Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Hard Day's Night: The Film

The movie A Hard Day's Night is a black and white Beatles film produced by Walter Shenson and directed by Richard Lester for United Artists in 1964. The film was shot shortly after the Beatles returned from their first American visit in 1964. It was released in the UK on July 6, 1964, and in the United States on August 11, 1964.

The film starred the Beatles and Wilford Brambell, an Irish actor known for the sitcom Steptoe and Son (basis for U.S. Sandord and Son) and his work for a British comedy troupe called the Goons. Norman Rossington played the Beatles' manager, and John Junkin played "Shake," their road manager. Victor Spinetti played the television director. A Beatles roadie, Mal Evans, has a cameo; he moves a stand-up bass through the hallway while John Lennon talks with a woman who believes him to be someone else.

The plot of the film is an "amplified," comedic version of an actual day in the life of the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania. Having escaped screaming fans at a railway station, the Beatles travel from Liverpool to London by train, on which the audience learns that the group must care for Paul's grandfather (a "very clean man" played by Brambell). In London the Beatles are driven to a hotel room, where they feel the pressure of always being sequestered to avoid being mobbed by fans. The film then shows the Beatles rehearsing for a broadcast, answering questions from the press, going to a casino to retrieve Paul's grandfather, and romping in a field. Towards the end of the movie, Ringo is seen moping along a riverbank (he confesses that in real life he was very hung-over at the time). The band also escapes the police after a chase caused by Paul's grandfather and finally gives their televised performance before boarding a helicopter at the end of the movie.

The title of the film, according to Lennon, was the result of a Ringo malapropism, a Ringo-ism that director Richard Lester liked. In The Beatles Anthology, McCartney said that it was the Beatles who chose Ringo's phrase, which seems to be the general consensus.

The film, which cost only half a million dollars to make, was well-received by critics, and the movie is still thought to be a remarkable piece of film-making. It is widely taught in university film classes for it's editing, writing, and cinematography. A hard Day's Night was released in VHS format in 1984, on CD-ROM in 1993, on DVD in 2000 (Miramax films), and on Blu-Ray in 2009.

The screenplay was written by Alun Owen because the Beatles and Richard Lester liked his work, which demonstrated a familiarity with the Liverpudlian accent. Owen followed the Beatles around while working on the concept to further observe the Beatles speech and mannerisms. It was Owen who ultimately wrote the movie's screenplay, the theme of which was the Beatles being prisoners of their enormous success.

The film included the following songs:

A Hard Day's Night
I Should Have KNown Better
I Wanna Be Your Man
Don't Bother Me
All My Loving
If I Fell
Can't Buy Me Love
And I LOve Her
I'm Happy Just to Dance with You
Tell Me Why
She Loves You.

The UK soundtrack of the film (Parlophone) was different in the UK from the U.S. version (United Artists), which eliminated some songs and added instrumentals. For more info on these versions, consult the links below for Beatles albums/discography.

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