A Hard Day’s Night

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What would it feel like to be famous?

Come on, admit it, you’ve fantasized about the idea.  Wouldn’t it be fun and exhilarating as well as surreal?  Along the way you’d realize fame is a prison of sorts, from which you’d desperately want to break free. All of that is in A Hard Day’s Night.

The Beatles were suddenly among the most famous people in the world. A year earlier they were a regionally-known British band trying to make it big, but in early 1964 they went directly from their wildly successful American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show to shooting this movie.  The schedule was rushed and the budget was low because of worries that their fame would be fleeting.  Black and white film was used to keep costs down. Director Richard Lester had the idea of utilizing hand-held cameras to capture the frenzy around The Beatles. Scriptwriter Alun Owen spent a few days with the band and realized their lives were “a train and a car and a room and a room and a room.” Because none of them were actors, they were told simply to be themselves when the cameras rolled.

The result is cimema verite, a piece of movie magic that feels real.  When The Beatles break free and goof around to Can’t Buy Me Love, we believe that’s who they really were.  In 1964 there was nobody else like The Beatles, and all that coolness and exuberance comes through again and again in this movie.  A year later the prison of fame would have closed enough for them to title their follow-up movie Help! A decade and a half later fame would take the life of the band’s leader.  But in 1964 it was all great fun and this movie is pure joy to watch.