“Whenever you say ‘Beatles’ – that’s the magic word,” said Springfield-based filmmaker and super-Beatle fan Robert Bartel. He would know. His 1999 documentary A Beatle in Benton, Illinois – which details a single fortnight visit to the southern Illinois town in 1963 by 20-year-old George Harrison in order to see his married sister – is not only a consistent seller nationwide but has bizarrely managed to win Bartel a best documentary “Oscar” statuette 19 years after the film’s initial release (a 240-minute, two-DVD version was released in 2016).
Harrison and his brother, Peter, arrived in Benton on Sept. 17, 1963. The Beatles were already superstars in England and across Europe but were still unknown in the United States. (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” would be released stateside and go straight to number one on the Billboard charts in January of 1964.) “Ringo was supposed to come with them but he backed out because he wanted to go with Paul to Paris,” said Bartel, matter-of-factly. “John was in Spain having his, uh, thing with [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein.”
Source: Scott Faingold/illinoistimes.com