I just finished a second viewing (since I received my own copy) of my All-Time Favorite Film Ever, Monty Python's Life of Brian. This after finishing Michael Palin's newest book, Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years.
Michael's take on Graham's alcoholism and recovery showed more a picture of a real human suffering from a real problem. In my opinion, Graham came across as less of a villain in Michael's diaries than he did in the book The Pythons: Autobiography by The Pythons. He was obviously not the "real Graham" during the throes of his awful disease, and after he takes himself off the booze and stays off it, Michael reports in September of 1978 that his ". . . abstention from alcohol has increased his appeal a hundred percent - he now sounds like, as well as looks like a very wise old owl. . ."
Certainly Michael reports irritation and disgust with Graham during his addiction, as Graham could be rude, boistourous and completely self-centered. Of course, that's how addicts run. He even noted his fear of telling Graham how he feels about the whole situation in June of '77: "I mention how cowardly I am about confronting him with direct criticism of his wasteful lifestyle." Graham was already well-aware, however, and about six months away from fixing his own problem.
So Graham slimmed down upon his recovery (he'd gotten pretty swollen and ill-looking during most of the 1970s) and got himself a new healthy shine for the filming of Brian. He even took on the role of doctor-on-the-set, and put well to use the name Michael had been calling him throughout the book: "Dr. Chapman." Michael reported during filming that "Graham is rapidly becoming a saint. . . and now he's stopped drinking he has time to do his medical work properly, and the ability to do it without shaking or dropping whatever he's about to stick in you."
In The Pythons: Autobiography by The Pythons, Graham's partner David Sherlock says that he's always moved to tears at the very beginning and the very end of Life of Brian. Me, too. . . The gorgeous swelling music as the Three Wise Men make their way to Jesus via Brian, and Brian's crucifiction at the end with Eric's exhortion to always look on the bright side of life.
Two wonderful ways to spend some time: Michael Palin's Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years and Monty Python's Life of Brian.
I can't wait to hear what Michael has to say about 1980.