Entertainment

Beatles films director Lester donates archive

Richard Lester, the American-born director who helmed Help and A Hard Day's Night, has donated his archive to the British Film Institute.

Richard Lester, the American-born director who helmed Help and A Hard Day's Night, has donated his archive to the British Film Institute.

Lester's archive includes more than 60 boxes of letters, scripts, notes and photographs, including the early drafts of scripts for the two Beatles films.

Lester's later work as a director includes Hollywood blockbusters such as The Three Musketeers, 1980's Superman II and Royal Flash, along with Get Back, a concert film of Paul McCartney's 1991 world tour.

Now 78, he is considered most influential for his two 1960s Beatles films, which are often seen as precursors to the music video.

In the unseen early drafts, the films are titled The Beatles and Beatles Two.

The Fab Four had seen Lester's short film, The Running Jumping And Standing Still Film, made with the Goon Show's Spike Milligan, a popular British comedian, and asked for him to direct the films.

Letters from famous stars

His movies with the Beatles also led to a chance to direct films such as The Knack ... And How To Get It, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Lester's archive also includes letters from famous stars, including Raquel Welch who thanks him for casting her against type in The Three Musketeers. In Lester's version of the story, she plays a resourceful French woman, instead of the "wind-up Barbie doll" that is her usual role, she wrote.

Audrey Hepburn wrote to him about the New York opening of Robin and Marian, in which she starred with Sean Connery, saying "Dear Richard, the picture is beautiful."

Although he was born in Philadelphia, Lester's early film career began in Britain. He said he had a long association with the BFI. He retired from directing in 1988, coming back only briefly to direct Get Back for McCartney.

"The organization has always been very helpful to me in different ways. It is a pleasure for me to be able to offer them the detritus of my working life," he said in a statement.

The collection will be catalogued and stored in the BFI National Archive in London.