Monday, November 30, 2020

That Time A Beatle Had A Cameo In A Monty Python Movie

Every now and then, someone posts on Facebook, Twitter, or some social media network that they just noticed that Beatle superstar George Harrison appears briefly in the 1979 comedy classic MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN. They usually note that they have seen the film many times, but only now did they see Harrison’s cameo.

This is because he is easy to miss in a crowded set that does little to single out the legendary musician, despite that John Cleese’s character introduces him to Graham Chapman’s Brian as “the gentleman who's lending us the mount on Sunday.” Watch the 10-second scene:

Harrison only had one line – one word actually (“Hullo!”), but since it was noisy and he was barely audible, it was later dubbed by Michael Palin, doing his best Liverpudlian impression. The bit part was uncredited, but the former Beatle was given a priceless moniker: Mr. Papapadopoulos.

The cameo came about because Harrison was one of the movie’s Executive Producers, and that came about because he largely financed the hilarious biblical satire. According to Eric Idle, a good friend of Harrison’s since they met in Los Angeles in 1975 at a screening of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, Harrison “pawned his house and arranged a loan of $5m. When he was asked why, he just said: 'Because I want to see it'. Not many people pay $5m for an admission ticket.”

It wasn’t Harrison’s first foray in a Python-related project as the year before BRIAN, he played a television journalist, credited as “The Interviewer,” in Idle’s TV movie parody of the Beatles, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. The almost unrecognizable Harrison appears in two scenes in the mockumentary, both set outside the headquarters of Rutle Corps. Watch one of the scenes, featuring Palin’s spoof of Beatles press officer Derek Taylor:

Several years before that, Harrison put in a performance of “Pirate Song” which begins as “My Sweet Lord” then becomes a rowdy sea shanty on Idle’s BBC2 comedy program, Rutland Weekend Television:

Idle directed videos (then called promotional films) for two songs from Harrison’s 1976 album, Thirty Three & 1/3:
“Crackerbox Palace” and “True Love.” Both are highly amusing Pythonesque (of course) films - click on their titles to watch them. 

After BRIAN, Harrison and his manager Denis O’Brien worked on over two dozen films for the studio they founded, Handmade Films, including such classics as WITHNAIL & I, and such flops as SHANGHAI SURPRISE (1986), in which he put in a cameo as a Night Club Singer (that’s how he’s credited).

Anyone who would read such a post as this would no doubt be aware that yesterday was the sad anniversary of Harrison’s death at the all too young age of 58. Luckily he left behind a wealth of timeless work, so much so that it’s easy to forget he’s gone.

The fact that people are still finding and being delighted by a blink and miss it moment in one of the most re-watchable comedies of all time is a testament to his massive legend. To respectfully contradict his good friend, Idle, it’s a legend that will last many lunchtimes.

More later...

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