A Hard Day's Night
may have been The Beatles' first big-screen experience but, as they had become the biggest band in the world by the time of its production, the Moptops were able to ensure it was a bit different from the band-movie norm. "We'd made it clear that we weren't interested in being stuck in one of those nobody-understands-our-music plots," John Lennon would later recall. "The kind of thing where we'd just pop up a couple of times between the action, all smiles and clean shirts, to sing our latest record. Never mind all your pals, how could we have faced each other if we had allowed ourselves to be involved in that kind of movie?"
Instead the quartet recruited a young director named Richard Lester--who had previously worked with the Fab Four's beloved Goons--to make a movie that followed them as they enjoyed and endured the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. "The film wrote itself right in front of our eyes," says Lester. "We just took the dirty bits and cut them out." The result is a frenetic hour and a half inside The Beatles' personal space as they engage in all manner of surreal hi-jinks--more often than not involving Paul's "grandfather" (played by Steptoe and Son's Wilfrid Brambell) while dodging the ever-present horde of screaming fans. Although the result now seems a little dated, there remains an almost heart-breakingly good-natured aura around the foursome's naïve performances while few could argue about the quality of a soundtrack that includes "Can't Buy Me Love", "And I Love Her" and "A Hard Day's Night" itself, to name but a few. Whether the film would have been quite so successful if Lester had followed McCartney's suggestion and called it "Oh, What A Lovely Wart!" will, sadly, never be known. --Clark Collis
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) head for London to appear on television, accompanied by their manager and Paul's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell). Grandad gets into some trouble at a casino and then convinces Ringo to strike out on his own, but the boys find him just in time to play the big concert. Richard Lester's freewheeling directorial style set the tone for the Swinging Sixties.