The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night (1964) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night (1964)

It’s easy to forget what a dubious proposition the Beatles remained for many, who watched them half a century ago this week on TV’s "Ed Sullivan Show"

In his early 30s, aspiring Philly filmmaker Richard Lester hung around American theater and television before expatriating himself to London in hopes of working for his idol, Peter Sellers. There Lester wound up on the cusp of a phenomenon, assigned to direct an exploitation cheapie about the boy-band rage of the moment, a quartet from an English seaport who were taking off in Europe but were, in the then tradition of Brit singing acts, ignored in the States. Of course by the time filming began, no one was ignoring them here, there, or anywhere else. It’s easy to forget, however, what a dubious proposition the Beatles remained for many, who watched them exactly half a century ago this week on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show and assumed that, like so many musical crazes, they would last six months. Six months later this movie (due for a stellar DVD reissue by Criterion this spring) was released.

Lester and the Beatles had the mutual good luck of each other, the filmmaker bringing to the enterprise go-for-broke anarchism and the band supplying a sense of the absurd that was finely tuned enough to recall the Marx Brothers. Playing against type the supposedly quiet Beatle, George Harrison, had the movie’s best lines when he wasn’t checking out Pattie Boyd, future muse of George’s “Something” and Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” while perennially cheery Richard Starkey née Ringo Starr was the movie’s most forlorn presence, a Buster Keatonesque sad sack feeling as out of place as the drummer was for real when momentarily he quit the band four years later during the recording of the so-called White Album. Most importantly, of course, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were not just playing against their types but composing against them, while racing into their own as songwriters with the most astute sense of melody since Puccini: Resident balladeer McCartney, besides offering the glistening “And I Love Her,” knocked out the movie’s central rocker, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” while rocker Lennon, besides striking that defining opening chord of the movie’s title song, produced one of the band’s best ballads, “If I Fell.” The album of the same name, their third and the only one at that point to be entirely self-penned, was also the first of the band’s five (six?) (seven?) masterpieces (though released in the States in a botched form). Funny, tuneful, and a vivid document of the century’s most spectacular pop sensation, A Hard Day’s Night is the rare musical that works on every level.

Read them all:

The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her

The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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