Over five decades after its release, The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night has aged very well, and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre, and even rock music. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of musical movies.
When it opened in September 1964, many critics attended the viewing, prepared to condemn, but the movie could not be disregarded. The Beatles were already a huge phenomenon, but not yet the icons they would soon become. It was clear from the onset that this movie was very different from anything audiences had ever seen. It was wickedly smart, it didn’t take itself too seriously, and it was brilliantly shot and edited by Richard Lester in black-and-white, in a semi-documentary style that followed the boys during 36 hours in their lives.
The lads play an augmented version of themselves (John was more caustic, Paul more boyishly charming, etc.), and the result is a representation of Beatlemania magnified. They are chased through train stations, down streets, and limo-driven from one hotel to the next – how could they not fall back on each other for comfort? And of course, inevitable hijinks ensue. Part of the brash humor of this flick is that it is not the members of the Beatles themselves, but Paul’s “grandfather” who causes most of the trouble. He hilariously pops up through the stage, disappears quite frequently, and creates chaos for all. Especially poor Ringo, who Grandad sends off to “parade” on his own in a sulk, after telling him he has a “hideously huge hooter.” Very slapstick-like comedy, reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy, or Jerry Lewis.
Musically, the Beatles represented a much-needed and liberating break away from 50s rock. The film is chock full of great songs, including I Should Have Known Better, Can’t Buy Me Love, If I Fell, All My Loving, Happy Just to Dance With You, She Loves You, and others, including the title song A Hard Day’s Night, inspired by a remark from Ringo and written overnight by the team of Lennon and McCartney.
In my opinion, this movie ticks all the boxes. John gets most of the best lines, and his faces are superbly classic. He can say more with just one look than most people can with 1000 words. That being said, I’d sit, and watch John Lennon recite the phone book for 87 minutes – yes, I’m that big of a fan. My favorite scene is one where George is trying to teach Shake how to shave with a safety razor using a mirror, and John is behind them, sitting in the bathtub full of bubbles, playing with a toy boat, and singing “Old Britannia.” Hilarious scene.
This movie was truly a true pleasure the first time I saw it as a child, and it’s still a complete and total joy to watch. I still get the same goosebumps every time, and I watch it often. For their inaugural offering, the Beatles hit it out of the park.
Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].