Back from their triumphant first visit to the United States, the Beatles faced a deadline for producing another album, this time a tie-in with a feature film. This necessitated immediate recording of some songs for the soundtrack, followed by filming for the movie and more recording to fill out the album. Despite the harsh time pressures, the Beatles even found time for a few live gigs and several BBC-TV and radio appearances. This album, the only one that exclusively featured Lennon and McCartney originals, proved a huge success. It was in fact a tour de force for Lennon since he wrote the vast majority of the songs. In addition, A Hard Day's Night heralded the Beatles' increasingly more sophisticated use of the studio.
UNITED KINGDOM: Released July 10, 1964, it was No. 1 five days later, and remained so for twenty-one weeks, until it was knocked off by Beatles for Sale. The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles
UNITED STATES: A version of the album was released June 26, 1964. By late July it was No. 1 on the album chart, where it stayed for fourteen weeks. It was one of the fastest-selling albums in history, and sold two million copies by October.
The U.S. version, released by United Artists, contained only eight Beatles performances - the seven used in the film (the first seven on the U.K. release) and "I'll Cry Instead" (with an extra verse), which was dropped from the film. The other four selections were George Martin orchestrations of Beatles songs. The U.K. version contained another five Beatles performances instead of the orchestrations; in the United States Capitol used three of them on Something New. The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles
The songs were basically recorded in two batches: songs for the film, February 25 through March 1, and most of the rest June 1 and 2. Exceptions are noted under individual song entries. Recording
Starr collapsed on the morning of June 3.... The Complete Beatles Chronicle
He was discharged June 11, after missing performances in Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Australia.
Harrison used a Rickenbacker 360/12 (12-string) guitar throughout most of the sessions. Guitar (November 1987)
"We have to produce six numbers for a film, but we haven't even written one yet! Now we are trying to get a piano into the hotel room and get down to work." (January 14, 1963) The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
The title came from something Ringo said to describe a particularly heavy night. Beatles Monthly (February 1965)
Lennon later used the phrase in his short story "Sad Michael," part of the In His Own Write collection of writings. The story contains the line: "He'd had a hard day's night that day, for Michael was a Cocky Watchtower."
McCARTNEY: "The title was Ringo's We'd almost finished making the film and this fun bit arrived that we'd not known about before which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session; director Dick Lester, us, Walter Shenson, Bud Ornstein and some other people were sitting around trying to come up with something and we said, 'Well, there was something Ringo said the other day . . .' Ringo would do these little malapropisms, he would say things slightly wrong, like people do, but his were always wonderful, very lyrical, very Lewis Carroll, lovely. They were sort of magic even though he was just getting it wrong. And he said after a concert, 'Phew, it's been a hard day's night.' John and I went, 'What? What did you just say?' He said, 'I'm bloody knackered, man, it's been a hard day's night.' 'Hard day's night! Fucking brilliant! How does he think of 'em? Woehayy!' So that came up in this brain-storming session, something Ringo said, 'It was a hard day's night.'
"There was one objection to it. Somebody said, 'Well, it's a bit like Long Day's Journey Into Night.' We said, 'Who knows that? Who's ever heard of that, it's a classical play, innit? None of our fans will have gone.' We knew we were pretty safe on that. So that was it, we adopted that as the title and everyone agreed that it was wacky yet it said it. It wasn't too wacky, it wasn't gobbledygook. Of course it got changed around the world. In Italy it became Tutti per uno (All for One) and in France it became Quatre Garcons dans le vent (Four Boys in the Wind). Very nice that one. We enjoyed seeing how they would retitle it in different countries." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
LENNON: "We'd all been batting suggestions around for titles. None of us really cared for the original plan to call it Beatlemania. We wanted something a bit crazier. George came in with It's A Daft, Daft, Daft, Daft World and Paul said, 'I like Oh, What A Lovely Wart.' At that stage, Ringo's idea was to call it simply The Beatles In A Kind Of Film. Anyway, we had a few giggles over some more suggestions, which you certainly couldn't use and then we shelved it." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
STARR: "We went to do a job and we worked all day and we happened to work all night and I came out still thinking it was day, and I said to the others, 'It's been a hard day,' looked around, found it was dark and said, 'Night'. So that's how we came to A Hard Day's Night." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
LENNON: "Late one night, when we were all pretty tired after a heavy day, somebody said, 'We've had a hard day.' Ringo followed up with, 'A hard day? Look at the clock. You mean a hard day's night, don't you?' We all looked at each other and said, 'That's it. That's the title we've been after.'" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
This was the first album to consist entirely of self-composed Beatles compositions.
