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The Beatles' "Up Against It" Movie

Updated on March 28, 2011
Beatles in 1967
Beatles in 1967

In 1964, The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night was released and theaters were deluged with fans. It would become the first "rock" video and "real" rock film. In 1965, The Beatles' were in Help!, now in color, they proved that they could act in a spy romp spanning the globe. In 1966, John Lennon, starred in, "How I Won the War", while the other three were on holiday. For John, it was his only dramatic role about a man against war, this time, WW2. His small role won positive reviews.

In 1967, there was another serious drama planned. It was called, "Up Against It" and The Beatles' would be casted in this 1930's film as a group caught red-handed in subversive political activity DRESSED AS WOMEN who then commit murder, are caught, sent to prison. One of the Beatles murder the Prime Minister. The screenwriter was Joe Orton, a playwriter, who had success with a play, "Loot", which was highly acclaimed in 1966. Joe began writing the script in January and by February was done. His asking price was 15,000 pounds. Walter Shenson, the film producer for all Beatle films, contacted him to pen it after Brian Epstein and Paul McCartney approved it. Shenson had wanted the next Beatle film to be "The Three Muskateers", but Orton immediately vetoed the idea. Orton met with McCartney and Epstein several nights later over dinner. Paul had seen "Loot" and liked it very much, so he approved of who the screenwriter was. Orton based the new Beatles film on his old 1959 never produced play called, Head to Toe. It had been sitting in a drawer since and needing a rewrite. The Beatles in the movie would be a combined force by the 2nd Act. Of course, the film producer wanted a movie that was respectable because "anything The Beatles do will be imitated by their fans".  Orton had not known about this requirement and remained silent about the movie's plot, which was a serious drama, not a rock romp. The Fab Four would be real actors in drag, which could have been hilarious aka "Some Like It Hot".

Orton and Shenson agreed to contract terms and he would receive 5000 pounds for the first draft and acceptance. Orton sent in the completed script in early February, 1967. Shenson read it and expressed concerns. Time passed and by March 29th, Orton still had heard nothing. On April 4th, the script was returned with a rejection but no further explanation.

Orton was ticked by the silence and no explanation. "Fuck them" was his final response. 


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