I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a comedy film directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis that takes its name from the 1963 Beatles song. It was produced and co-written by Bob Gale. The film is about "Beatlemania" and is a fictionalized account of the day of the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964). It was released in 1978 by Universal Studios.
The movie was Robert Zemeckis' directorial debut. Even though the film was modestly budgeted, in order to convince Universal to bankroll the film, Steven Spielberg had to promise studio executives that, if Zemeckis was seen to be doing a markedly poor job, he would step in and direct the film himself.
Despite positive previews and critical response (The New York Times wrote that "the whole film sparkles with a boisterous lunacy" and called its plot "positively dazzling"), the film was not a financial success and was considered a flop, unable to recoup its rather modest $2.8 million budget. Zemeckis later said, "One of the great memories in my life is going to the preview. I didn't know what to expect [but] the audience just went wild. They were laughing and cheering. It was just great. Then we learned a really sad lesson....just because a movie worked with a preview audience didn't mean anyone wanted to go see it."
Over a year later, in December 1979, four of the film's stars - Bobby DiCicco, Wendie Jo Sperber, Nancy Allen and Eddie Deezen - appeared in the Spielberg-directed comedy movie 1941, which was written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis.
The time is 1964; The Beatles are about to go on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Girls are fainting during their concerts from sheer excitement at being in the same theater with them. Four Jersey girls set off to New York City to see the Beatles' Ed Sullivan show: Rosie Petrofsky (Wendie Jo Sperber) is in love with Paul, and wants to meet him in person; Grace Corrigan (Theresa Saldana), is certain that if she can get some exclusive photos of The Beatles, her career as a photographer will be secured; Pam Mitchell (Nancy Allen), who about to get married and wants to have one last night of fun before her wedding, is dragged along by Rosie and Grace; and Janis Goldman (Susan Kendall Newman) believes that the Beatles "undermine artistic integrity", and tags along to protest the their music. With the help of Larry Dubois (Marc McClure) - their "chauffeur" - and tough guy Tony Smerko (Bobby Di Cicco), these teens are about to encounter some wacky characters and learn more about loyalty, deceit, music, and love than they'd ever imagined.
The film's soundtrack also features a total of 17 original Beatles recordings. They are:
1. "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
2. "Please Please Me"
3. "I Saw Her Standing There"
4. "Thank You Girl"
6. "Twist and Shout"
8. "Till There Was You"
9. "Love Me Do"
10. "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"
11. "P.S. I Love You"
12. "Please Mister Postman"
13. "From Me to You"
14. "Money (That's What I Want)"
15. "There's a Place"
16. "I Wanna Be Your Man"
17. "She Loves You"
The song "She Loves You" was featured twice toward the end of the film. The first time was during the group's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday - February 9, 1964. For this sequence of the film, stand-in Beatle-lookalike doubles, dressed in identical attire and holding the same type of musical instruments in a similar manner, were seen mimicking the group's performance of the song from that show while being shown on the stage floor, albeit from a distance so as not to see their identities, while the actual footage of The Beatles on The Sullivan Show of 02/09/1964 was revealed from the camera operator's point-of-view. These two elements were combined together, along with reactions from the studio audience to recreate a brilliant moment in time. The second time "She Loves You" was featured occurred during the film's end credits.
Other songs by the Beatles, that were to be published years after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, are referenced as in-jokes throughout the film. They are:
1. "Helter Skelter," mentioned by an aristocratic woman who sojourns at the Beatles' hotel ("Things are all helter skelter!");
2. "Get Back", mentioned by a cop trying to calm a riot against his arrest of a very young Beatles' fan ("Get back girls, get back!");
3. "One After 909", "909" being the number of the hotel room of a man who is searching for a hooker in New York;
4. "Polythene Pam", in the name of "Pam Mitchell", the girl that manages to sneak inside the Beatles' room and then has fetishistic behaviors towards objects and musical instruments belonging to the group. "Polythene Pam" was inspired by an evening that John spent with poet Royston Ellis and his girlfriend, Stephanie. The three wore polythene (a common British contraction of the word and the IUPAC version of the word polyethylene) bags and slept in the same bed out of curiosity about kinky sex.
5. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", mentioned by a member of the Beatles' staff named Neil (probably a reference to the Beatles' road manager and personal assistant Neil Aspinall) while speaking to a cop after Pam has been discovered lying under John Lennon's bed ("Is that the bird that was under Lennon's bed?", a reference to a widespread interpretation that sees in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" a confession of adultery).
6. "Girl", once again during the scene in which Pam is discovered: the cop doesn't get the aforementioned "bird" allusion, and Neil promptly states: "Girl"; to make this reference even clearer, the cop answers: "Girl, girl" (mimicking the chorus of the song). Noticeably, as the dialogue goes on, Neil speaks about an arrangement he made with Brian (a reference to the real Beatles' manager Brian Epstein) concerning how to handle the situation with the press.