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George Harrison’s movie career inspires the (Other) HandMade’s Tale film festival

George Harrison, center, with Monty Python members Eric Idle, left, and John Cleese in the comedy troupe’s 1979 film, “Life of Brian.”
George Harrison, center, appeared briefly with Monty Python members Eric Idle, left, and John Cleese in the comedy troupe’s 1979 film, “Life of Brian,” for which he also was co-executive producer.
(HandMade Films / Shutterstock Rights)

George Harrison’s post-Beatles career as a film producer, composer and occasional actor will be celebrated over the course of a 10-day film festival next month in Beverly Hills.

Focusing on the output from the HandMade Films studio Harrison set up with business partner Denis O’Brien, the (Other) HandMade’s Tale festival, organized by English producer, humorist and Beatles authority Martin Lewis, will run Oct. 10-20 at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre.

For the record:
11:12 AM, Sep. 25, 2019 Monty Python producer: An earlier edition of this post misidentified the producer of Monty Python films as John Goldman. He is John Goldstone.

It will showcase several group and solo films from the Monty Python team that Harrison’s involvement helped realize, as well as other titles that launched the careers of British actors Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren and director Neil Jordan.

The festival kicks off Oct. 10 with the premiere of “An Accidental Studio,” a new documentary about the creation of HandMade by Bill Jones (son of Python member Terry Jones) and Ben Timlett, who will take part in a postscreening Q&A session. The evening also will include “Two Live Pythons,” a taped Q&A shot in London with Python alums Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam plus musician-actor-producer and HandMade executive Ray Cooper, who appeared in several films from HandMade.

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Other highlights include a double bill of solo projects from Python members John Cleese (“Privates on Parade”) and Michael Palin (“The Missionary”) on Oct. 11.

A two-hour theatrical version of the six-hour Python documentary “Monty Python: Almost the Truth,” and another Q&A with Jones and Timlett will take place Oct. 12. A double bill on Oct. 13 will include a 4 p.m. screening of Gilliam’s 1981 film “Time Bandits” followed by an evening showing of “Life of Brian,” which will conclude with an audience whistle-along of the film’s musical finale, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It will be preceded by a Q&A with John Goldstone, who was also the executive producer of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and following the screening, a session with the film’s musical director, John Altman. Audience members are invited to wear Python-inspired costumes.

“George was always convinced that the spirit of the Beatles went into Python,” Gilliam said in a 2009 interview with The Telegraph in the U.K. “The year they broke up was the year we came together — 1969. George was our patron.”

On Oct. 19, the 1982 comedy concert film “Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl” will screen in conjunction with a contest for best Python costume worn by an audience member.

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Outside of the Python work, HandMade produced two crime dramas featuring then little-known actor Hoskins, “The Long Good Friday” (1980), which costarred Mirren early in her film career, and “Mona Lisa” on Oct. 18.

The festival coincides roughly with the 50th anniversary of the creation of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” the 40th anniversary of both “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” and HandMade Films, and the 20th anniversary of the Mods & Rockers Film Festival, a recurring event focusing on films of British origin or highlighting British culture. The HandMade Films festival is being presented under the Mods and Rockers aegis.

Lewis said the retrospective may extend into November, with discussions underway for a screening of HandMade’s 1986 Madonna-Sean Penn comedy adventure “Shangahi Surprise” that would coincide with her residency at the Wiltern Theatre, the screening targeted for one of her nights off from her performances.

The title of the documentary “An Accidental Studio” alludes to the origins of HandMade, when Python fan and associate Harrison stepped in to provide financing to finish “Life of Brian” when EMI Films backed out of the project because of anticipated controversy over the satire of religious fanaticism. Harrison mortgaged his Friar Park mansion and put up the money, nearly $5 million at that time. He said he did so selfishly, simply because he wanted to see the completed film.

Python member Eric Idle later called it as “the most anybody’s ever paid for a cinema ticket in history.”


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