Thursday, November 20, 2014

Artifact: Autographed script for unmade Beatles film

After the success of "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!," the Beatles struggled to find a script for a follow-up film.

They optioned "A Talent for Loving," a comic Western by Richard Condon, but dropped the idea of adapting it.

Another, untitled script by Owen Holder, was also considered and a screenplay, autographed by all four Beatles, their manager Brian Epstein, and movie producer Walter Shenson is now up for bid at Heritage Auctions.

Details and pics are below.

Along with this rejected film, dubbed only "The Beatles Script," the group also considered making "Up Against It," from a script by playwright Joe Orton, but declined, along with an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

Ultimately, the animated "Yellow Submarine," which featured virtually no Beatles involvement apart from the soundtrack, became the group's third feature film.



Film producer Walter Shenson was the man responsible for bringing the Beatles to the big screen. As an American working in London in the early 1960s, he was approached by United Artists to oversee the Beatles' expansion into movies, through a three picture deal that Shenson worked out with Brian Epstein in 1963.

The first two films - A Hard Day's Night and Help! - were completed for release around the Beatles 1964 and 1965 touring schedules.

Upon the group's retirement from touring in 1966, and with their growing desire to be known as more than the loveable pop moptops portrayed in those two films, the Beatles began to entertain ideas for a more serious, artistic effort as their next film endeavor.

The British writer/actor Owen Holder was commissioned to develop a story, and the extremely rare script that is included in this lot is the result of his efforts.

Titled only as The Beatles' Script, the storyline has John, Paul, George and Ringo all playing the same character, named Stanley. Depending on which aspect of Stanley's personality is dominant at any given time, a different Beatle appears on screen. John is Stanley the crafty opportunist, Paul is Stanley the eager achiever, George is Stanley the unabashed ladies man, and Ringo is Stanley the carefree idler. By mid-1967 the working title "Shades of Personality" was being used around the project, and there were talks of having it directed by the Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, whose 1966 film Blow Up had been a critical success. For reasons unknown, however, the film was never made, and the Beatles ultimately fulfilled the commitment to United Artists by delivering Let It Be several years later.

The script offered here is Holder's finished first draft, neatly typed and covering 109 pages. It was the personal possession of Walter Shenson, and the pencil notations which appear on a few pages may be in his hand. This is the only copy of the script known to exist. Typed onto heavy stock white paper and bound in blue cardboard with four brass binding tacks at page left. In overall Very Good condition with some surface wear and folds to the cover.

Provenance: Bonham's Entertainment Memorabilia Sale 16151, Los Angeles, 21 December 2008, Lot 1163.

Accompanying the script is a fabulous set of Beatles autographs which date to 1964, also from Walter Shenson's estate. Inscribed by Paul to Shenson, it reads "To Wal, from the four boys you know as John Paul George and Harold!" It is signed in bold blue ink by all four Beatles (George omitting his last name but including "XXX", and also by Brian Epstein. The inscription refers to a sportswriter from the San Francisco Chronicle who referred to the Beatles as "John, Paul, George, and Harold." On a white index card measuring 3.75" x 2.5", and in Very Fine condition.

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