A Hard Day’s Night

Reporter: Do you think these haircuts have come to stay?

Ringo: Well, this one has. You know, it’s stuck on good and proper now.

This is typical of the witticisms by the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night.

The film took us inside Beatlemania. It still does.  The world was younger in 1964, we were all more innocent then.  The Beatles took to film like fish to water.  The script by Alun Owen was tailored to them as it showed a slice of Beatles life as they traveled by train to a television appearance.  The story had Paul’s mischievous grandfather along for the ride, with misadventure ensuing.

The film features a number of Beatle songs, and these are staged in very entertaining ways. The Beatles were always about the music, and the film showcased their new music, but it was also showcasing them.

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Reporter: How did you find America?
John: Turned left at Greenland.

More than 50 years later, the film’s charm has aged well, even if we haven’t. Director Richard Lester keeps the absurdity and energy dialed up.  Each of the Beatles has a turn in the spotlight, with scenes written specifically for them, reflecting their personality and public perception.

Man: Don’t take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.

Ringo: I bet you’re sorry you won.

The film plays up the generation gap, as the Beatles mock convention and authority.  It’s not that the younger generation is better, but the youthful orbit spins with more hipness and fun, and doesn’t take itself so seriously.  We should all be as witty and wisecracking as the Beatles in the film. In real life, the Beatles displayed that ability for witticisms even without an on-call screenwriter.

Reporter: What do you call that hairstyle you´re wearing?
George: Arthur.

In particular, Ringo and George had the best lines in the film.  Paul’s persona is the cute one, and John is acerbic as usual, but the film gives ample breathing room to the junior partners of the firm.

Reporter: Are you a mod or a rocker?
Ringo: Um, no. I’m a mocker.

Ringo, at the urging of Paul’s grandfather, escapes the watchful eye of their manager, to explore the city.  The sequence follows Ringo through various short adventures: down by the river where he encounters some boys dodging school; a pub where he innocently causes mayhem and is kicked out; gallantly helping a lady cross a muddy area; and he is hauled by the police to their station for general mischievous behavior.  All the while, there is a search going on for Ringo as showtime nears.  Ringo proved to have a gift for physical humor accentuated by his deadpan delivery.  His acting career was launched, but he was always better playing himself.

https://youtu.be/kjd2M_UER8Y

Quiet Beatle George, has the plum scenes where he is anything but silent.  George is ripe with absurd and quick-draw remarks. In one of his first scenes of note he teaches the Beatles’s roadie how to shave by demonstrating on the bathroom mirror.  His best scene is one of the smartest bits of social satire in the film.  Mistaken for an expert on teen culture, he is grilled on fashion, hip phrases and trendsetters. At first his observations are are taken as keen, but he insults their clothing and then their teenage guru.

George: “Oh, yes, the lads frequently gather round the T.V. set to watch her for a giggle. Once we even all sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish.”  

George is quite comfortable in this faster crowd of adults, holding his own with rapid dialogue, he is confident and a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps the best sequence in the film.

The film was a bullseye on the changing youth scene and traditional British society. Lester said, (British society) was “still based on privilege — privilege by schooling, sjff_01_img0216privilege by birth, privilege by accent, privilege by speech. [The Beatles] were the first people to attack this… they said if you want something, do it. You can do it. Forget all this talk about talent or ability or money or speech. Just do it.”

The film took aim at classism as well as Beatlemania; everything was fair game.  What was to be a quickie film to capture the Beatlemania phenomenon before it evaporated into the air, the film grew legs as the Beatles became a permanent part of our musical history and pop culture.

Fifty plus years later, the film is a gem, a snapshot of Beatlemania, and the Beatles as we’d like to remember them. A Hard Day’s Night is both smart and funny. The film is like a big joke that everyone is in on. I’m glad the Beatles turned left at Greenland.


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