07 · 10 · 18

HandMade Films, the Cinema Produced by George Harrison

By: Alonso Díaz de la Vega @diazdelavega1

On July 10 1964, The Beatles returned to Liverpool, their hometown, after the premiere of their first film: A Hard Day’s Night (dir. Richard Lester). Before that they were coming back from their first US tour. It was the country where they’d dreamed of becoming successful. The date became a symbol of their rise to international fame and since 2008 it’s celebrated as the Beatles Day. Considering that the occasion is linked to their first appearance in a motion picture, it’s inevitable to remember not just the series of films they would make together, but those in which only one of them became involved to become one of the most important producers in the UK.

In 1978 George Harrison and his associate Denis O’Brien founded HandMade Films with the sole purpose of financing the third motion picture by the comedy collective Monty Python. The new production company invested 3 million pounds just because Harrison was a Pythons fan and had a genuine desire to watch the film, which turned out to be one of the most controversial —and successful— works of the group: Life of Brian (1979, dir. Terry Jones). A farce set in the times of Jesus Christ, the film attracted the attention of several christian churches and set the ground for the company’s irreverent style.

In 1980 HandMade would release a couple of films that became important to British cinema during the decade: John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. The former is one of the greatest gangster films of the period, as well as an unexpected attack oon English interventionism in Ireland; the latter helped to cement Gilliam’s career with its time travel plot and its ingenuous imagery. Other remarkable films would include Mona Lisa (1986), Irish director Neil Jordan’s breakthrough, and Bruce Robinson’s cult film Withnail & I (1988).

Unfortunately the company had made too many expenses during the 80’s and in 1991 it was sold. Harrison sued O’Brien for his negligent management, but cinematically HandMade got another breath of air in 1998, when it gave Guy Ritchie his great opportunity by backing its debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The film did not save the company but it gave us a promising action filmmaker who would go on to make a successful career. After switching hands again, HandMade produced one last film in 2010: Oscar-nominated 127 Hours, by Danny Boyle. It was a fine and last goodbye.