McCARTNEY: "It didn't seem like pressure. It was - I suppose you'd have to think it was but I don't remember it being a pressure. It was fun, it was great. I always liken songwriting to a conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Now you see it, now you don't. If I now pick up a guitar and start to conjure something out of the air, there's a great magic about it. Where there was nothing, now there is something. Where there was a white sheet of paper, there's a page we can read. Where there was no tune and no lyrics, there's now a song we can sing! That aspect of it made it a lot of fun. We'd be amazed to see what kind of rabbit we'd pulled out that day.
"It was a very satisfying thing. We knew they were good. People used to say to us, 'Are you conceited?' It's a very difficult question, that, because I'd have to answer yes, because I think we are good, and that actually amounts to conceit, doesn't it? But I'd be stupid to say we weren't because it's so obvious that this is good stuff, and it's number one everywhere so somebody's buying it." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
In the autumn of 1963 United Artists discovered that EMI had neglected to cover film soundtracks in their contract with the Beatles. Though the Beatles had not yet broken in the USA, their popularity in Britain was phenomenal and the idea of a quick exploitation movie, coupled with a soundtrack album, made considerable economic sense to them. As UA expected the Beatles to be a flash in the pan, they wanted the film out on release by July 1964 and made as cheaply as possible; the production budget was L150,000, later rising to L175,000. The producer Walter Shenson's brief from United Artists was simple: 'We need a film for the express purpose of getting a soundtrack album. Just make sure there are enough new songs for a soundtrack album and don't go over budget.' Bud Ornstein, the European head of production for United Artists, tried to get A Hard Day's Night made in colour but fortunately UA would not risk spending the extra money so it had to be black and white.
McCARTNEY: "It was the only colour it could have been, it would have been crap in colour. They gave us colour for Help! and it wasn't anywhere near as good a film."
Shenson, a Californian producer living in London, had co-produced a hit with The Mouse That Roared in 1959 and had been in the business for some time. He was prepared to give the Beatles 25 per cent of the net income from the film so he was overjoyed when Brian Epstein naively opened their business negotiation by saying, 'I must warn you now, I'm not prepared to settle for less than 7 1/2 per cent.' Shenson also very cleverly recognised that the Beatles would be around for a long time, so he got UA and the other parties to agree that all rights to the film would revert to him after fifteen years. When Beatlemania became an international phenomenon, Bud Ornstein pre-empted any complaints by voluntarily increasing Brian Epstein's share of the agreement to 20 per cent, demonstrating what a bad deal it was in the first place.
Walter Shenson says it was Paul who suggested Alun Owen as the scriptwriter for the Beatles' first film. It was an inspired idea: Owen, a Liverpudlian Welshman, was a pioneer of the kitchen-sink school of television drama. He had written plays for Joan Littlewood's company and for the Dublin Theatre Festival. His work was realistic, gritty, full of working-class sympathies; and of all the scriptwriters in Britain he was probably the best able to capture the speech patterns and wit of the Beatles.
McCARTNEY: "The nice thing about A Hard Day's Night was that there were very good people involved in it: Dick Lester, who made The Running Jumping Standing Still Film with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, producer Walter Shenson and Alun Owen. They called in Alun Owen, who had written No Trams To Lime Street with Billie Whitelaw, which we'd seen on telly and was like an early Bleasdale or Willy Russell. It was a sort of kitchen-sink Liverpool thing. Billie Whitelaw's always in some sort of weird, rather well-though-of play, she's built a whole thing like that. So Alun was a good choice and Alun was from Wales, and it's often said that Liverpool is the capital of Wales, there are so many Welsh people there.
"Alun came and hung around with us for a few days, which was an idea we'd picked up from Life magazine, who did it. I remember Brian saying, 'You can get eight pages in Life magazine. Think of what that'll do for the American tour!' For some little English group to get eight pages in Life magazine; I mean, Life magazine was almost like the Bible. But they said we had to have the journalist and the photographer hang around with us for a few days, and we said, 'Doesn't matter. We're only going to Bournemouth, and then we're going to Coventry, then we're in the bus. We'll play cards with them or we'll have a drink with them, whatever.' It was easy to have people hang with you if you didn't have any particular social scene, no family with you.
