In the summer of 1964, I was a mere fourteen years old, but I was in love with four young men known as THE BEATLES. They changed the landscape for music’s future. They were silly, crazy, ordinary “blue-collar” boys from Liverpool, England. They were hard to understand at times, and it seemed they did whatever they felt like doing at any moment. Spontaneity ran amuck. They had fantastic voices that made everyone want to dance and sing along. They were simply adorable. These four lads stole every young girl’s heart for years to come. The length of their hair was unheard of at the time. Boys just didn’t have “long” hair. They wore clean-cut suits and shook their tresses as they sang. It was mesmerizing.
I remember collecting BEATLE cards, which looked just like baseball cards but only featured Paul, John, George, and Ringo. All my girlfriends had stacks, as did I. Mine were mostly of Paul. He was my favorite. I have strong memories of sitting in the cafeteria every day at lunch and spreading our cards out on the long tables for all to see. No one had more than Kay Blackburn. She had hundreds. I was always trying to trade and possess the biggest Paul collection. I never succeeded. Kay had the best, and all I could do was wistfully hold up the card I yearned for but couldn’t get. No one ate lunch. We were too busy talking about “them,” their lives, and all the “what if’s.” I see it all so clearly. When A HARD DAY’S NIGHT premiered in Phoenix, the theater was overflowing and sold out daily. I was lucky to get tickets. It was the best day of my young life to hear and see THE BEATLES on screen. It is etched within my mind and heart forever. We screamed when they sang as if it was a live concert. We called out their names. Girls fainted. I didn’t. I did not want to miss a moment with Paul.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT can be compared to today’s music videos on MTV or YOUTUBE. It was quite simply a way to promote THE BEATLES’ hit records. It was filmed in black and white to save money. It depicted a day in the life of a BEATLE. The studio didn’t even have a title for the film when they began. It became a competition among the four to see who could create the title and song. John won. He overheard his mates talking about how busy their days were, and within that same day, he wrote the words and music. A journalist also followed them around in France, where they were touring and did an entire photo shoot of one day in their lives. They led insanely hectic, highly energetic lives every day.
The film has a loose plot that allows for improvisation and tons of shenanigans, which include a butt load of chase scenes. Paul McCartney must watch over his grandfather while John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr travel to their next gig by train. Grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) is a high-spirited, “very clean” senior. He hates being cooped up and escapes every chance he gets. He enjoys selling BEATLE photos and gambling away his earnings. He is a character who is always not where he is supposed to be or saying something he shouldn’t. The boys have their hands full, as does their manager and agent. There are several police chases that are hilarious and reminiscent of the old silent movies.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT was directed by Richard Lester. He included every schtick he could get away with. Telephone booths, deserted railways, beautiful maze-like fields, hotels, bubble baths, a helicopter, concert halls, interviews with the press, parties, and television studios. The film was cheeky. There were fast one-liners and witty comebacks. “Do you consider yourself a rocker or a mod?” John’s answer…” a mocker.”
Everywhere the boys went, there were always mobs of girls chasing them. This, of course, led to disguises that included oversized trench coats, hats, and mustaches. What fun…and off they went on another escapade. It was breathless but in a good way. Not once in the entire movie was their name, THE BEATLES, ever spoken. The camera angles were mostly close-ups when they sang. We were treated to viewing every follicle and cavity. No one complained.
The songs featured in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, TELL ME WHY I’LL CRY, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, and I’M HAPPY JUST TO DANCE WITH YOU. I can hear every note in my head. It was spectacular. When Ringo had his angst moment on screen, he could show unique facial expressions mainly because he was nursing a terrible hangover from the night before. It didn’t matter. Girls believed his sad, puppy-dog eyes.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is over sixty years old, still irreverent, and as fresh as when it first came out. The film is high-spirited and pure perfection. It is charming times four, and it didn’t matter if they lacked acting chops. Their fans loved them for their music and how well they could flip their hair around as they sang hit after hit. It was overwhelming watching these 87 minutes once again after all these years, but nothing had changed. I found myself smiling, laughing, dancing, and nodding my head just like I did decades ago. THE BEATLES are timeless. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is a classic that can be relived and treasured forever. Gosh, I wish I still had my BEATLE cards. I would slip Paul’s under my pillow every night.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is available to stream on HBO MAX.