A Hard Day’s Night

Released:  1964

Cast:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell

Oscar Nominations:  Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Alun Owen), Best Music, Score (George Martin)

SUMMARY:  In 1964, Beatlemania is at its peak, and the band members — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star (all playing themselves) — are swarmed by teenage fans nearly every time they step outside.  At the beginning of the film, they are headed to London to perform on a television show, and are aboard a train.  In addition to their manager and road manager, the boys are accompanied by John McCartney (Wilfrid Brambell), Paul’s ornery, sour grandfather.  The boys frequently pick on each other and play jokes, much to the annoyance of their manager, Norm.  Norm soon learns that he has another problem on his hands:  Paul’s grandfather, who insults the boys at every opportunity, and chases women mercilessly.  After leaving him alone, the group returns to find that Granddad has vanished from their compartment:  they eventually find him in a first-class compartment, sipping champagne with the woman inside.  Following this incident, Granddad is confined to the baggage car, but the good-hearted boys and the managers soon join him, and play cards to pass the time.  When the train arrives in London, the Beatles have to take a back exit from the train, then go through a waiting car and into another one in an attempt to avoid the waiting (screaming) crowd.

The band is taken to their hotel, where Norm quickly instructs them to remain for the rest of the evening.  He hands them massive piles of fan mail to answer, but Ringo is disappointed that he does not get to follow up on an invitation to a casino.  When he is again left alone, Granddad borrows the concierge’s tuxedo and goes to the casino himself, where he proceeds to cause a great ruckus.  Norm, the road manager Shake, and all the boys come to get him some hours later, when he has won just enough money to cover the money he has spent.  The next day, the entire group goes to the studio where the show will be performed and filmed, quite a few hours in advance.  Both the band and Granddad cause minor problems, but several rehearsals go well.  With extra time to kill, Ringo is put in charge of watching Granddad, and the two go to the cafeteria.  There, Granddad persuades Ringo that he is missing out on life, and that is the reason the other boys constantly make fun of him.  Ringo decides that Granddad is right, and leaves him in the cafeteria before heading out into the streets on his own.  When he is quickly recognized, Ringo buys a trench coat and hat in a store, then knocks around town.  While this is happening, Granddad is trying to sell knockoff autographed pictures of the band (he forged the signatures) to the young fans outside the studios.  Inside, the program director is having conniptions, because Ringo is missing when it comes time for the final rehearsal.  The other three Beatles volunteer to find him, but are unable to do so.  Suddenly, Granddad appears, being chased by several policemen.  He reveals Ringo’s location:  the local police station, where he was taken ater being picked up for several minor charges.  Granddad was also arrested and taken to the station, but was released.  John, Paul and George again volunteer to get Ringo, so they go to the station and retrieve him, then engage in a back-and-forth chase with the police.  The finally get back to the studio just in time to change their clothes and perform to a packed, screaming audience.  After the concert, the band, Granddad and the two managers run to a waiting helicopter, and head to their next engagement.

MY TAKE:  I know that I will probably make a lot of people angry when I say this, but I have never really liked the Beatles.  I’m too young to appreciate the impact they had on music, and since their songs don’t thrill me, I really could care less.  I actually think that a lot of their songs sound the same, based on the notes that they sing, and the songs are really simplistic (I know that this was partly due to the time period.  For the record, I do like Elvis, so I’m not completely hopeless.  But I don’t like the Rolling Stones).  Furthermore, I think John Lennon was a jerk in his personal life, which kinda turns me off.  But this movie came at the very beginning of their meteoric fame, so they were still four boys who were thrilled to be playing music together, and enjoyed the screaming hordes that constantly followed them.  Ironically, this movie was made very quickly, because the director wanted to capitalize on the Beatlemania craze — which he was afraid might be a flash-in-the-pan type thing.  Of course, we know now that the Beatles never really lost popularity.  The film was amusing, but by the end I was getting tired of the constant running around, and of Granddad.  The old man is just a complete pain in the ass, and he’s not very nice, either.  I seriously doubt that Paul’s grandfather would be allowed to come with them without some other sort of supervisor, and I know that security on both him and the Beatles would have been more strict.  Seriously, when girls scream and chase them every time they step outside, I don’t think they would go down to the police station to get Ringo by themselves, let alone have this idea endorsed by their managers.  Actually, I’m pretty sure that their entourage would be much bigger.  And more competent.  Naturally, the film is interspersed with Beatles songs, part of which made up the album with the same name as the movie.  It’s not horrible, but like their music, it didn’t really do anything for me.  I’m sure tons of people disagree with this review, but that’s my opinion.

Fun fact:  Both Charlotte Rampling and Phil Collins appear in minor, uncredited roles in the movie:  Phil Collins is one of the kids at the TV performance, while Charlotte Rampling is one of the nightclub dancers.  Obviously, Phil Collins went on to be in Genesis, before starting a wildly successful solo career; Charlotte Rampling stayed in the acting business, and was nominated for Best Actress at the 2015 Oscars for her role in 45 Years.

RATING:  Eh (that’s my word for “whatever”, “so-so”, “mediocre”, “no strong opinion”, etc.).


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