"The journalist Michael Braun wrote a book, Love Me Do: The Beatles' Progress, after he'd hung with us, so this became the way to do it. When it came time to do A Hard Day's Night, we just applied the same idea. They'd hang with you and pick up the feel then they'd go away and write the story and they always wrote something cool because they'd got our sense of humour or they saw we were tongue in cheek. It wasn't just a po-faced group and a handout, it was something more alive, and that was what we were about. Our whole gig was to shake down the temple with our native wit and our blunt remarks. Blunt northern humour!
"So Alun came around with us and picked up all the little things like 'He's very clean, isn't he?' or we would tell him, 'Oh, we met a guy the other day . . .' because we did actually meet a guy on a train who said, 'I fought in the war for people like you.' And it eventually found its way into the film. We knew what was going on. This was a writer who'd written something real good for the Beeb. He was a kind of street writer, quite exciting, and so we knew enough to try and pump him full with every good story we could think of. The more we told him, the more of us he'd get in it, which is always a good thing, it would just reflect back. We could play it easier, we could identify with it all easier, and this was our first film."
No rock group had ever successfully made the transition from the stage to the screen so no one was expecting a miracle. Since the Beatles had no acting experience, it was decided early on to have them play themselves in a light-hearted comedy, based fairly closely on their actual life on the road but with surreal touches. Alun Owen was astonished at how little freedom they had on the road. 'At no time could they enjoy their success,' he commented. Confined to hotel rooms and limousines, thrown together with their aides and management, he saw them as prisoners of their own success, trapped by fame, free only when actually performing. He made this the story line, constructing a convincing, though fictional, film portrait. (In fact some of the sequences in it were real: when fans broke a security barrier and the Beatles ran for their lives, Lester filmed the whole thing and used the footage in the actual film.)
The director Richard Lester described the structure of the film:
In the first third or half of the film, all the scenes would be in close confinement and that a certain point they were going to break out, rip off down the fire escape and escape from their own success. Now whatever we did had to lead to that, whatever scenes took place had to fit that rhythm and that's why there was a careful build-up. The script taht Alun Owen wrote produced that movement toward a series of emotional climaxes.
No one, including the Beatles themselves, knew if they would be any good before the cameras so Owen took no chances, relying heavily on action shots and short lines so that they did not have to memorise much dialogue. It is for this reason that the film is often cited as the precursor of MTV and rock videos with its fast cutting and sound bites.
DICK LESTER: "The script was very cleverly written so that there was never a time where any one person had too much to say before someone else said something. They were sound bites. One-line gags or a little speech which could be cut away from."
McCARTNEY: "He put in a few little things that we wouldn't have put in, little Irishisms like 'It's me neb'; Ringo would have never called his nose his 'neb', that was Alun thinking what a Liverpool guy might have said. And 'grotty' was a word none of us used, but that became very big. Grotesque - grotty. I think he made it up for the film. It's a good film. It's very much the period but it's well made, it's well photographed, it's fresh and it was good doing that with good writers and a good team." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
LENNON: "I dug A Hard Day's Night, although Alun Owen only came with us for two days before he wrote the script. He invented that word 'grotty' - did you know that? We thought the word was really weird, and George curled up with embarrassment every time he had to say it. But it's part of the language now - you hear society people using it. Amazing." Beatles in Their Own Words
Owen himself claimed that 'grotty' was Liverpool slang, but taht when he showed the script to the Beatles, none of them had ever heard the term before. The film soon caused it to enter the national vocabularly, regardless. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
Filming of the movie began March 2, 1964, at Twickenham Studios. George met Patti Boyd, his future wife, on the first day; she was an extra in the film and can be seen in the dining car scene. Filming ended April 24. The Complete Beatles Chronicle
"There's something else that we will be putting our heart and soul into it, and that's our first feature film. I can't tell you just how much we're interested in it, suggesting things for the story and so on." (January 1963) The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
November 7, 1963: Following the completion of a deal with United Artists, the 37-year-old screenwriter and former actor, Alun Owen, boards a plane for Dublin, where he will meet The Beatles for the first time, and obtain ideas for the script of The Beatles' first big-screen feature film . . .
