Paul, Ringo and Brian Epstein attend a preview of the film “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”

September 1966


In September 1966, Paul McCartney, his girlfriend Jane Asher, his brother Mike McGear, Ringo Starr, and Brian Epstein saw a preview of the film “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum“. The film was directed by Richard Lester, who had directed the Beatles’ first two films, “A Hard Day’s Night and “Help!. However, the main reason for the group to see the film was that the script was written by British playwright Owen Holder, who was being considered to write the script for the Beatles’ third film.

Holder’s script for the Beatles, titled “Shades of a Personality”, called for a man (to be played by John Lennon) suffering from a three-way split personality, with the remaining Beatles playing each of these personalities. However, the project was eventually scrapped.

Paul and Ringo see Film Preview

A couple of weeks ago, Paul, Ringo, Brian Epstein, Jane Asher and Paul’s brother Mike McGear went to see the preview of the film version of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”. An unusual choice maybe, but their reason for going was because Owen Holder, who is writing the script for the boys’ new film also wrote the film script for “Forum”, and obviously Paul and Ringo wanted to see some of his work, so as to get an idea of his style and the way he works.

From The Beatles Monthly Book – October 1966
From The Beatles Monthly Book – October 1966

From Wikipedia:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a 1966 period musical comedy film, directed by Richard Lester, with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford reprising their stage roles. It also features Buster Keaton in his final screen role; Phil Silvers, for whom the stage musical was originally intended; and regular Lester collaborators Michael Crawford, Michael Hordern and Roy Kinnear.

The film was adapted for the screen by Melvin Frank and Michael Pertwee from the stage musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, which was inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251–183 BC) – specifically Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria – and tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door.


In the city of Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, Pseudolus is “the lyingest, cheatingest, sloppiest slave in all of Rome”, whose only wish is to buy his freedom from his master’s parents, the henpecked Senex and his overbearing wife, Domina. When he finds out that his master, Senex’s handsome but dim son Hero, has fallen in love with the beautiful Philia (destined to be a courtesan) from the house of Marcus Lycus, next door, Pseudolus makes a deal: he will get the girl for Hero in return for his freedom.

Unfortunately, the virgin has been sold to the great Roman soldier Miles Gloriosus, who even now is on his way from conquering Crete to claim her as his bride. In an attempt to fake out the great Gloriosus and buy enough time to come up with a plan that will give Philia to Hero, Pseudolus and his overseer, Hysterium, stage a sit-down orgy for fourteen. Pseudolus informs the captain that his bride is dead and blackmails Hysterium into masquerading as the corpse of Philia to fool the captain and send him heartbroken away; but things go wrong at every turn.

When the supposedly dead “Philia” suddenly comes back to life after the great Gloriosus announces his intention of cutting “her” heart out as a memorial, a chase across Rome and on into the countryside ensues. Eventually, Miles Gloriosus collars Hero, the real Philia, Hysterium, Marcus Lycus, Pseudolus, and Gymnasia, the silent courtesan fancied by Pseudolus, and brings them back to Rome to untangle the skein of deception and see that justice is done.

In the end Hero gets Philia; Senex’s next-door neighbor Erronius learns that Philia and Miles Gloriosus are in fact his long-lost children; Marcus Lycus is spared from execution for breaking a marriage contract; Miles Gloriosus takes the gorgeous Gemini twins as his consorts; and Pseudolus gets his freedom, the beautiful and Amazonian Gymnasia to be his wife, and a dowry of 10,000 minae, compliments of Marcus Lycus. […]


Although the musical had originally been written with Phil Silvers in mind, Zero Mostel starred on Broadway as Pseudolus, and Richard Lester was his choice to direct the film version. Other directors who were considered included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Mike Nichols. It was filmed at the Samuel Bronston Studios in Madrid, Spain, and on location around that city, on an estimated budget of $2 million. Filming took place from September to November 1965.[citation needed]

Jack Gilford was also re-creating his stage role, as Hysterium, and there are other connections to the Broadway production. Tony Walton, who designed the production, including the costumes, was also the designer of the Broadway show. For Walton, who was married to Julie Andrews from 1959 to 1967, Forum came at the beginning of both his film and stage careers: it was his second Broadway production, and his third film – he had designed costumes for Mary Poppins in 1964, and did the overall production design of Fahrenheit 451 in 1966. Bob Simmons, a renowned stunt coordinator, designed and performed many of the action scenes in the film.[citation needed]

Forum is remarkable as one of the few films in which Buster Keaton appeared where he employed a double. Keaton was suffering from terminal cancer at the time – a fact of which he was not aware – and Mick Dillon stood-in for him for the running sequences. However, Buster performed the pratfall after running into a tree in the chase sequence near the end of the film himself, as no one could properly imitate his pratfalls.

The animated end credits created by Richard Williams feature many houseflies, a reminder of the fly problem the production suffered through when the fruits and vegetables which festooned the set were left out to rot overnight after the end of the shooting day.

George Martin, who with Ethel Martin is credited with the choreography of the film, was the assistant to choreographer Jack Cole on Broadway. (Jerome Robbins also did some uncredited work on the stage show.) Other members of the Forum team are notable as well. Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg moved up to the director’s chair to make films such as Performance (1970), with Mick Jagger, Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) with David Bowie. […]

Last updated on December 21, 2023

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