A HARD DAY’S NIGHT
First show: August 16
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles U.S. Invasion
Meet the Beatles! Just one month after they exploded onto the U.S. scene with their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, John, Paul, George, and Ringo began working on a project that would bring their revolutionary talent to the big screen. A Hard Day’s Night, in which the bandmates play slapstick versions of themselves, captured the astonishing moment when they officially became the singular, irreverent idols of their generation and changed music forever. Directed with raucous, anything-goes verve by Richard Lester and featuring a slew of iconic pop anthems, including the title track, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Should Have Known Better,” and “If I Fell,” A Hard Day’s Night, which reconceived the movie musical and exerted an incalculable influence on the music video, is one of the most deliriously entertaining movies of all time.
The Beatles–the world’s most famous rock and roll band–travel from their home town of Liverpool to London to perform in a television broadcast. Along the way they must rescue Paul’s unconventional grandfather from various misadventures and drummer Ringo goes missing just before the crucial concert.
The plot is a study of a day in the life of the Fab Four beginning with them running from their adoring fans to catch a train. Every plot point circles around the band getting to a television show in order to perform a live concert, and within this stream of action is a series of slapstick, zany, and otherwise wacky bits of funniness. One obstacle in the works is Paul McCartney’s babysitting of his grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), a first class mixer always getting into mischief. It becomes one of the running jokes in the film that Brambell is a “clean old man,” at least physically (this contrasts with Brambell’s most famous role as Albert Steptoe in Steptoe and Son where he was a “dirty old man” both physically and psychologically). Ringo Starr gets a sense of liberation and goes off on his own to find happiness only to land in jail for loitering.
John Lennon fires playful barbs at TV director (Victor Spinetti), whose biggest worry is that if for some reason the Beatles stand him up his next job will be doing “news in Welsh.” One great story line is with George Harrison, in which he is mistaken for an actor auditioning for some trendy TV show for some trend setter hostess. The earnest demeanor of the casting head and his associates is undercut by George’s declaration that she is a well-known drag. Norman Rossington and John Junkin as The Beatles’ managers are stalwart English character actors who fill out the cast and support the general lunacy of the film with a more traditional presence, but still sustain an on-going battle about one being taller than the other. Anna Quayle has a great bit with John Lennon about his being someone he’s not. The whole thing ends with an ear-shattering concert and the band yet again running from the adoring fans.
Director: Richard Lester
Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
87min. 1964, U.K.