Saturday, November 10, 2012

#817. A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Directed By: Richard Lester

Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Tag line: "Soaring in their first, full-length, hilarious, action-packed film!"

Trivia:  The Beatles record producer George Martin got an Academy Award nomination for his music score in the movie, but The Beatles themselves weren't nominated for their music

Richard Lester directs the Beatles in their first motion picture, a groundbreaking rock and roll film that’s both funny and a whole lot of fun.

The story, flimsy though it is, concerns a day in the life of the rock and roll band The Beatles, or, more specifically, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. As A Hard Day's Night opens, the fab four are dodging a throng of their fans who’ve come out to the train station to see them off. Once the quartet is safely on board, Paul introduces his bandmates to his grandfather (Wilfred Brambill), who’s decided to tag along with them. The boys spend most of the trip getting into trouble, much to the chagrin of their manager, Norm (Norman Rossington), his assistant, Shake (John Junkin), and a television director (Victor Spinetti) who’s trying, in vain, to put on a live show.

But as problematic as The Beatles are to the powers-that-be, that’s how annoying Paul’s grandfather is to them, pitting one against the other, stealing Ringo’s invitation to a posh casino, and selling counterfeit autographed pictures of the boys to their adoring fans. Grandfather even convinces Ringo to go for a long walk a mere 45 minutes before their TV show is scheduled to air!

Many of the Beatles’ early hits are here, including the title number, as well as All My Loving, and I Want to Hold Your Hand. An obvious influence on the music video craze that reached its zenith in the 1980s, A Hard Day’s Night builds to a frantic pace whenever a new song is playing, showing its four stars running down the street to escape overzealous fans or, in one of my favorite scenes, just plain acting crazy in the middle of a park as Can’t Buy Me Love fills the soundtrack.

Jammed with plenty of cinematic gags (portions of the above-mentioned Can’t Buy Me Love number play out at double-speed), A Hard Day’s Night was made when the fab four were at the height of their popularity, and on the cusp of becoming pop icons. Clearly, the lads had a great time making this film, and their unbridled optimism spills right off the screen in just about every sequence and lands directly in the audience’s lap.

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