This past weekend, I watched Ron Howard’s wonderful new documentary about the Beatles during their touring years, Eight Days a Week. As a huge Beatles fan, I saw A Hard Day’s Night several times in my adolescence, never quite understanding all the things the film was, but enjoying it nonetheless.
After watching the documentary, I felt like I had a little more context for the film. A Hard Day’s Night was made in 1964 and was meant to capitalize on the Beatlemania which was sweeping the world. Director Richard Lester was brought in to make a film which was a comedy, a documentary, and a musical film all in one.
When mentioning this film to other young people, I found that most people thought it was an actual documentary or they simply had never heard of it which is a MAJOR BUMMER cause this film is fantastic!
So, without further adieu, here are just a few reasons you need to watch A Hard Day’s Night:
So, I know many of you out there might be like, “What script? There was a script.” Because of the naturalistic style of the film, many don’t realize that the film was almost one-hundred percent scripted. The only one who ad-libbed was John Lennon, who let’s face it, probably couldn’t help it.
Alun Owen penned the script after spending time with John, Paul, George and Ringo. He listened to the way they spoke and tried to put words in their mouths that would sound natural for them to say. He also used the script to satirize television, the press, and The Beatles’ own celebrity.
Really, to me, this is what makes the film more than just one long music video. Even though the film was fully scripted, it doesn’t feel like it. The camaraderie between the boys is effortless and hilarious. Their cheekiness is everything.
They picked great character actors for the smaller bit roles and it helped to make the film feel like it had a real narrative we were following. Paul’s grandfather (NOT REALLY HIS GRANDFATHER) is hilarious…and very CLEAN.
Director Richard Lester’s only real experience before A Hard Day’s Night was in television. Two years ago, during the 50th anniversary’s BFI screening, Lester was interviewed by NME where he said,”The idea of the film came from the film department of United Artists at the beginning of 1964, and they said they’d only do it if it was cheap and in black and white and if we could get it done by July. They thought The Beatles were going to be a spent force by the end of the summer (Lester, NME Article).” Lester went on to direct The Beatles’ second film, Help! as well as Superman II and Superman III.
His direction brims with enthusiasm and energy, possibly due to the fact that he was not much older (Lester was just 32!) than The Beatles themselves. Oh, and the fans that you see in the film…they’re real. He just let them do whatever they wanted to do. So, of course, they went NUTS.
The music is EVERYTHING. You have to remember, this was before MTV or TRL (which honestly are references that are both kind of before my time). There was no such thing as music videos and I can imagine, being a young person during that time and seeing this film must have been like a dream come true, like a private concert for Beatles fans around the world. And the music is SOOOOO GOOD.
This film’s strength very much rests on the wonderful character actors. Wilfrid Brambell was cast as Paul’s grandfather and his performance makes the film, IMHO. He had been in a popular BBC show called Steptoe and Son where he’d apparently been called a dirty old man, which is where the big joke came from, “He’s very clean.” Norman Rossington and John Junkin were also wonderful as the band’s fake managers. Comedian Anna Quayle (of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame) was also thrown in for good measure.
And of course, THE BEATLES!!
The Beatles’ fame and fandom was unlike anything or anyone up until that point. United Artists thought they were a passing fad. Little did they know that their influence on culture would stand the test of time, or at least the next fifty years. Their chemistry, both as musicians and friends, make A Hard Day’s Night a joy from start to finish. You should have a smile on your face throughout. Or…at least I did!
Gifs and Main Photo property of United Artists.