Beatles Browser 3
“I bought their one LP that was out, listened to their single ‘Love Me Do’ and decided they’d be major. I wrote to their manager, Brian Epstein, whose name I’d seen in the newspapers, suggesting he came to Torquay to see me as I was prepared to give the Beatles a chance in movies.
“Brian replied, “I don’t know why you’re writing to me ‘Dear Mr Epstein’ when you know me well. We were on holiday two years running at the Palace Hotel, Torquay. You and I and my brother Clive were good friends.”
“I hadn’t realized this was the same man who was now managing the Beatles. At our hotel then they used to have nights when guests did the cabaret. Brian and I imitated the Ink Spots.
“Brian said he couldn’t come to Torquay. He was going to be in London on 13th October 1963 as the Beatles would be on ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ that night. We arranged to meet the following evening.
“My friend Lewis Gilbert guaranteed me £40,000 to offer them. Brian and I dined at the Empress. He said, “I’ve got the Beatles on at the Finsbury Park Astoria for five weeks over Christmas. We’re not selling many tickets. Would you like to invest?”
“At the time I had no money. I’d received £3,000 for making ‘The System,’ £3,000 for ‘West 11’ and £2,000 for ‘Play It Cool.’ I said, “Brian, how can you tell me you’re not doing well at the theatre? The Beatles were so successful on television last night.” Brian said, “The box office picked up a bit today, but not much.”
“I discussed doing a movie with the Beatles. Brian said, “We’re close to a deal with United Artists.” I asked, “What is it?” Brian replied, “For the first film they’re getting £5,000, for the second £10,000 and for the third £15,000. United Artists get the right to release the records.”
“I said, “That doesn’t seem much to me.” Brian answered, “But Cliff Richard only got £3,000 for his first film.” I said, “Cliff Richard is one person, you’ve got four. You’re sitting on something much more valuable than Cliff Richard.” I offered Brian my £40,000 and it was rejected. Because the deal he outlined to me was the deal that went through…..
“As the Beatles were signed with United Artists I telephoned Bud Ornstein, the man who had held up critical notes of ‘The Cool Mikado’ and ‘Tom Jones’, and asked if I could direct the film. He’d already taken on Dick Lester. He said to me, “Why on earth would you want to do that sort of film, Michael? You’ve gone past pop musicals now. It’s only a low-budget quickie.”
“The film took a fortune. So did the second Beatles film. This produced a strange event. Bud Ornstein had farmed out the job of producing the Beatles film to an ex-publicity man, Walter Shenson. In those days producers at United Artists got an enormous share of the profits, usually 50%. Later, Walter Shenson said to Bud Ornstein, “I did nothing to get these Beatles movies at all. You handed them to me on a plate. I’d like to give you some of my profits!”
“Bud Ornstein asked his United Artists boss in America, the legendary executive Arthur Krim, if he could take the money from Walter Shenson. Krim said, “Of course you can’t, Bud. You gave out the job as an executive of United Artists. You can’t take a cut back from another producer.” Bud Ornstein was so upset that he took the money, quit United Artists and went to live in Spain. There he died an unhappy man.
“Walter Shenson went on to make a fortune! Brian Epstein died of drugs. I never got the Beatles.
“I did use a group called the Searchers to do the title song for ‘The System.’ The New Musical Express said at the end of 1963, “Pity the poor Searchers. If it hadn’t been for the Beatles it would have been them.””