A Hard Day's Night
by Bill Harry
1962 Capitol Records in America were still refusing to issue Beatles
products. Noel Rodgers, the British representative for United Artists
Records, was witnessing Beatlemania first-hand in London and was convinced
that it would inevitably reach the States. He approached Bud Ornstein,
the British production head of United Artists film division, with the
suggestion that they offer The Beatles a three-picture deal in order
to obtain three Beatles soundtracks. They were both primarily interested
in obtaining The Beatles on record for UA and didn’t initially realise
how big the films would be.
Because of this they opted for a cheap budget and approached Walter Shenson, who’d been making low-budget films in Britain, asking him to produce. Shenson chose Dick Lester as his director.
the meeting to discuss the deal was arranged with Brian Epstein, Ornstein
and Shenson had agreed that they would be prepared to give The Beatles
25% of the net profits, together with a flat fee of £20,000. They were
surprised when Epstein said, immediately, “I should warn you now. I’m
not prepared to settle for less than 7.5%". Fortunately, due to
The Beatles' continuing success, Ornstein voluntarily increased the
share to 20% and their flat fee to £25,000.
In an interview, Shenson commented, “Now I’ve got The Beatles, do I need stars? Are they necessary, even playing bit parts? My guess is, no. It would be all wrong to have, say, Kenny More or Dirk Bogarde appearing with the boys, though maybe not Margaret Rutherford. I have a hunch the fans would love her. But say, just say, It was Hayley Mills - will they feel resentment of her?”.
A teenage daughter of a friend said to him, “Oh Mr Shenson, I’m just praying there’ll be no love interest in your Beatles film!”. He took the girls advice and decided not to include any romances for The Beatles. He also eschewed big name stars, giving the largest non-Beatles role to Wilfred Brambell, known for his leading role in the BBC TV sit-com ‘Steptoe and Son'.
Others in the cast included Liverpudlian actor Norman Rossington as Norm, the group’s road manager. Another Liverpool-born actor was Deryck Guyler, who portrayed a police sergeant. Actor John Junkin portrayed the group’s second road manager, Shake, and Kenneth Haigh, who played the part of Simon, an advertising executive, didn’t want his name in the film’s credits. Shenson explained, “He’s a Shakespearian actor and, like a lot of established people back then, he didn’t want to be associated with The Beatles. He got a lot of money for one day’s work and we agreed not to use his name. But he later listed ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in his credits wherever he went”.
Spinetti was cast as a manic television director and he was to appear
in further Beatles projects. Anna Quayle appeared as Millie and a touch
of glamour was added with the casting of ex-Miss World, Rosemarie Frankland,
as a showgirl. George Harrison had always felt slightly awed by the
talent of John and Paul and, added to the fact that he was the youngest
member of the group, had tended to remain in the background at interviews;
yet he proved to be a natural actor. Shenson said: “George came along
well with his acting, so I asked the writer for another short scene
for him because I liked his ‘shirt scene’. The writer came up with the
‘shaving scene’. The art director put a bath tub in, so I said to the
director ‘Why don’t we put John in the bath?’. He didn’t have any dialogue,
but the scene became John’s instead of George’s”.
George also met his future wife on the set. There were four schoolgirls featured in an early scene: Pattie Boyd, Tina Williams, Pru Bury and Susan Whitman. Pattie was a model who had appeared in a series of Smiths Crisps TV ads directed by Dick Lester, who hired her for The Beatles’ movie. George seemed enchanted by her from the moment he met her and a real-life romance began which more than made up for the one aspect the movie noticeably lacked.
film was budgeted at £200,000, the production company was Proscenium
Films and Shenson’s assistant was Dennis O’Dell. It was decided to film
in black and white and Robert Freeman, the group’s photographer friend,
was hired to create the title sequence, while George Martin was appointed
musical director. He provided instrumental versions of ‘This Boy’, ‘I
Should Have Known Better’, ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’
The official announcement about the making of the film was given in December 1963. Shooting began on 2nd March 1964 and lasted for two months.
