The Beatles first feature film was a surprisingly sensational comedy, which revolved around a fictional 36 hours in their hectic schedule during a trip to London.
The mop tops demonstrated that they could excel at clowning (like reincarnated Marx Brothers) as well as singing, and the madcap affair came off with enormous energy and good humour.
The Fab Four rush from hotel rooms to trains to studios as their handlers keep them on an intensely busy schedule of recording sessions and concert appearances.
In between appointments and mad dashes, the four band members cook up new songs and have the occasional bit of fun, but they must always be careful to dodge their many overeager fans so they don’t cause mass hysteria.
Paul’s grandfather, a cantankerous old codger (albeit a “very clean old man”) played by Wilfrid Brambell, is also on hand to make mischief.
He convinces Ringo that he should go off “parading” and thus throws a spanner into the lads’ schedule.
After much mischief on the streets of London, Ringo is finally reunited with the group in time for a big concert that is being recorded for a television broadcast by an uptight director (Victor Spinetti) who is driven to distraction by the non-conformist nature of The Beatles.
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr come across as likeable, slightly rebellious, intelligent young men, who, in the tradition of realistic northern England dramas, are down-to-earth, unpretentious, and prone to seeing through the falseness of others (“I fought the war for the likes of you,” says a bowler-hatted old-timer to Starr, who replies, “I bet you’re sorry you won”).
There were obviously also plenty of favourite Beatles songs, including And I Love Her, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Should Have Known Better, I’ll Cry Instead, I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, If I Fell, Tell Me Why, Any Time At All, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, She Loves You and the title track.
A Hard Day’s Night was an instant hit, making millions of dollars around the world and inspiring scores of similarly-styled films by other bands like The Dave Clark Five with Catch Us If You Can (1965) and Herman’s Hermits with Mrs Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter (1968).
The Beatles chose Richard Lester to direct their movie debut because they thought his The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960) was brilliant. Liverpool playwright Alun Owen worked with them on the script.
A Hard Day’s Night is arguably still the definitive film of the decade.
The film was nominated for two Oscars – Best Screenplay and Best Adapted Score – but not Best Original Song. That went to Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Poppins.
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