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Harrison, George (1943-2001)

Musician, Producer, Actor

Main image of Harrison, George (1943-2001)

The youngest and shyest of the quartet making up the phenomenally successful Liverpool rock band The Beatles, George Harrison went on to become a major player in British cinema through his stewardship of independent production company HandMade Films.

Born in Liverpool on 25 February 1943, Harrison formed a skiffle band with a friend before being asked to join The Quarrymen alongside John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A few name and personnel changes later, The Beatles reached its final formation in 1962 and quickly shot to fame both nationally (1963) and internationally (1964).

In 1965 Harrison became fascinated by Indian classical music, Hinduism and transcendental meditation, which would have a profound impact on his life and outlook. One of his first significant acts after the Beatles broke up in 1970 was to organise and perform in a large-scale concert for the victims of war in Bangladesh. Harrison also produced the official film record (UK/US, d. Saul Swimmer, 1972).

But Harrison's greatest contribution to British film began when he rescued the production of Monty Python's Life of Brian (d. Terry Jones, 1979) after original backers EMI withdrew funding. After similarly underwriting the distribution of The Long Good Friday (d. John MacKenzie, 1979), Harrison began producing films from scratch. Active throughout the 1980s, his company HandMade Films' catalogue was one of the most impressive of its era, until some ill-advised investments in US flops led to it ceasing production. Harrison subsequently discovered that his business partner Denis O'Brien had embezzled company funds.

Harrison's final decade was devoted largely to music, as both a soloist and member of all-star supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. His last years were marked by tragedy: he became a virtual recluse following a knife attack by a crazed intruder in 1999 and died prematurely from lung cancer on 29 November 2001.

Michael Brooke

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Hard Day's Night, A (1964)Hard Day's Night, A (1964)

The Beatles star in one of the defining films of the Swinging Sixties

Thumbnail image of Long Good Friday, The (1979)Long Good Friday, The (1979)

Bob Hoskins dazzles in the defining gangster film of the turn of the '80s

Thumbnail image of Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

Controversial but hilarious comedy about a reluctant messiah

Thumbnail image of Natural Law Party Election Broadcast (3 April 1992)Natural Law Party Election Broadcast (3 April 1992)

The first broadcast by the fringe party best known for 'yogic flying'

Thumbnail image of This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)

Interviews with John, Paul, George and Ringo in the back of a car

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Musician, Actor

Thumbnail image of HandMade FilmsHandMade Films

Production Company