Twickenham Studios, Middlesex, was the setting for the interior scenes and location shooting took place at several sites in the London area. The Beatles are shown at Marylebone Station at the beginning of the film where they are pursued by hordes of fans, causing them to make an ingenious escape by dodging through the doors of taxis. St Margaret’s Field in Gatwick was used for the scene in which they engage in a bit of horseplay during a break in rehearsals for their TV show. It was also where the final scene – in which the boys are picked up by a helicopter – was filmed.
the many suggestions for a title were: ‘What Little Old Man?’, this
was one of the first sentences uttered in the film; ‘Beatlemania’, a
term which, by then, was gaining widespread usage; ‘On The Move; ‘It’s
a Daft, Daft, Daft, Daft, Daft World’; ‘Travelling On’; ‘ Moving On’
and ‘Let’s Go.’ Reports at the time all claimed that the title ‘A Hard
Day’s Night’ had come from Ringo. Beatles Monthly, for instance, claimed:
“Ringo hit on ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ Earlier, he’d been asked if he’d
had a haircut and said, “No, it’s the same difference.” He often comes
out with strangely worded quotes. And after a long day’s work, as the
hands of the clock reached into the early hours, he said casually, ‘Boy,
this had been a hard day’s night’”.
Walter Shenson also credited Ringo as the person who thought up the title. However, in John Lennon’s first book ‘In His Own Write’, published on 23rd March 1964, there is a story called ‘Sad Michael’ in which John wrote: “He’d had a hard day’s night that day, for Michael was a Cocky Watchtower”.
scriptwriter was Alun Owen and although he had tried to ensure that
all four received an equal share of the action, it was Ringo’s role
which seemed to catch the critics’ attention. George also had an interesting
scene in an advertising agency. A sequence featuring Paul was cut from
the finished film - he had appeared with Isla Blair, who was dressed
as a Shakespearean actress, but it ended up on the cutting room floor
because it was felt that Paul had been too self-conscious.
The scene occurred following George’s adventure in the advertising agency and his confrontation with the teenage model Susan Campey. Paul has set out in search of Ringo who has managed to get himself lost. Paul wanders around the Notting Hill area, coming across an old church hall that sports a sign ‘TV Rehearsal Room.’ A group of figures dressed in costume emerge and pass him. He enters and notices a girl moving about the huge room. She is dressed in theatrical costume and is quoting Shakespeare. After some moments, the girl notices Paul and pauses in her speech. He asks her to continue but she tells him to go away as he’s spoiled her solitary rehearsal. He remains and begins to chat with her, although she tells him he’ll be thrown out when the others return.
guesses he’s from Liverpool and they then discuss acting, although Paul
admits he’s only done Shakespeare in a school play. She tells him she
likes acting for herself and he considers such an attitude to be selfish,
telling her that actors and actresses should act for an audience. He
tells her that he’d approach her part acting in the manner of a Liverpool
scrubber. He points out that this is a clearer way of explaining the
character of the role she has been rehearsing.
Paul has to utter such lines as: “I know your sort – two Cokes and a packet of cheese and onion crisps and suddenly it's love and we’re stopping in an empty street doorway. Gerrout of it! Ah, you’re lonely all right, you’re smashin’, but come round here and tell all that to me Mum – you won’t, will you? You’re just after me body and you can’t have it, so there!”, Paul remembers his mission to find Ringo and says his farewells.
As he leaves he hears the actress return to the rather artificial voice she’d been using which he’d first heard on her rehearsal. Then she pauses and begins again, using a much more naturalistic mode of speech, just as Paul had suggested.
|The official synopsis of the film read: Once upon a time there were four happy Liverpool lads called Paul, John, George and Ringo and they played their music all over the country. Now, when they’d finished playing in one place they’d run to the nearest railway station and go on to a new place and play some more of their music, usually pursued by hundreds of young ladies. On the day of our story (to the sound of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’), John, George and Ringo get to the station and fight their way into the railway compartment where they meet up with Paul, who has a little old man with him, a very dear little old man. Anyway, who is he? The little old man is ‘Mixing’ John McCartney, Paul’s grandfather. Grandfather is dedicated to the principle of divide and conquer. The mere sight of a nice friendly group of clean-cut lads like The Beatles brings him out in a rash of counterplots. Norm, the boys’ road manager, who is conducting a war of nerves with John, the group’s happy anarchist, collects Grandfather and together with Shake, the general dogsbody, he retreats to the restaurant car for coffee, leaving the boys to settle in for their journey to London and a live television show. However, a well-established first-class ticket holder drives the boys out of their carriage by being pompously officious, so they go and join Norm, Shake and Grandfather in the restaurant car.||
this time grandfather has managed to get Norm and Shake at each other’s
throats and Paul warns the others that this could only be the beginning.
