Monday, 29 June 2015

Star Wars: The Deleted Scenes #5: Han Solo's girlfriend and the streets of Mos Eisley

Han Solo and the quiz show hostess:
Jenny Creswell and Harrison Ford in a
deleted shot from Star Wars

In the latest post about the deleted scenes of Star Wars, we meet Han Solo's love interest – and learn that Greedo was intending to shoot first.

Who or what links Star Wars with the 1970s British TV show Sale of the Century?

Jenny Creswell in Space: 1999

The answer is Jenny Creswell, an actress who had not only assisted Nicholas Parsons in the cheesy ITV quiz, but had appeared in another SF institution of the 1970s, the TV series Space: 1999. She was also due to figure briefly in Star Wars as Han Solo's love interest, but in the end, it was not to be.

Han Solo's girlfriend: the alternative cut of the Mos Eisley cantina scene

The sequence in question today is not really a deleted scene in the normal sense of the term, although it's called that on the Star Wars Blu-ray set. It's a sequence that made it into the finished film, but which we can see in rough cut, with some material that was not to make it into cinemas.

The cantina sequence was filmed at Elstree Studios in April 1976, under intense pressure. Not only was the production perpetually behind schedule, but make-up artist Stuart Freeborn had been admitted to hospital and George Lucas was not happy with the collection of alien masks and costumes that he had to work with for this key scene. The version of this sequence on the Blu-ray seems to have been assembled before January 1977, when Lucas filmed extra material in the US to boost the quantity and quality of exotic species at the bar.

While still at Elstree, Lucas had hired a distinguished British editor, John Jympson – veteran of such classics as  A Hard Day's Night and Zulu – to assemble the film so far. But Lucas didn't like the way Jympson shaped the footage, claiming his approach it was too slow and conventional, and he dispensed with the editor's services. However, some of what I've read online suggests that this version of the scene is not, as might have been expected, Jympson's cut, but a rough version put together in the US by one or more of the credited editing team of Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew.

The print of this early assembly is in black and white, with the rough and ready sound recorded on set, and it provides an interesting insight into the choices film-makers make as they put together a movie.

It begins in the same way as the finished scene in the film, with Luke being told he can't take the droids into the bar – except that we hear the London accent of actor Ted Burnett rather than the American voice that was dubbed on later.

After Obi-Wan introduces Luke to Chewbacca, he looks across to an alcove where we see Han with a woman – played by the aforementioned actress and occasional quiz show assistant, Jenny Creswell.

Luke's encounter with the aliens at the bar plays out more or less the same way as in the finished film, complete with Obi-Wan's decision to meet their verbal aggression head-on by cutting someone's arm off. But we then cut away to the alcove where Han and his girlfriend look on at the aftermath of the fight – and then kiss.

Paul Blake as Greedo in the rough cut ]
of the cantina scene in Star Wars

After a cut to the droids waiting outside, we're back in the booth, where Han, oddly, seems to be tickling Chewie's chin as though he's a dog. He praises Kenobi for his lightsaber skills (“Nice moves old man, very impressive”) before sending the young woman away with the word “Sweetheart”, the way men used to in action movies and westerns. Even in this version of the film, poor Jenny Creswell wouldn't have had a line to say.

The hiring of Solo's starship plays out as in the final movie, and then we're into the confrontation with the bounty hunter Greedo. Instead of the alien language dubbed on later, we hear actor Paul Blake speaking his lines in English from behind the latex mask, and some of the dialogue is different from that which appears in subtitles in the final film. It's clearer that Greedo is intent on shooting Solo given half a chance. “I don't think they'd like another killing in here,” Solo says. “They'd hardly notice,” replies Greedo. Although Paul Blake has the role of Greedo to himself here, was not the only actor to play the character in the final film. The movie as released includes re-shoots done in America with Maria de Aragon in the mask.

The 'stilt monster': a comical deleted
moment from Star Wars

The stilt monster: the hunt for the droids in the unseen cut of Star Wars

There's another unseen sequence after the cantina material: a different version of the scene in which the stormtroopers search Mos Eisley for the droids.

It's clear that their search has thrown some of the denizens of the town into a panic. In a slightly gimmicky visual joke, a very short local runs between the legs of a giant alien, who is only shown from the waist down. This alien has subsequently been dubbed the 'stilt monster', but what he looks like above the belt has been left to the imagination.

As the stormtroopers try doors in the hunt for the robots, we meet a sort of hunchbacked alien who did not make the final cut. 

Some of this material would briefly see the light of day in the Star Wars Holiday Special, before Lucas put that production back in the vaults and pretended it had never happened.

So: Some alternative shots, some moments and lines added, others taken away, and a glimpse into Han Solo's love life. What does it all add up to? And what does all this footage give us that the released film didn't? 

In some ways, the answer is not much. Someone who had only seen Star Wars once, years ago,  might barely notice the difference.

It's quite possible that you could find similar rough cuts of just about every film ever made, differing slightly but interestingly from the released version. But with Star Wars, a film so many of us have come to know in great detail, it is fascinating. A different take used here, a shot added or discarded there, and you end up with something that suddenly feels weirdly unfamiliar.


John White said...

Yes, I feel sorry for Jympson. I've heard that it WAS by him but as you say, it was just a rough assembly.
It doesn't surprise me that George Lucas said Jympson's edit was terrible and conventional etc., but I worry that Richard Chew, said the same things. Why would he do that?

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Sebastian Hawks said...

I think the reason it was cut was because they didn't want Han Solo cavorting with prostitutes in a PG movie for the whole family.