Director: Richard Lester
Writer: Alun Owen
Starring: The Beatles, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington
Released: 6 July, 1964
Genre: Music, comedy
A Hard Day’s Night was released in cinemas fifty years ago in the summer of 1964 in the UK. Fifty years. That’s an extraordinarily long time for a movie to survive and still be widely watched, and that honour belongs to only a handful of films. A Hard Day’s Night is one of them.
In 1964, the Beatles were already incredibly popular. Their influence had spread worldwide in a matter of months, after their record-breaking appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in America in early 1964. But A Hard Day’s Night is the thing that cemented that popularity for most people and kick-started Beatlemania, as it would be rather fondly called in later years.
So what is A Hard Day’s Night actually about? Well, in short, it’s a ‘day in the life’ of the Beatles. The film follows the Fab Four (playing slightly exaggerated versions of themselves) as they prepare for a TV broadcast in the evening. But of course, it’s not that simple, as they get into all sorts of ridiculous trouble, mainly because of Paul McCartney’s mischievous grandfather.
The movie actually gained a great deal of critical acclaim, not because of its fascinating plot (because really, it is just an embellished tour documentary), but because of its surreal humour, revolutionary music sequences (this film is widely believed to have inspired/invented the music video), and the fact that it’s just, well, fun.
Everyone is obviously having the time of their lives in this film. While none of the Beatles are brilliant at acting, they are actually better than one would expect, and it’s easy to tell from watching how much fun they are having on a film set and acting like their usual charming selves. Sprinkled throughout are infectious little music sequences that showcase some of the Beatles’ best early work. The humour is reminiscent of the later Monty Python sketches: surreal, tongue-in-cheek, and often hilarious.
Watching A Hard Day’s Night is like taking a leap into the past, back to a time when the Beatles were innocent and before the world became as complicated as it is now; back to a time when four young boys from Liverpool could conquer the world with a few sweet songs and four charming smiles.
I was born thirty-two years after this film was released, and twenty-six years after the Beatles had broken up and gone their separate ways. And yet, even after all these years, even with the abundance of special effects and super-polished production quality of films nowadays, A Hard Day’s Night still manages to charm audiences as much as it did fifty years ago.
A Hard Day’s Night will be released this year by the Criterion Collection on the 24th June.