Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
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 "Its Trad, Dad", a little-known 1962 Helen Shapiro musical, remembered today only by die-hard film buffs. Also known as "Ring-A-Ding Rhythm", the 73m. film was packed with then-household names like Chubby Checker, John Leyton, Gary (US) 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, Sir Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele.
Alright, 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 Sir 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 Days 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 1990's.)
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 12/6/00
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