A Hard Day’s Night Film Turns 50

I don’t know about you guys, but I had never seen A Hard Day’s Night all of the way through until recently. The opening scene is iconic — John, Paul, George and Ringo dashing through a train station as screaming hordes of female fans chase close behind — but the plot of the film is, well, less so. Only bits and pieces stand out: some ribbing of Paul’s oddball grandfather, George’s future wife Pattie Boyd being chatted up by Paul on the train, Ringo going missing before the concert.

But compared to the three other Beatlemania movies that followed (Help! in 1965, Magical Mystery Tour in 1967 and Yellow Submarine in 1968), A Hard Day’s Night has an especially earnest, straightforward charm that sets it apart. They’re so young, and so green! One gets the feeling that even in the midst of their exploding fame, these four still don’t quite understand what all of the hullaballoo is about.

What I also find intriguing about this film is the myriad of successors it launched in terms of pop band members playing themselves and embarking on various wacky adventures, including The Monkees, Spice World, S Club 7 in Miami (yes, I was a ’90s kid and admit to watching this show religiously — Linda Blair played the band’s landlord!). But A Hard Day’s Night was arguably the first big success of this genre, and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch.

And I wonder, with this being the first film that The Beatles made together, did their “characters” more closely match their personalities than the films to follow? Or were they more manufactured, as the band was still firmly under the thumb of studio bigwigs at the time, and decidedly less experimental? Either way, I enjoyed the heck out of them. I found their frequent awkward laughter endearing.

beatles starring in hard days night pster The Beatles A Hard Days Night Film Turns 50Justin Gerber (JG): I think their Beatle personas stayed the same throughout the rest of their films. There was the wily, unpredictable Lennon, likeable Paul, quiet George, and goofy Ringo. Although the least popular of the bunch (but really, is there an unpopular Beatle?), Ringo is easily the best actor. He steals every scene he’s in with his out-of-control dancing and, most notably, the iconic sequence of John, Paul, and George descending after a high jump during “Can’t Buy Me Love”, while little Richard Starkey can only manage a little leap off the ground. The film does a good job of showcasing him as the typical put-upon, insecure drummer, no thanks to Paul’s weird Grandpa John. The actor in that role (Wilfrid Brambell) was only 30 years older than McCartney at the time, but the math checks out, I suppose.

The older I get, the more I appreciate just how off-the-wall and non-mainstream A Hard Day’s Night really is. I agree, Leah, that their awkward laughter really sells how likeable they were. For instance, there’s Ringo’s unnatural laugh at his own joke in the train car, which is followed shortly thereafter by Lennon’s strange blinking at the stuffy man sitting beside him. I think The Beatles were hip enough to realize how ridiculous it was that they were starring in a major film and were just going to enjoy the ride- embracing the fact they were movie stars for the time being. This could have been another KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, but fortunately the band had more than enough charisma and were deprecating enough to sell the ever-loving hell out of it.

As much fun as the movie is, does anyone else get a little sad at not only how young they all were, but how happy they all were? They were less than five years away from falling apart, and only we know it watching the movie decades later.