an Englishman in Hollywood, stressing that there are certain “jobs that an Englishman doesn’t take.” After Sir Ambrose’s departure, Sir Francis surmises that his friend has “heard something” about Dennis Barlow’s new job.
Dennis has certainly taken one of the jobs that Sir Ambrose warned about. After dinner, Dennis goes to work as a pet undertaker at The Happier Hunting Ground pet cemetery. As he reads a poetry anthology, the phone rings and Mrs. Theodora Heinkel informs him that her little dog, Arthur, has died. Dennis drives to the Heinkels’ house and meets Mr. Heinkel in the garden. The two men pack up the dog and place him in Dennis’s van and then plan funeral arrangements for Arthur. Mr. Heinkel chooses The Happier Hunting Ground’s Grade A funeral service that includes the freeing of a white dove and a yearly card of “remembrance” to the Heinkels. Dennis transports the dog back to The Happier Hunting Ground, stows Arthur in a large refrigerator to await cremation, retrieves his supper from the same refrigerator, and returns to his book of poetry while he eats.
Dennis Barlow is “happy in his work,” but his new profession has taken a serious toll on his social status. He is no longer invited to Hollywood parties. Dennis took part in World War II as a member of the transport command; during this time, his only published book of poetry was released. The poems were “extravagantly praised” but were not widely published because of wartime paper restrictions. After the war, Dennis went to Hollywood to write a screenplay about the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley for Megalopolitan Pictures. But studio life was too similar to military life for Dennis; he “despaired” while working there. Apparently, Megalopolitan did not think he was suited for...
(The entire section is 2279 words.)