Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nilsson Schmilsson: Part Five

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Son of Schmilsson (1972)

A Chat With John Scheinfeld: His Own Man (click here for part four)

He was his own man and fiercely independent.
-- Paul Williams (click here for full tribute)

*****

Since we've been talking about a number of British people, and this may be in
the film-I might have just missed it-but I'm curious how Eric Idle met Harry.


Harry first met Graham Chapman in 1974, and they became instant buds.

I can see that.

[Chapman also tended to...tipple.]

And through Graham, he met all the Pythons. It's Harry's sense of humor, really.
In fact-it was a goofy thing-there's a book about the history of the Pythons, and Harry wrote the afterward. It came out in the 1980s. He wasn't as close to [John] Cleese, I gather. He was fairly close to [Michael] Palin. We just missed Palin when
I was in London doing interviews. He was in the Himalayas doing some BBC thing, but we got Terry [Gilliam] and Eric. There's a great story I'll tell you that will be part of the bonus material. The Pythons were performing at Lincoln Center in New York
in 1976, and they closed the concert with 'The Lumberjack Song.' One night-I forget who it was-but some big movie actor came out as one of the Mounties. And so the next night, Harry was in, and he was invited to be one of the Mounties, and they're singing to the end, and then it's over, and he takes the applause. Before the Pythons can come out to the front of the stage, Harry takes a bow before the stars
of the show-because it's so Harry-and he fell into the orchestra pit, and broke his wrist. Terry and Eric tell the story. Idle was, I think, a very close friend for about four or five years, and then the alcohol sort of got in the way, and they didn't see as much of each other, but without hesitation, both Terry and Eric, when I requested
the interviews, said, 'Absolutely-do you need anything, do you want anything?'

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Idle in the Python days
Eric, in particular-did you stay for the credits?
Yes.
Eric said, 'I want to do this song for you.' Not only did he do 'Harry' three times, so that we could get his hands as he was playing guitar, but he gave it to us for free.
Did he ever record it?
He did it as a gag in 1978. Harry did this album in 1980 called Flash Harry, which
only had distribution outside the US-I think maybe even only Japan and England,
I can't be sure-and Harry said, 'I want to put this on my album,' and so he did.
With Eric Idle singing?
Yeah. He couldn't have been nicer.
I figured there must have been a Monty Python connection, because it seemed
like too much of a coincidence, even though their stories are completely different-Eric Idle's, and then Terry mostly talks about him [Harry] doing a song for
The Fisher King-so I figured it must have gone back further than that.

It really did. They hung out together, and they were friends. I think with all of our films, certainly with Harry, certainly with Brian, and certainly now with Lennon-which is slightly different-we want to talk to people who were there. We don't want just a rock critic who has some observation, but never knew the subject, or didn't know the subject well. So, all those people knew him well enough to say the things they did.
Since you've mentioned bonus material, is there anything you're set on including?
There's quite a bit. Everybody we talked to had an Adventure With Harry story-everybody-from the outrageous to the maudlin to the whatever. So we're gonna
build a whole section around Adventures With Harry, and there are some wonderful ones. Jimmy Webb has a great one about being locked out on a hotel balcony with Harry, and Stanley Dorfman, who was the producer/director of the BBC, told us a wonderful story about driving cross-country with Harry, and what they had to do when the police were on their tail. So, it's that kind of thing-we're going to do a lot of that-and there's the equivalent of deleted scenes, but it's not like we did the movie, then cut them. It was just too long. My first cut was two hours and 20 minutes, so we ended up having to cut something. There's [also] a wonderful sequence where people talk about how generous Harry was as a person, not only with his time, but his money. There'll be moments like that. And there's some more [Who Dropped
His
] Mouse I think we'll put on there. Maybe some other performance stuff, too.
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Badfinger-another Beatles favorite
Since Badfinger wrote "Without You"-and I should know this, because I love them-and two members committed suicide, making them one of the more tragic stories, but are both songwriters deceased? It was written by [Pete] Ham and,AeP
[Tom] Evans. Ironically, they both committed suicide-they both hung themselves.
So, you couldn't talk to either,AeP Joey Molland is one of the survivors-I don't know about the fourth member-he helped write some of their better known songs.
It's interesting. When I was making the film, I never heard Badfinger's version.
It's really good.
It's really good, but it's not Harry's. Harry and Richard Perry took that song,
and raised it to a level that I don't think anyone else has reached-
not even Mariah Carey's version in 1995.
I'm a soprano, and I can't hit that high note. It's funny, but I have the record, and you can sing along with it, but that's where you lose him-you sound like an idiot.
Yeah. [laughs]
*****
Next: The Future of Harry
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Images from Pythonland and the AMG.

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