Grandma Josie would sleep over and sneak in bags of cookies and candy (the fruit-flavored marshmallows were my favorite) for us to munch while we watched the movies on TV, late-night commercials and all. Mom and Dad usually came home by the time A Hard Day’s Night started, and they’d insist that it was long past my bedtime, even for a weekend night. This is why I never saw the whole movie from start to finish until I was in my teens, but it was worth the wait, quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite movies!
A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)
The charm of The Fab Four certainly got them plenty of got mileage from their fame, and even from other new stars in their wake ; hey, the newbies had to eat, too! But while John, Paul, George and Ringo had plenty of star power and wit, it sure didn’t hurt to have a delightful supporting cast, including:
|"So far, I've seen a car and a room, and a TRAIN and a room, |
and a ROOM and a room!"
Wilfrid Brambell as Paul's (other) grandfather was ostensibly the film's star, at the time the star of Steptoe and Son, Britain's hottest sitcom, which would come to America years later, with a minor casting change, as Sanford and Son. The running joke about Paul's grandfather being so "clean" was a play off S&S' catchphrase of the elder Mr. Steptoe being a "FILTHY old man!"
Victor Spinetti is a hoot as the frustrated TV director desperately trying to rein in the chaos of the loveable lads - he'd have better luck lassoing smoke. He swings between boisterous demands for obedience, offers to resign, or fears that if it doesn't go perfectly, he'll end up directing something useless like The Epilogue, (the BBC's traditional end of the broadcast day), or worse, News in Welsh.
Anna Quayle (Chitty Bang Bang-Bang) as a daft fan who John has to convince he's not really him. Eventually she walks away convinced "You don't look like him all like him at all.." Lennon ad-libs "She looks more like him than I do."
Norman Rossington and John Junkin as the band's frenzied manager Norm and his kindly but "always taller than me" assistant Shake.
The structure of the film is simple, more of a simple skeleton to hang dialogue and wild vignettes on. The Beatles glide merrily though the landscape, a mix of equal parts Marx Brothers, Bugs Bunny, and the Mynah Bird from the Chuck Jones "Inki" cartoons, sowing disarray in their wake. They are matched only by Paul's Grandfather, sent along to distract him from a broken heart, but spends his time setting various people against each other and enjoying the sparks.
The mayhem starts fast, with The Boys being chased through town (in a sequence that's STILL being copied and "homaged" to this day), ending up on the train to London where the Fab Four (I'm gonna run out of names for these guys any time time now, you know) play merry hell with a stiff-necked Middle-Class City-worker (played by Richard Vernon, who played the man from the treasury in Goldfinger, and years later, Slartibartfast in the TV version of The Hitchhikers' Guide To the Galaxy).
Reporter: Tell me, how did you find America?
John: Turn left at Greenland.
Reporter: Do you think those haircuts have come to stay?
Ringo: Well, this one has, it's stuck on good and proper now (tugs at hair).
Reporter: What would you call that hairstyle?
George: (deadpan) Arthur.
(That's likely the second tip of the hat to mad magazine in the film - Shake is reading the paperback Son of MAD earlier in the movie, and "Arthur" was the name is am avocado plant that popped up inexplicably in the background of many of the proceedings in the magazine.)
|"I now declare this bridge open"|
George spends a few minutes scuttling the plans of a marketing whiz (Kenneth Haigh) who he tells that his shirt designs are "dead grotty" and their teen spokewoman Susan is: " A well-known drag"
Ringo "goes parading before it's too late" at Grandpa's urging, and delivers a sad sack mini-performance that would rival Jackie Gleason. Though it's reported that his dour and pained expression wasn't acting - he was nursing a massive hangover from a hard day's night of drinking the night before! Maybe that's why Ringo felt pick-on, and not sly Grandfather getting "notions" -- but it's still great fun, with the finale with the lads getting our lads scramlbling all over London!
|Shake never learned to shave with a razor, coming from|
"a long line of electricians"
As befits the biggest name of the film, Brambell gets the most "plot" of the film as "Lord" John Mccartney. He's responsible for inspiring Ringo to go walkabout, and after collecting all the boys' signatures, forges himself a stack of autographed photos and gets in dutch with the peelers, ending up on the booking bench next to young Mr. Starkey. He's the closest the film has to an antagonist - indeed, Paul refers to him as a "villain" right near the beginning. Once the boys are collected up again (just in time) for the show, the film turns into a mini-concert as they perform before a teeming throng of British youth, which allegedly includes a very young Phil "No Jacket Required" Collins. It's sort of a thank you to the viewers for sitting through all the narrative, which hopefully by the end they ended up enjoying. I certainly did.
The Beatles were dragged back before the cameras only a year later for their second film. A bigger budget, more locations, more stars, but the same director, Richard Lester. Lester had experience capturing chaos in a film can - he did The Running Jumping Standing Still Film, starring The Goons (Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan), who were greatly revered by the Liverpudlian Lads.
Now filming in color, and offering a bit more defined plot, the film still offered more than enough room for wackiness and Beatleific behavior.
Thugees. The proceedings are halted as the less-than-willing subject is not wearing the sacrificial ring - she secretly mailed to a pop-star in Britain with a predilection for rings, named...? Anyone?
Now, let's not always see the same hands...
Yes, Ringo ends up with the McGuffin stuck on his finger, and gets chased throughout the film by High Priest Clang played by Leo McKern (The Prisoner, Rumpole of the Bailey) and his bevy of assassins, headed (or perhaps hindered) by Ahme, played by Eleanor Bron (Bedazzled). Ringo tries all sort of things to get the ring off, eventually entering the grasping hands of Professor Foot (the returning Victor Spinetti) and his hapless assistant Algernon Roy Kinnear (Williy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Foot sees the seemingly indestructible ring as a means to...dare I say it...rule the world - perhaps he was thinking of a certain other Ring.
|This was Eleanor Bron's first film - she'd go on to be|
one of Britain's grand dames of comedy
As with the first film, the boys have unique and individual personalities, a practice applied to almost all pop bands in the 60's onward. Paul is (of course) the dashing lady-killer, George the quiet one, though able to deliver the occasional stinging barb, John the inscrutable trickster god, and Ringo the hapless boob. Indeed, it's Ringo's cowardice that causes the ring to "cling to your finger like the hunger of a child"
Quite a few more stars of British comedy make a showing in the film. In addition to the aforementioned, we see Patrick Cargill (Father Dear Father, and another Number Two on The Prisoner) as the Superintendent of Police and a master of mimicry, and Alfie Bass (The Lavender Hill Mob, The Army Game) as the doorman of an Indian restaurant (thank god for British unions).
The film jumps about from the Alps to the Bahamas, for little reason other than the lads had never been there and asked for scenes there so they could get a vacation in. While in the Alps, the mentioned they'd never been skiing - Richard Lester pressed skis and poles into their hands, telling them to "find a hill and practice". He filmed the results, which became much of the meat of the Ticket to Ride sequence.
|In a gag worthy of The Goons, Clang packs up the entire temple |
in crates and ships it to the Bahamas, cause
The Beatles wanted a holiday.