As A Hard Day’s Night opens with that famous chord, we are tossed straight into battle as we follow John, George, and Ringo running like hell to escape a screaming mob of school kids. George trips and falls on the sidewalk and Ringo falls right on top of him but they take the tumble in stride, laughing as rise. Although the fall was an accident, director Richard Lester wisely left it in the final cut, and in doing so he preserved forever the youthful exuberance of the boys in the midst of the chaotic ‘Beatlemania around them. Writer Alun Owen successfully carries this exuberant trait throughout his witty and very effervescent script of a fictional day-in-the-life of The Beatles, and the result was instant classic.
After escaping the fans at Victoria Station, we’re introduced to Paul’s grandfather, who’s nursing a broken heart, and has been put in Paul’s care for the time being. Grandfather, with his dour expression and big glasses looks harmless enough, but Paul warns his mates that he’s “a king mixer” and will stop at nothing to get people into a fight. The running joke is that Grandfather is ‘a clean old man’, but he’s anything but. He chases away some schoolgirls on the train that George, John, and Paul are trying to impress, get’s the boy’s manager Norm angry at their roadie, Shake, for being taller than he is, flirts with a buxom gambler, and in a manipulation that nearly causes a production shutdown, convinces Ringo to escape into a London adventure. (He tells Ringo he should be out paradin’ instead of readin’ a bloomin’ book).
If Paul’s Grandfather is a problem, he’s only one of the adults here who have little respect for the young musicians. There is an undercurrent of the embryonic generation gap to come, with continuous friction between the old guard and the new. The Beatles often become the victim of their elder’s poor attitude and management, yet they often manage to outwit the adults and even escape for a brief idyll in the fresh air, playing like school kids in an open field to the strains of Can’t Buy Me Love. But even that joy is cut short by a groundskeeper who admonishes them for being on private property. “Sorry we hurt your field, Mister,” shrugs George. And it’s back to the runaround of preparing for their TV appearance.
Yet for all the rushing from scene to scene, AHDN has many small and quietly funny moments as well. George admiring the legs of a pretty secretary as he was accidently mistaken for a model and auditioned by a snobby fashion director. In another scene, George teaches roadie Shake to shave while John plays with a toy submarine. Later, when an actress mistakes John for a former lover, he plays along.
As fictional versions of themselves, writer Alun Owen captured The Beatles’ individual traits in a lovable, realistic manner. Each was given a distinct ‘character’, which reflected their true-life personalities. Although they’re squeaky clean, you just know that there’s serious working class grit under all that beautiful hair. The comebacks to the adults are classic: When a middle-aged banker snaps at the boys for playing their transistor radio on the train and asserts his rights for being a regular passenger, John leans into him and smiles “Give us a kiss!” At a press reception where the drinks and canapés keep passing them by, they get back at the reporters stupid questions with snappy, screw-you answers:
Reporter: Do you often see your father?
Paul: No, actually, we’re just good friends.
Reporter: Are you a mod or a rocker?
Ringo: Um, no. I’m a mocker.
Reporter: Do you have any hobbies?
John: (writes on her pad), The answer shocks her – from the quickness of the writing and the way he dotted an ‘i’, we suspect he wrote Tits)
A Hard Day’s Night could not have been filmed at a better moment in time; after The Beatles had made their U.S. debut and before they had grown too tired of endless touring, instead committing themselves to semi-exile at Abbey Road Studios. At the time it was filmed, no one knew that The Beatles would become legendary or even last a year, for it was just conceived as a quick money-maker for United Artists. But Richard Lester and Alun Owen knew this couldn’t be a run-of-the-mill-Elvis picture, and gave it a radical new style of musical cinema that would be imitated for decades. We can only be thankful.
No Snacking Game this week, unless you want a drink every time a girl screams! But please tell me –Who’s Your Favorite Beatle? (Mine was, is, and forever will be: Gorgeous George!)
Phil Collins was one of the lucky kids who got to be in the audience during the filming of the movie. However, he can only be seen during the song “You Can’t Do That”, which was cut from the movie.
George met his future (first) wife on the set of AHDN; Model and starlet Pattie Boyd and was instantly smitten. They married in 1966.
George: She’s a drag, a well-known drag! We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.
You’re a swine!
Quit bein’ taller than me!
More wonderful quotes.
Cast and Crew:
John Lennon … John, Paul McCartney … Paul, George Harrison … George, Ringo Starr … Ringo
Wilfrid Brambell … Grandfather, Norman Rossington … Norm, John Junkin … Shake, Victor Spinetti … T.V. Director, Anna Quayle … Millie, Deryck Guyler… Police Inspector, Richard Vernon … Man on Train Edward Malin … Hotel Waiter, Robin Ray … T.V. Floor Manager, Lionel Blair … T.V. Choreographer Alison Seebohm … Secretary David Janson … Young Boy
Written by Alun Owen, Directed By Richard Lester, Produced by Walter Shensen