Sure enough, Grandfather has started a campaign of dissention that leads
to frightening schoolgirls, a proposal of marriage to a chance acquaintance
and general chaos culminating with Grandfather being locked in the luggage
van where he and the boys complete their journey making music (to the
sound of ‘I Should Have Known Better’).
When the boys arrive in London, they go to their hotel, where Norm leaves them to sort out their fan mail. However, Grandfather has noticed that a certain amount of good-humoured banter is directed at Ringo. Here, thinks Grandfather, is the weak link in the chain. Instead of staying in the hotel the four boys sneak out to enjoy themselves at a twist club and Grandfather, trading his clothes for a waiter’s suit, heads straight for a gambling club, passing himself off as Lord John McCartney. Again the boys have to rescue him, much to the old man’s indignation.
The following day sees the boys plunged into the bustle of the television world. Press conferences, rehearsals (they perform ‘If I Fell’), make-up, running from place to place, being shepherded by the harassed Norm and got at by the television show’s neurotic director, and always in the background is Grandfather, interfering, disrupting and needling Ringo.
for a moment are the boys free (to the sound of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’).
They can enjoy themselves playing in a large, open field, but even that
doesn’t last. John, however, does make the most of every second; he
is always for the here and now. Paul tries keeping things on an even
keel and George has a blind doggedness that sees him through.
But the strain begins to tell on Ringo. Grandfather, of course, plays on this, pointing out the barrenness of Ringo’s life (after further rehearsals of ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’) and finally goading him into walking out into the world, outside of the group (to the sound of ‘Ringo’s Theme’). The other three boys go out searching for Ringo, leaving Norm to fume and the director to worry himself to near collapse at the possibility of no show. Meanwhile, Ringo has found the world outside not too friendly and, through a series of encounters and misunderstandings, gets himself arrested. He is taken to the police station where he meets up with Grandfather who has been taken into protective custody. Grandfather storms at the police sergeant and manages to escape, leaving Ringo behind in the police station. He gets back to the television theatre and tells the boys, who, pursued again, but this time by the police, go and rescue Ringo (to the reprise of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’). Finally they are able to do their show in front of a live audience (performing ‘Tell Me Why’, ‘If I Fell’, ‘I Should Have Known Better’ and ‘She Loves You’). The show does well, but as soon as it is finished, again it is the mad dash on to the next plane for the next show. The past thirty-six hours have been a hard day’s night. The next thirty-six hours will be the same (a reprise of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’).
Beatles' music obviously played a major part in the film and it was
introduced in a refreshingly natural way, unlike the forced musical
breaks in so many pop music films. The movie featured ‘A Hard Day’s
Night’, ‘I Should Have Known Better’, ‘If I Fell’, ‘I’m Happy Just To
Dance with You’, ‘And I Love Her’, ‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’,
‘Any Time At All’, ‘I’ll Cry Instead’, ‘Things We Said Today’, ‘When
I get Home’, ‘You Can’t Do That’ and ‘I’ll Be Back.’ The film was given
a Royal World Premiere at the London Pavilion before HRH Princess Margaret
and the Earl of Snowdon to aid the Dockland Settlements and the Variety
Club Heart Fund on Monday 6th July 1964 at 8.30 pm. Piccadilly Circus
had to be closed to traffic as there were literally thousands of fans
crowding the area. After the show the group went on to supper at the
The northern premier took place in Liverpool on 10th July at the Odeon Cinema, following a civic reception at the town hall. The film then went on general release in Britain on 2nd August.