ALUN OWEN: "It's important to get the know The Beatles, to find out what exactly makes them tick, and also to ascertain which things cause those fantastic crowd receptions.
"I liked them as soon as I met them. They're my kind of people. They are much more amusing and fantastic off-stage than on. I had to get to know them pretty well to write this film and that's what really made my mind up how to write it. In real life, The Beatles are surrounded by fantasy. Fantastic things happen to them all the time, like the time the girl fell on her knees before them. She was a parlour maid in a hotel in Dublin where The Beatles and I were staying. She had brought in a tray of coffee and cakes in a nice normal, sensible fashion, walking across the room and setting down the tray. Suddenly, she flung off her crap, dropped to her knees and cried, 'I'm going to pray for you, boys! I'm going to pray for you!' They weren't shocked. They didn't laugh. They weren't embarrassed. Paul just helped her to her feet and talked to her as if they had been nicely introduced at a party." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
RICHARD LESTER: "The writer Alun Owen, Walter Shenson and I went to Paris where The Beatles were doing their Olympia concerts. We watched them in their hotel rooms at the George V, and their behaviour was extraordinary. In other words, they were prisoners of their success." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
RICHARD LESTER: "They had come to Paris, I believe that none of them had been to Paris before, they saw the back door of the Olympia and they went to their hotel rooms. They stayed there, sandwiches were brought to them and a screenplay began to form in our minds because we were watching this happen and because we all wanted to make this documentary, or a fictional lives documentary. All we were doing was trying to keep our eyes open." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
March 2, 1964: At Paddington Station in London, at 8:30am, just minutes after joining the actors' union Equity, The Beatles began filming their, as yet untitled, first feature film.
BRIAN EPSTEIN: "I had the original idea for a film last July. I wanted Alun Owen to write the story. The Beatles were very excited about the idea. They just couldn't get over it. Also around this time, Noel Rogers, a top London music publisher, had the idea of putting The Beatles on the screen, too. He then talked with George Ornstein, the British production head of the Hollywood company United Artists, who, in turn, had talks in New York, which were given a quick OK. Then, Rogers was introduced to me. I wanted Alun Owen to write the script, and we held our first talks about the film in a coffee bar in Liverpool, over the road from my office in Liverpool. By September, the film company, United Artists, had made a deal with Owen, and we had begun." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
WALTER SHENSON: "The script was written by Alun Owen after he'd spent a weekend with them up in Dublin, Ireland, when they were on a concert tour. By being with them for a weekend, he got to know them a little bit, and wrote the story he wanted to write and gave each Beatle the character he thought they should have. But, by spending such a short time with them, he didn't get to know them that well. During the filming, we began to see other characteristics that one had which another didn't. But basically, Alun's script is the one we used." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
BRIAN EPSTEIN: "I felt all along that it would be wrong to use Liverpool as the only location for the film. Now that they've such wide appeal all over the world, I'm thankful the location isn't confined to just one place." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
ALUN OWEN: "While I was thinking about the film, the whole thing exploded for them in America. There was then pressure to make it a big budget film and shoot it in colour, but we resisted because we saw it as a black and white subject, rather like a French nouvelle vogue film, if you like." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
WALTER SHENSON: "They filmed in black and white because The Beatles are pretty well black and white characters themselves. We didn't intend to play up one of the boys more than any other. We find that, in real life, they tend to 'feed' each other and work as a team. It took me a while to realise that The Beatles have a way of showing whether or not they like you. For example, I must have been with them for, at least, two weeks before I realised that they were sending me up. But, later on, of course, I realised that this was a form of flattery, because I noticed that the people they didn't particularly get along with, they just ignored. They used to imitate my American accent, and made several references to the fact that I'm losing my hair. I couldn't make the same references to theirs!" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
ALUN OWEN: "Originally, I wanted the boys living it up in fancy costumes, with airy, fairy themes. Yes, I had very firm ideas about the story, but I had to change it when I had spent time with The Beatles. Their life is far more fantastic than anything I could dream up.
"I was aware that The Beatles weren't actors, so I didn't give them long speeches. They spoke in sentences of five or six words each. Later on, I saw that John would have been quite capable of something more. He, in particular, is great. In all these years that I've been connected with the theatre, I have never known anyone to do an audition at first sight the way he did. He didn't just read the script the first time that he saw it, he acted it all over the floor. A marvellous performance." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
BRIAN EPSTEIN: "I think that it's possible John will emerge from this as a very promising actor indeed!"
