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40 years ago, George Harrison recruited Eric Idle to make some Python-esque videos

George Harrison, who would have turned 73 today, has a reputation as being the most dour of The Beatles, but in fact, he had a keen sense of humor and was even something of a comedy nerd. During the dark days of the Fab Four’s collapse, Harrison is said to have taken refuge in episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He would go on to appear in such Python and Python-adjacent projects as Life Of Brian (a movie he also executive produced) and The Rutles. However, as recounted in Kim “Howard” Johnson’s Life Before And After Monty Python, Harrison first met troupe member Eric Idle in 1975, when the latter was in Los Angeles promoting Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The two became fast friends, and the next year, when Harrison was promoting his Thirty-Three & 1/3 album, he asked Idle to direct a promotional videos for the singles “Crackerbox Palace” and “True Love.”

Both clips were shot at Harrison’s palatial estate, Friar Park, and feature suitably zany, Python-esque humor. Relying heavily on colorful costumes and wild sight gags, such as placing the full-grown Harrision in a baby carriage, “Crackerbox Palace” is also notable for its celebrity cameos, including John Cleese and musician Neil Innes, a frequent Python collaborator with whom Idle also made The Rutles and Rutland Weekend Television. The fact that Innes appears in drag as Harrison’s nanny is emblematic of the video. In discussing the clip with Johnson, Idle remembered that it was “a little manic because we were on a tight budget. We brought all the Rutland Weekend people in and used everybody.”

“True Love,” meanwhile, is a bit more gentle, perhaps because the song is a cover of a Cole Porter standard from 1956. In the video, Harrison portrays a dapper, turn-of-the-century gentleman, complete with straw boater and impeccably groomed mustache, serenading a young woman aboard a canoe. It plays a little like Monty Python’s infamous “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days” sketch, minus the copious bloodshed and slow-motion violence. Though “Crackerbox” is the better known of the Idle/Harrision videos, the director seems to prefer “True Love.” “I quite like ‘True Love,’” Idle told Johnson. “It’s very sweet.” Either way, Idle must have been proud to have worked with an ex-Beatle, as he brought both videos along with him when he hosted Saturday Night Live.

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