In 1988 when I was teaching 7th graders math lessons, a science teacher came into the teacher’s lounge with a shocking fact that had stunned him that morning. The fact he had discovered also stunned the rest of us in the teachers lounge. For a 5 point bonus question on that day’s science test, he asked the students to tell him who John, Paul, George, and Ringo were. There were quite a few of the 7th graders that day who admitted that they had no idea who the Fab Four were! Shocking, utterly shocking!!
Fast forward to this past month of February and I noticed on Turner Classic’s schedule that they were going to air the hit Beatle’s movie, A Hard Day’s Night. Since I have never watched that film before, I set up the dvr to record it and watched it last Saturday. Our part of Missouri was getting hit with snow that day and it wasn’t a good idea to be out driving anywhere, so watching the film was the perfect way to while away my snowy Saturday afternoon.
A Hard Day’s Night, made in 1964, has a simple plot. The Beatles, or the lads as they’re often referred to in the movie, have to board a train for London and appear on a television variety show. In the film they are all the rage among teen girls and it’s funny and amazing to see them trying to outrun and outwit hordes of screaming teenage girls as they get to the train station and get on that train without having their clothes torn off! Once on the train, we meet a spectacled older man, who is introduced as Paul’s grandpa. Paul warns the lads that his grandpa is a “mixer”, in that he’s a sneaky guy who enjoys mixing it up with others, getting them into arguments, conning folks of their money, or their food, or their booze. Wilfrid Brambell portrays Paul’s granddad. At that time, Brambell was also the star of a popular British television comedy, Steptoe and Son. (Steptoe would be the idea 10 years later for the popular US television comedy, Sanford and Son.) On Steptoe, Brambell’s character was often referred to as a “dirty, old man”. In A Hard Day’s Night, after Paul introduces granddad to his pals, the running joke of the film is that granddad is such a “clean” looking old man. The Beatles’s manager is introduced as well as a mild-mannered assistant, played by Norman Rossington and John Junkin.
Once in London and settled at their hotel their fan mail is delivered and Grandpa is happy that Ringo received a personal invitation to a gambling casino with a buffet. He tsk tsks at the lads for even thinking about going to such a place, then sneaks the invitation from Ringo’s pile of fan mail, borrows the hotel bellman’s tux uniform, and off Grandpa goes to the casino. The lads, instead of working on their fan mail replies, sneak off to a hip and happening London nightclub and there’s a fun montage of shots of Ringo and George dancing with girls, John and Paul seated at tables having lively discussions with other folks at the nightclub. When their manager and his assistant arrive, the lads have to leave and go back to their hotel. Once there, it is discovered that Grandpa is missing and it’s off to find him and they do.
My favorite series of shots is after the lads get to the television studio. They meet with the show’s director, played by Victor Spinetti, who treats them with disdain, and when they get the chance, the lads sneak out of the building and in a series of overhead shots, they run around and have fun on a large park or green space in London. The run a race, they perform square dance moves, they play an imaginary game of cricket(it looked like a baseball set-up at first), and then there are shots of each Beatle leaping up into the air in slow motion-reminding me a bit of those popular pictures taken nowadays of wedding parties all jumping up into the air.
Grandpa messes the television appearance up, of course, by convincing Ringo to go on a solo adventure instead of living his life doing always as he’s told. Ringo goes off on his adventure but he isn’t paying attention to the time and the clock is ticking down to show time. John, Paul, and George reassure the producer that they’ll find Ringo and be back in time for the show. They do, with Grandpa’s help, and it’s on to the Beatles performing 3 hit songs to a studio audience of screaming teenage girls.
This film was fun and several times it had me laughing outloud. Each of the Beatles was quite natural on film, no one gave a stilted performance. I did mention to my husband that it was weird to hear the Beatles speaking in their normal voices, with the native Liverpool accents. I’m simply just used to hearing their voices blended together in songs. Of course the songs couldn’t have been better: A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Should Have Known Better, I Wanna Be Your Man, All My Loving, She Loves You, and several more. The full soundtrack list for the film is here.
On April 11th, at 2:15 EST, Turner Classic Movies will be airing A Hard Day’s Night, so be sure to tune in or set that dvr! The film and the soundtrack are available to purchase at Amazon. Also, a very kind person has put the entire film on Youtube, in English with Italian subtitles.