ALUN OWEN: "The story just covers a day and a night as The Beatles set out from Liverpool by train one morning for a big engagement in London. There isn't time for romance. What Paul says to the girl is used to reveal another bit of his character. That's what I've tried to do throughout the film, you know, show The Beatles as they really are. It's just a simple little story about The Beatles being The Beatles." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
RICHARD LESTER: "The biggest problem was the logistical difficulty in getting The Beatles from wherever they were living to where we were going to film and guarantee their safety. We had reasonable police co-operation in some instances and absolutely none in others. There were large areas of London that we would have liked to have filmed, but they just said, 'Don't bring those people on the streets because it will create a problem that is insurmountable.' As it, in fact, did. I must say, we used the old Scala Theatre and it did produce the most enormous traffic problems, and the police were most reasonable. Most of the location shooting was done in one take with usually 2,000 kids blocking all the entrances and exits. The police usually told us to go away, so we had to go and find another street.
"The whole first sequence of the film was set on the train and we hired this train from British Rail, at a cost of L800 a day, and we went to, I think, Taunton and back every day. We just drove back and turned everyone so they faced the other way, so it didn't look like it was shot by shot, there was some piece of continuity going on." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
HARRISON: "We travelled 2,400 miles in all. I counted 'em! But I don't mind that bit, it's just this business of getting up early. Usually, after a job, we don't get up until around 1pm. We're really night owls, but this early bit just kills us." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
RICHARD LESTER: "We'd always come back and we had to drop The Beatles off in fields, where cars would meet them. We had a mole in our production crew who was handing out details of our schedule to the fans. On the first day, due to the number of fans present and the urgency of getting started on the film, I ended up shooting some of the sequences myself. The continuity woman on the film said all of the stuff we were filming was all wrong, and it just wouldn't cut right. So she threatened to quit on the second day if things did not improve.
"We had a clapper loader on the film who looked young, had Beatles' length hair, dressed like them and had just finished his first day's filming and was naturally very pleased. We gave him all the film tins that we'd shot that day. He could just about see over the top of the tins and was smiling as he got off the train at Euston station and was attacked by about 4,000 people. The film fell everywhere as he ran for his life. It was a case of survival, but we lost two thirds of the first day's filming. Film spilt everywhere, some even going underneath the train." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
McCARTNEY: "To celebrate the first day's shooting, Walter Shenson gave us a bottle of champagne and we, in turn, gave a glass to the members of the film unit, which numbered almost 50!" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
A Hard Day's Night publicity director TONY HOWARD: "Everything was laid on by the film company to make The Beatles' filming as comfortable as possible. Excellent menus were prepared by the chefs on the train and, one day, they offered a varied choice of food, including roast pork and apple sauce, ice cream melba and cheese and coffee. The boys are real professionals and have taken their film directions in a willing and easy-going manner. They arrived at Paddington station at 8am and the filming on the train ran right through to 7pm." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
RICHARD LESTER: "Due to the agreement with the American soundtrack album, where United Artists had all of the rights, the company was in profit with A Hard Day's Night before we had even finished shooting. The Beatles often forgot to bring their scripts with them. They would usually leave them in cars or nightclubs. A Hard Day's Night was unscathed by marijuana, and it showed them as prisoners of their own success." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
VICTOR SPINETTI: "I was doing the musical Oh! What A Lovely War in London when The Beatles came to see me. John came up to me after the show and said, 'Aye, Vic. You've got to be in our film.' George also came up to me and added his persuasion about appearing in their films. He said, 'You've got to be in all of our films Vic, because, if you're not in 'em, me mom won't come and see 'em, 'cos she fancies you.' And that was it. I then met the producer and that's how I got in A Hard Day's Night. Anyway, it was easy for me because I was a fan of The Beatles and I loved their music.
"On the first day of shooting, I walked on to the set and we started to talk, and it was as if we had known each other for all of our lives. Richard Lester had four or five cameras working at once, just to catch them looking natural. We'd be talking in a scene and a cameraman would suddenly crawl between your legs with a hand-held camera, and you would just keep on going.
