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Scorsese turns lens on the ‘quiet Beatle’ in HBO documentary

George HarrisonI The quiet Beatle has never spoken so loudly.

Over the course of 3½ hours — the span of Martin Scorsese‘s epic exploration George Harrison: Living in the Material World— fans of the Mop Tops’ rhythm ace slip inside the literal and metaphorical gates that kept the contemplative musician at a distance.

Six memorable moments from the two-part documentary, which airs Wednesday and Thursday (HBO, 9 p.m. ET/PT):

•Getting spiritual: Harrison was well-known as the most spiritually curious of the Fab Four, having introduced both the band and its music to Indian vibes in the ’60s.

The revelation to look East, however, came during an acid trip in England with friends. “Yogis of the Himalayas” was the phrase that came to Harrison in his blissed-out stupor, which led him to the door of sitar master Ravi Shankar. “He was the first person to impress me,” Harrison says, “because he didn’t try to impress me.”

•Highs and lows: As The Beatles’ personal and professional relationships hit bottom in 1969, Harrison flexed his musical muscles. He tried and failed to get his song All Things Must Pass onto both Let It Be andAbbey Road. Says Paul McCartney: “We knew he was peaking. … We realized he was really coming up with the goods.”

•Pattie and Eric: Harrison’s first wife, doe-eyed model Pattie Boyd, so obsessed best mate Eric Clapton that he famously wrote Layla to woo her. Clapton says Harrison was cavalier: “‘Take her, she’s yours.’ … But there was a lot of swinging going on, it was the ’60s free love. His attitude was, it’s all material, it’s all irrelevant.”

“George was my mate, so I can’t say much. … But he was a red-blooded man,” McCartney says. “You know what I mean.”

Harrison’s widow, Olivia, concedes as much. “He did like women, and women did like him. … It was always a challenge. But people ask me what’s the secret to having a great marriage. Don’t get divorced.”

•Traveling musicians: One of Harrison’s more acclaimed post-Beatles projects was theTraveling Wilburys, which he formed with Bob DylanJeff LynneRoy Orbison and Tom Petty. Perhaps the film’s most stunning home movie shows that supergroup at a kitchen table hammering out the classic (Ghost) Riders In the Sky.

•Darkness at Friar Park: In December 1999, an intruder broke into Harrison’s estate, Friar Park. Harrison fought the man off, only to have to rescue Olivia. “George yelled, ‘I got the knife,’ and I remember thinking, ‘What knife?’” she says.

Harrison was stabbed several times and suffered a collapsed lung. More significantly, it made it harder for him to battle throat cancer. Says son Dhani: “That (attack) took years off his life.”

•Luminous exit: For years, Harrison had been preparing to die on his own terms, Olivia says. When John Lennon was shot, “he was angry that John wasn’t able to leave his body in a better way,” she says.

When that time came, on Nov. 29, 2001, Olivia says, “you wouldn’t need to light the room if you were trying to film it. He lit the room.”

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