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A Hard Day's Night Movie Review

beatle owen richard starr

Yes, A Hard Day's Night was a Brit indie, made quickly to cash in on the Beatle's surge in popularity after their February 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Producer Walter Shenson hoped that Beatlemania would last at least through June, when the movie was due to hit theatres. The selection of Richard Lester as director was by no means a guarantee that the movie would be a blockbuster. He had, after all, helmed It's Trad, Dad, a little-known 1962 Helen Shapiro musical, remembered today only by die-hard film buffs. Also known as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm, this 73-minute film was packed with then-household names like Chubby Checker, John Leyton, Gary (U.S.) Bonds, and the late Gene Vincent and Del Shannon. It was also filled with Lester's then-innovative cinematic techniques, but it went nowhere fast, as did many Brit flicks of that era, like 1963's Summer Holiday and It's All Happening with, respectively, Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele. All right, the Beatles could sing, but could they act? Alun Owen prepared his Oscar-nominated screenplay with the assumption that they could not, and then, when the rushes revealed that at least three of the Beatles were surprisingly relaxed on camera (the dashing Paul McCartney was not among them), Owen quickly came up with more dialogue for them. An American tour that coincided with the film's U.S. release helped to make it one of 1964's most profitable releases. The international audiences of 1964 were clearly hungry for a lightning-paced, tongue-in-cheek glimpse of life in the fast lane, and A Hard Day's Night supplied it. We wanted to believe that being a Beatle was fun and zany, just like in this movie; it was a shock to discover in Let It Be, a mere six years later, how far the sparkling Beatle image was removed from a much-grittier reality. As fiction, A Hard Day's Night holds up. This is how we would like for the life of the Beatles to be, so this is what we want to remember. (Self-effacing Ringo Starr, the last to join the group, was, by virtue of being the best actor in the bunch, the quintessential Beatle; he went on to make the most films as an actor, and is, with shifting members of his All-Starr band, the only former Beatle to tour with any regularity into the 1990s.)

1964 90m/B GB John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington, John Junkin, Victor Spinetti, Anna Quayle, Deryck Guyler, Richard Vernon, Lionel Blair, Eddie Malin, Robin Ray, Alison Seebohm, David Saxon; D: Richard Lester; W: Alun Owen; C: Gilbert Taylor. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘64: Best Story & Screenplay (Owen), Best Original Score. VHS, LV, CD-I, DVD

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