The Beatles are universally regarded as artistically and culturally the greatest rock band of the twentieth century. Their influence on popular music is beyond question and along with Elvis, they remain the most successful musical act of all time. Unlike the King, The Beatles also starred a brilliant and rather important motion picture.
A Hard Day’s Night was released in 1964 to cash in the global Beatlemania phenomenon. It seems incredible now that many in the industry expected the craze to fizzle out by the end of the year. There was certainly nothing unique about pop stars starring in films or musicals, but nobody quite knew just how important the Fab Four’s debut film would be.
Filmed in the style of a documentary, A Hard Day’s Night describes a couple of days in the life of the band as they travel to London to appear on a television show. It is a semi-fictional film which boasts surprisingly fresh performances from the band members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr who played exaggerated versions of themselves.
There are other memorable performances from British actors such as John Junkin and Norman Rossington and Victor Spinelli. Irish actor Wilfred Brambell stars as Paul’s grandfather who is always described in the film as “very clean”, obviously punning his “dirty old man” character from the famous BBC sitcom Steptoe and Son.
American-born director Richard Lester adopted the style of the French New Wave, as well as using his own professional experiences alongside comic actor Peter Sellers and his directorial work in the pop film musical It’s Trad Dad (1962). The end result looks startlingly fresh and original.
The enormously witty screenplay by award-winning television writer Alun Owen was nominated for an Academy Award.
When A Hard Day’s Night was released in July 1964, it became a huge box office success. The film has also been a massive critical success and enormously influential. The direction, cinematography by Gilbert Taylor and the editing style had been acknowledged by many pop video directors as a major influence.
A Hard Day’s Night was rated by Time Magazine as one of the all-time great 100 films, so it is recognised by most critics and historians as a major work. Most importantly though, is simply a delight to watch and as you can expect from The Beatles, the music is brilliant too.