How The Beatles' George Harrison Saved Monty Python's Life Of Brian

As if the group didn't contribute enough to society already, apparently we have a Beatle to thank for the most wittily blasphemous comedies ever seen on screen.

These days, gospel parody "Monty Python's Life of Brian" stands in conversation with the best comedy movies of all time, but when it was still little more than a glint in the Pythons' eyes, the movie needed saving. According to Rolling Stone, EMI Films backed out of the controversial project — which would at one point be given an X rating in the UK — just two days before production began.

Producer John Goldstone told the LA Times that he and founding member Eric Idle traversed to New York to try to save the movie, running through their contact list until they came upon Mike Medavoy from United Artists. Medavoy agreed to help out with half the funding, so long as the team could find someone to throw in the other half.

Enter surprise financier George Harrison. Though the former Beatle may not seem like a natural fit for a Python project at first glance, it's clear from his own forays into commentary that the troupe's sense of humor aligned with The Beatles'. In fact, the 1965 Beatles film "Help!" feels Python-esque in its bits — think George suddenly eating his own cymbal, or the mad scientist sub-plot–that it's hard to believe it was made years before Monty Python hit the airwaves.

Harrison bet the house on it--really

Goldstone told the LA Times that by the time "Monty Python's Life of Brian" rolled around, members Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam were already on friendly terms with the musician. In the end, though, Harrison's contribution came down to his own personal interest in the movie. "He paid for it because he wanted to see it — the most anybody's ever paid for a cinema ticket in history," Idle told Rolling Stone.

According to The Guardian, Harrison ended up forming a company called HandMade Films with manager Denis O'Brien just to make the Pythons project a reality, even remortgaging his house to fund the film. But once he started producing, he seemed to gain a knack for it. HandMade Films would go on to produce projects like Gilliam's "Time Bandits," which featured a song by Harrison, along with the starving artist cult classic "Withnail and I." HandMade Films supported offbeat projects that injected some vibrancy into the 1980s film scene, though many weren't properly appreciated until much later.

"Monty Python's Life of Brian," however, went on to be both loved and loathed. The movie's conceit — a baby born next door to Jesus is mistaken for the Messiah, and accidentally gains a major following as he grows up — is genuinely clever. But some people bristled at the idea of a parody of Christianity, and the movie caused a minor moral panic in some communities. Years later, director and co-writer Terry Jones told WNBC that it even helped stoke the flames of a pre-existing feud between two Scandinavian nations. When Norway banned the film, the Python member said "there were advertisements in Sweden calling it 'The film that is so funny that it was banned in Norway.'"

Four decades later, comedy lovers are still quoting "Monty Python's Life of Brian," while the web of obstacles behind the making of the film have only enriched its history over time. In a twist of fate fit for a Python sketch, none of it would've happened if it hadn't been for a guitar player from Liverpool with a silly sense of humor.