Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beatles' debut film satisfied fans

WLUC-TV in Marquette distributed this picture
of the Beatles featured in the final scene of "A Hard
day's Night."


Besides being prolific in the recording studio, the Beatles released four movies, with their debut effort perhaps the most influential.

The classic "A Hard Day's Night" attracted millions of young people eager to see the British rockers on celluloid.

Delivered to theaters in the summer of 1964, the 88-minute movie was a low-budget production, filmed in black & white.

Believing the Beatles were a passing fad, promoters put $500,000 into the film they feared the public would forget about in a matter of weeks.

I was disappointed the movie wasn't in color, but everything else about "A Hard Day's Night" struck a chord in me.

Viewers were treated to witty dialog, a handful of new songs and the antics of John, Paul, George and Ringo set to the back drop of "Beatlemania," the real-life hysteria surrounding the group.


The movie was a hit everywhere it played including the Delft Theater in downtown Escanaba, where it made several return engagements.

The Delft Theater in Marquette even had custom tickets printed when "A Hard Day's Night" premiered there on Friday, Sept. 4, 1964.

No matter where the picture was shown, girls screamed when the Beatles' images first appeared on the big screen.

After the show, the youthful crowd burst from the theater doors ready to buy a Beatles record or even start a rock band.

My fascination with "A Hard Day's Night" continued long after it disappeared from theaters.

In 1972, I felt compelled to buy a volume of four movie scripts, including "A Hard Day's Night," so I could learn everything possible about the Beatles' movie debut.

"Film Scripts Four," published by Appleton Century Crofts, may have been aimed at film students, but certainly contained the details I sought.

A Proscenium Films production, "A Hard Day's Night" was released in the United States by United Artists.

Work on the film had actually started in the fall of 1963, before most people in the U. S. had ever heard or heard of the Beatles.

The cast, of course, is headed by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, who play themselves.

The Beatles perform their songs as a group in the film, but are also portrayed as individual personalities, perhaps laying the basis for their eventual solo careers.

Produced by Walter Shenson, the film was directed by Richard Lester from a original screenplay by Alun Owen.


Originally, the script was assigned the unimaginative title "The Beatles."

The plot was simple: The Beatles must get to a big television show while Paul tries to keep his Irish grandfather, portrayed by Wilfrid Brambell, from getting into mischief. John, meanwhile, tests the nerves of a frazzled TV director, George is mistaken as a potential cast member on a hip youth program, and Ringo plays hooky, getting into some trouble himself. All the while, hordes of screaming fans complicate the situation.

Pattie Boyd and Phil Collins were both cast as fans in the movie. Then 19, Boyd met Harrison and married him the following year. Although Collins' scenes were cut, the teenager would later gain fame as drummer for the rock band Genesis with a hugely successful solo career to follow.

As director, Lester was given the task of getting his project into theaters as quickly as possible.

Filming commenced in early March, just eight days after the Beatles returned from their first visit to the U. S.

By the time filming was to begin, the Beatles had become international superstars.

Seeing a larger audience for the movie, the studio considered increasing the film's budget, but in the end the financing remained unchanged.

Despite their busy schedules, the Beatles had already recorded "I Should Have Known Better," "If I Fell," "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," "And I Love Her," "Tell Me Why" and "Can't Buy Me Love" for the still-unnamed film.

Starr is credited with uttering the phrase which became the title of the motion picture, but when it was announced to the press, the song "A Hard Day's Night" did not yet exist.

Consequently, Lennon composed the song to order. The Beatles recorded "A Hard Day's Night" during a three-hour session at Abbey Road's Studio Two on April 16, 1964.

The theme song is heard at the beginning of the movie and as orchestral bits in the score.

Advertisements promised fans a "hilarious, action packed film."

Television station WLUC in Marquette even distributed a promotional photo of the Beatles, identical to the one dropped from the helicopter in the motion picture's final scene. The photo was mailed to fans of the "Darby O'Six" program, hosted by Roy Peterson.

The soundtrack album was released in Britain on July 10, with side one containing the seven songs from the movie and the flip side six more new songs. The album is the only LP to feature strictly Lennon-McCartney compositions.


The American version of the album boasted the seven tracks from the movie, "I'll Cry Instead" and four George Martin orchestral arrangements from the movie.

"A Hard Day's Night" received two Oscar nominations and set the standard for modern music videos.

The film was a huge success and led to three more motion pictures starring the Beatles. Lester directed "Help!" in 1965, presented in technicolor. The animated "Yellow Submarine" appeared in 1968 and the documentary "Let It Be" reached theaters in 1970.

When "A Hard Day's Night" was finally re-released on the VHS format, I picked up a copy for home viewing.


An upgraded DVD version was issued by Miramax in 2002, with a second disc of bonus material.

When I watched the film not long ago, it seemed fresh and vibrant, the Beatles young and irreverent.

While "A Hard Day's Night" remains a great experience, I still wish the movie company would have sprung for color.


CedarElkWoman said...

Another interesting glimpse into rock 'n' roll - is there any other kind of music? - and the Beatles - are there any false rock 'n' roll idols? The Beatles are the Gods of rock 'n' roll, says this Beatlemaniac - I have been one since I heard my first Beatle songs, "She Loves You Ya Ya Ya" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." I missed out on anything besides what came on the radio and television - too young to leave the house. But I was singing the songs and playing EARLY "air guitar" as a tot. (Before the Beatles - and rock 'n' roll - were damned as "evil" and "doing the work of the devil" - this was "cute.") Anyway, I had no idea that the Upper Peninsula was caught up in Beatlemania, and it comes as a surprise! I can look back, as one of those film students, and add only this: United Artists would have been the studio to take a chance on this film. It was formed, as the name implies, by serious film actors and actresses and directors to escape the tight grip of the major studios and produce works of higher quality - and works of greater risk - than corporate Hollywood was mass producing. Anyway, thank you for another educational and entertaining read!

melekler korusun final said...

thank you