"They didn't keep it to the script that much. I was on the set for rehearsals with a hairy sweater, and my line was, 'You're late for rehearsals,' and they were supposed to say, 'Sorry, sir, sorry, sir.' But they didn't do anything like that. Instead, after me saying, 'You're late, you're late for rehearsals. I'm the director of this show,' John said, 'You're not a director. You're Victor Spinetti playing the part of a TV director.' But I kept on going. So, as by the script, I continued, 'I am the director. I have an award on the wall in my office.' John then said, 'You haven't got an office. You haven't even got a dressing room!' It was the most extraordinary thing. A Hard Day's Night was exceptional. Nobody had any idea that it was going to be such a success." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
McCARTNEY: "We get up about five o'clock in the morning. It takes some doing. I never thought we would learn our lines. The idea is that we are supposed to learn them that night for the following day, but it never works out like that. We all read them frantically in the car going down to the studio. It's a bit like school. We are not really actors, you know, we're first of all singers and then musicians of sorts, and last of all actors, so we didn't really know how to act. But a lot of people on the film helped us, you know, the real actors, like Wilfred Brambell and Norman Rossington. They helped us with it and told us what to do. I just hope that people like the film and look forward to the next one, like we do." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
WILFRED BRAMBELL: "Good lads, all of them. They don't need to act in this film. They just play their own everyday selves as The Beatles. They're so natural that working with them is like working with long-experienced actors. Except that these boys bring in a freshness and an enthusiasm we don't find in the business these days." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
McCARTNEY: "Wilfred Brambell was great. The only terrible thing for us was that Wilfred kept forgetting his lines. We couldn't believe it! You see, we expected all the actors to be very professional and word perfect. We couldn't imagine that an actor like Wilfred could ever do a thing like forget his lines. So, we were very shocked and embarrassed by this." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
LENNON: "I wish he (Wilfred Brambell) would stop trying to kiss me!" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
WILFRED BRAMBELL: "They brought me into their generation without me asking. I stepped back and thought, 'They're young enough to be my grandsons.' I was cast as Paul's grandfather and, before the film started, John said to me, 'Your part is Paul's grandfather, so stop pretending you're not old enough to be it!' The first time I heard The Beatles was on Housewives Choice (a BBC Light Programme show) and the first time I met them was on a sound radio show and they were utterly charming and they asked me for my autograph. Don't tell them, but I wasn't quite sure who they were! It was moments later that I thought, 'Oh Lord! It's The Beatles!'" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
NORMAN ROSSINGTON: "It's refreshing to work with the lads. We've had a tremendous amount of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Some of the comedy has come in surprising places that weren't planned in the script, but what can you expect? No one could hope to keep a firm control over John, Paul, George and Ringo. One at a time maybe, but not when they are all together, and loose on a film location. They've got such a magnificent disrespect for convention and authority. But mark you, they never take liberties that might hurt you or upset anybody.
"When we actually started shooting, they all started acting reasonably differently, but Paul was the most self-conscious, for what reason I don't know, of course. Whenever he had a close-up to do, you could see he was a little troubled and withdrawn about it, but he did master it after a while. John, on the other hand, just shouted everything and fooled around generally, pulled faces and made up funny faces. George and Ringo just sailed through it quite unconsciously.
"It was a marvellous idea by the producer Walter Shenson to get the American director Richard Lester to handle The Beatles' first movie. Dick Lester loathes corny situations just as much as the boys do. What's more, he likes picking up the off-the-cuff ad libbing that always occurs among actors and actresses whent he cameras stop turning. So, time and again in this movie, he ahs told the cameramen, 'Keep 'em rolling at the end of a scene.' The result has been that some mighty funny cross talk has gone into the film. Some of it will have to come out on the cutting room floor when they slice the film down to length. But there's no doubt that Dick Lester and Walter Shenson plan to retain quite a chunk of it. Goodness knows how much of his original screenplay the author, Alun Owen, will recognise when he sees the finished film." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
JOHN O'GORMAN, make-up artist for the film: "It was a terrible difficulty. It was rather like doing a make-up with a terrible hangover on someone who also had a terrible hangover and, with trying to get in the rhythm of the train, plus the usual joking of the boys in the background, it got done by a miracle every day!" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
NORMAN ROSSINGTON: "We used to stop every day in Somerset and, of course, the fans would all crowed round the windows, belt on the windows, and shout and scream, 'We love you! We love you!' One day, Ringo, instead of banging on the windows where the fans were, he went over to the other side of the coach, started banging on the windows, and started shouting, 'Cliff! Cliff!' " The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
TONY HOWARD, publicity director: "During some of the sequences (filmed on the first day), fans will see two girls on the train who realise that they are travelling with The Beatles, and who make eyes at them." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
PATTI BOYD: "I met them and they said, 'Hello.' I just couldn't believe it. They were so like how I had imagined they would be. They were just like pictures of themselves coming to life. George hardly said hello, but the others came and chatted to us. When we started filming, I could feel George looking at me and I was a bit embarrassed. Ringo seemed the nicest and easiest to talk to, and so was Paul. But I was terrified of John.
