The first of five movies featuring The Beatles was A Hard Day’s Night in 1964. By then, Beatlemania was in full swing. The packs of screaming girls chasing The Beatles and getting hysterically emotional at the concert were all real. But teen movies featuring rock stars of the time were terrible. Think of any of those Elvis movies, especially the ones set in Hawaii. The Beatles didn’t want to be part of something like that, so with Richard Lester directing, they made something new, fun and exciting that they were all proud of and has inspired other films today.
The film follows the band over a couple ‘typical’ days in their hometown of Liverpool. They run from screaming fans, try to keep Paul’s grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) out of trouble and get ready to perform live on television. Most of all, the boys just want to have fun.
At times it feels like this is The Beatles against the world. Their managers Norm (Norman Rossington) and Shake (John Junkin) try to wrangle the boys and keep them in line, but won’t let the boys have a drink at their party. And they can never get their hands on any of the hors d’oeuvres! At the television studio, it is a constant strain against schedules, when to be where on stage and off. The band jumps at any chance they have to escape for a while, but they cannot disappoint their fans.
The film has a very British style of comedy. The Beatles were familiar with Lester’s work on popular comedies aired in Britain. They used that style, smart-elic, slightly slap stick and pleasantly quirky. Working with Wilfrid Brambell also brought out his comedic style from his popular show, Steptoe and Son. Sound familiar? The US later used the premise of Brambell’s show and created Sanford and Son.
The main goal of A Hard Day’s Night at the time, was to sell The Beatles’ music. The featured songs are all recognizable classics: Tell Me Why, If I fell, She Loves You, I Wanna Be Your Man to name just a few. Most of the time, we watch the boys play the songs, whether on the train, practicing at the television station or during the concert. However, the sequence featuring Can’t Buy Me Love is often considered the first music video. It features the boys running around a field, just playing around and having a good time as the music plays. Needless to say, the music, as well as the film, was a hit.
During Oscar season, A Hard Day’s Night was not forgotten. It earned two nominations, one for best original screenplay and the other for best music. Somehow The Beatles themselves were not credited in the music award, but their record producer George Martin was. I guess that’s just how it goes in the music business.
I really enjoyed A Hard Day’s Night and would recommend it to everyone, especially those interested in rock and roll history. I saw this film at my local library, in a small room with about a dozen senior citizens, at least one of them shared his story of seeing The Beatles in concert. Across the room, a woman softly sang along, I imagined she was reliving a little of her Beatlemania days. For only a few minutes did I feel out of place, being the only person in the room who had always heard The Beatles on oldies stations, but that melted away quickly. The people were as warm and inviting as the film. Our collective laughter at Ringo’s chivalrous coat laying scene was the most fun I had at a library in years.
“We know how to behave! We’ve had lessons.”