"After the first day's shooting, I asked them all for their autographs, except for John. I was too scared. When I was asking George for his, I said could he sign it for my two sisters as well. He signed his name and put two kisses each for them, but under mine he put seven kisses. I thought, 'He must like me a little.' " The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
Brian is interviewed by Alexander Walker of the Evening Standard newspaper about the film . . .
Question: "Do you keep in close touch with the film?"
EPSTEIN: "I know the script and I am informed what they will be filming each day. I visit the set once weekly."
Question: "How are The Beatles taking to film making?"
EPSTEIN: "Better than I expected."
Question: "If the film is a hit, will they make future films more as a comedy team than as an instrumental group?"
EPSTEIN: "That could be so."
Question: "Were you impatient to get them into films?"
EPSTEIN: "I had already had several offers. I accepted United Artists because they have world-wide connections. The film will be a trail-blazer in countries all around the world." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
March 31, 1964: The concert sequence is filmed at La Scala Theatre, London.
RICHARD LESTER: "We had six cameras shooting continuously and I was running between them all the time. I briefed the cameramen to pan and look for anything interesting, just like as if it was a documentary. Three of the cameramen I knew and three I didn't and because the noise was so loud, one of them lost two back teeth." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
There were problems during the filming when the secretary of the Film Arists' Association, Sean Brannigan, steps in and tells the film's production supervisor, Dennis O'Dell, "You must pay all the teenagers the rate for the job." Mr. O'Dell then decides to cut his order of extras to just 350, paying them each L3 15 shillings, the official union rate. Also locked out of the shoot, due to the discrepancy over payment, are 100 members of the Film Association, which resulted in a further 75 actors, carpenters and electricians stopping work until an agreement had been reached.
While all this commotion carries on, The Beatles are to be found backstage at La Scala, playing cards and tuning their guitars.
LENNON: "It's none of our business. I don't even know which union we're members of. I suppose if we're told to come out on strike in sympathy, we'll have to obey." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
PHIL COLLINS: "I was at a stage school, and we all got sent down to the Scala. There must have been about eighty or a hundred of us. We were sent down to scream at The Beatles, and we got paid for it! We sat there, and we didn't have to be told to scream, because they were - The Beatles!" The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
VICTOR SPINETTI: "People have often asked me what The Beatles and I used to talk about in between takes during the filming of A Hard Day's Night. Well, I remember one day I was sitting with the group backstage at La Scala behind this bit of white stuff (staging) with all these fans screaming and we'd be talking about the Freudian interpretation of dreams and what dreams meant. John would say things like, 'I wonder if Beethoven wrote any music for himself, rather than for his patron.' We had really fascinating conversations." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
April 9, 1964:
Ringo films his solo sequence for A Hard Day's Night alongside the River Thames towpath in Kew, Surrey.
STARR: "I came out of a club and was put on that canal with this kid. But I didn't even see the kid! It was just crazy. I was out of my brain. The thing was meant to be a dialogue scene, but I could not speak. I had the continuity lady shouting my lines. The kid would go, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah,' and the continuity lady would shout my lines and I'd go, 'Yeah. So, why are you off school?' We tried it several ways. So Richard Lester decided that he had to do something, so he had me walk along and it turned out like a silent movie scene. I was really dejected. I felt ready to die. Then, when the film came, they all said, 'Oh, God. Fantastic!' Well, if you just have to get out of your brain to be fantastic, it would be all right. But it doesn't really work, because you don't know what's going down. You have got to be a bit straighter than that." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
LENNON: "Well, it's as good as it can be with anybody that can't act!" (June 11, 1964) The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
STARR: "I'm honoured about being nominated as the star of The Beatles' film, but I don't believe it. John is a lot funnier than me." (July 10, 1964) The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
LENNON: "We're satisfied, but we're not self-satisfied. There's a lot which is embarrassing for us, you know. For instance, the first bit of the film is a drag as far as we're concerned because that was the first sort of acting we had done and it looks it. It stands out more than the rest of the film. The train bit embarrasses us now. I'm sure it's less noticeable to people who are just watching it in the cinema, but it is the bit we know that we are dead conscious in every move we make. We watch each other in the scene. I know Paul's embarrassed when I'm watching him speak and he knows I am as well. George has said that it would be nice to make a film without any music in it, but it's the music bit that we all enjoy.
"Paul and I enjoyed writing the music for the film, but we've always been the kind of people who didn't like musicals because there were always embarrassing parts when, all of a sudden, a song started. We tried to get away from that in our film, but we could only do it to a certain extent. We tried to get away from, all of a sudden, saying, 'How about a song?' There's even one in the film where I say the sort of American cliche, 'Say kids, why not do the show right here?' But it was a joke originally that we just threw in. Norman Rossington said it used to happen in all the old pop films. They'd be suddenly in the middle of a desert, or somewhere, and somebody would say, 'I've got a great idea kids, how about doing the show right here?' I stuck this bit in, but it doesn't work. It looks as though I meant it. It felt embarrassing to get into that number. We thought this gag line would break it down and everybody would get the joke and a number would just follow. That's probably why George doesn't want any numbers in the next film. But there will be numbers in the next film, because that's what we sell." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
HARRISON: "We like it, but we're not trying to kid ourselves that we're actors. We've seen the film and we all agree that Ringo comes out of it better than anybody. It's hilarious really, we made a lot of it up as we went along." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
McCARTNEY: "The worst thing about the film was that all of us felt that we could have been better. We were put into a picture and we weren't actors and we had to try and do it. It was a completely new medium for us. We had lines to say, whereas we've never done anything with a script. Nobody has ever written jokes for us to put into our act, even at the Palladium. John and ourselves would make up any stuff that we needed. But, in the end, all we could get into the film was a few ad-libs. I hope in the next film we'll be a bit better. We're supposed to do something early next year." The Beatles Off the Record: Outrageous Opinions & Unrehearsed Interviews
LENNON: "The story wasn't bad but it could have been better. Another illusion was that we were just puppets and that these great people, like Brian Epstein and Dick Lester, created the situation and made this whole fuckin' thing, and precisely because we were what we were, realistic. We didn't want to make a fuckin' shitty pop movie, we didn't want to make a movie that was going to be bad, and we insisted on having a real writer to write it.
"Brian came up with Alun Owen, from Liverpool, who had written a play for TV called No Trams To Lime St. Lime Street is a famous street in Liverpool where the whores used to be in the old days, and Owen was famous for writing Liverpool dialogue. We auditioned people to write for us and they came up with this guy. He was a bit phony, like a professional Liverpool man - you know like a professional American. He stayed with us two days, and wrote the whole thing based on our characters then: me, witty; Ringo, dumb and cute; George this; and Paul that.
"We were a bit infuriated by the glibness and shiftiness of the dialogue and we were always trying to get it more realistic, but they wouldn't have it. It ended up OK, but the next one was just bullshit, because it really had nothing to do with the Beatles. They just put us here and there. Dick Lester was good, he had ideas ahead of their times, like using Batman comic strip lettering and balloons.
"It was a good projection of one facade of us, which was on tour, once in London and once in Dublin. It was of us in that situation together, in a hotel, having to perform before people. We were like that. The writer saw the press conference." Beatles in Their Own Words
A Hard Day's Night was given its world premiere in London on July 6, 1964, attended by Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. The area around Picadilly Circus was closed to traffic because so many fans filled the streets. Four days later, the Beatles flew to Liverpool for the north of England premiere at the Odeon. A hundred thousand fans lined the route from the airport to welcome them.
The reviews were almost all enthusiastic. In the USA, the Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris described it as 'the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals, a brilliant crystallisation of such diverse cultural particles as the pop movie, rock 'n' roll, cinema verite, the nouvelle vague, free cinema, the affectedly hand-held camera, the cult of the sexless subadolescent, the semidocumentary, and studied spontaneity'. UA made a 200 per cent profit over investment on advance record sales before the film itself was even released. A Hard Day's Night took $8,000,000 in its first week, making it one of the most profitable films of all time. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now