1964 – The Beatles filmed the “chase scenes” for A Hard Days Night with actors dressed as policemen in the Notting Hill Gate area of London. In the evening they recorded the title track for the film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ at Abbey Road. John and Paul had the title first, and had to write a song to order, completing the track in nine takes.
A Hard Day’s Night is a 1964 British comedy film written by Alun Owen starring The Beatles—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—during the height of their popularity. It was directed by Richard Lester and originally released by United Artists. The film was made in the style of a mock documentary, describing a couple of days in the lives of the group.
It was successful both financially and critically; it was rated by Time magazine as one of the all-time great 100 films. The film is credited with having influenced 1960s spy films, The Monkees’ television show and pop music videos.
The screenplay was written by Alun Owen, who was chosen because the Beatles were familiar with his play No Trams to Lime Street, and he had shown an aptitude for Liverpudlian dialogue. McCartney commented, “Alun hung around with us and was careful to try and put words in our mouths that he might’ve heard us speak, so I thought he did a very good script.”
Halliwell encapsulates the plot as “Harassed by their manager and Paul’s grandpa, the Beatles embark from Liverpool by train for a London TV show.” Having escaped a horde of fans, once aboard the train and trying to relax, various interruptions begin to test their patience, prompting George to go to the goods van for some peace and quiet.
On arrival in London, they are driven to a hotel where they feel trapped. After a night out during which McCartney’s grandfather causes minor trouble at a casino, the group are taken to the theatre where their performance is to be filmed. The preparations are lengthy so Starr decides to spend some time alone, trying to have a quiet drink in a pub, walking alongside a canal and at one point riding a bicycle along a railway station platform.
The Beatles comment cheekily on their own fame: for instance, at one point a fan recognizes John Lennon; he demurs, saying his face isn’t quite right, with the fan eventually agreeing.
The film was shot for United Artists using a cinéma vérité style in black-and-white and produced over a period of sixteen weeks. It had a low budget for its time of £200,000 ($500,000) and filming was finished in six weeks.
Harrison and Pattie Boyd on set
Lester subsequently directed the Beatles’ 1965 film, Help! and later several popular films, including The Three Musketeers and Superman II.
Wilfrid Brambell, who played McCartney’s grandfather, was already well-known to British audiences as co-star of the British sitcom Steptoe and Son. Norman Rossington played the Beatles’ manager and John Junkin “Shake”, their road manager.
The supporting cast included Richard Vernon as the ‘city gent’ on the train, Lionel Blair as a featured dancer and Victor Spinetti as the television director. Cameos included David Langton, John Bluthal as a car thief and an uncredited Derek Nimmo as magician Leslie Jackson. David Janson played the small boy met by Starr on his “walkabout”.
Charlotte Rampling and Phil Collins made their screen debuts in this film as a dancer and a boy in the concert audience respectively. George Harrison met his wife-to-be, Pattie Boyd, on the set when she made a brief (uncredited) appearance as one of the schoolgirls on the train. His initial overtures to her were spurned because she had a boyfriend at the time but he persisted and they were married within 18 months.
The film premiered at The Pavilion Theatre in London on 6 July 1964—the eve of Ringo Starr’s 24th birthday—and its soundtrack of the same name was released four days later.
New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther noted the film was a subtle satire on the image of rock-and-roll music (and the Beatles in particular) as a source of youth rebellion and defiance of authority. The Beatles are portrayed as likeable young lads who are constantly amazed at the attention they receive and who want nothing more than a little peace and quiet; however, they have to deal with screaming crowds, journalists who ask nonsensical questions, and authority figures who constantly look down upon them.
A Hard Day’s Night was nominated for two Academy Awards; for Best Screenplay (Alun Owen), and Best Score (Adaptation) (George Martin).
British critic Leslie Halliwell states the film’s influence as “… it led directly to all the kaleidoscopic swinging London spy thrillers and comedies of the later sixties…”
The movie’s strange title originated from something said by Ringo Starr, who described it this way in an interview with disc jockey Dave Hull in 1964: “We went to do a job, and we’d worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, ‘It’s been a hard day…’ and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, ‘…night!’ So we came to ‘A Hard Day’s Night.'”
According to Lennon in a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine: “I was going home in the car and Dick Lester suggested the title, ‘Hard Day’s Night’ from something Ringo had said. I had used it in In His Own Write, but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringo-ism, where he said it not to be funny… just said it. So Dick Lester said, ‘We are going to use that title.'”
In a 1994 interview for The Beatles Anthology, however, McCartney disagreed with Lennon’s recollections, recalling that it was the Beatles, and not Lester, who had come up with the idea of using Starr’s verbal misstep: “The title was Ringo’s. We’d almost finished making the film, and this fun bit arrived that we’d not known about before, which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session… and we said, ‘Well, there was something Ringo said the other day.’ Ringo would do these little malapropisms, he would say things slightly wrong, like people do, but his were always wonderful, very lyrical… they were sort of magic even though he was just getting it wrong. And he said after a concert, ‘Phew, it’s been a hard day’s night.'”
Yet another version of events appeared in 1996; producer Walter Shenson said that Lennon had described to him some of Starr’s funnier gaffes, including “a hard day’s night”, whereupon Shenson immediately decided that that was going to be the title of the film.
All tracks credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, except where noted.
* “A Hard Day’s Night”
* “I Should Have Known Better”
* “I Wanna Be Your Man”
* “Don’t Bother Me” (Harrison)
* “All My Loving”
* “If I Fell”
* “Can’t Buy Me Love”
* “And I Love Her”
* “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You”
* “Tell Me Why”
* “She Loves You”
* “I’ll Cry Instead” was intended for the film but was cut, later appearing in a prologue for a 1980s reissue by Universal Pictures.
* “You Can’t Do That” was actually filmed as part of the concert, but was cut from the film’s final version; some of the footage can be seen on the documentary The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night”.
* In addition to the soundtrack album, an EP (in mono) of songs from the film titled Extracts From The Film A Hard Day’s Night was released by Parlophone (GEP 8920) on 6 November 1964, having the following tracks:
o Side A
1. “I Should Have Known Better”
2. “If I Fell”
o Side B
1. “Tell Me Why”
2. “And I Love Her”
A Hard Day’s Night was originally released by United Artists and in 1979 rights to the film were transferred to its producer, Walter Shenson, who in 1982 granted rights to Universal Pictures for a cinematic reissue. Universal added a prologue consisting of a montage of photographic stills from the film shoot edited to a soundtrack of the song “I’ll Cry Instead”, a recording once considered for the film and included on the US soundtrack album but eventually not used. In 1984, MPI Home Video, under license from Shenson, first released A Hard Day’s Night on home video in the VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc formats, which all included the prologue.
The movie was also released by Criterion in both a single-disc CLV and a dual-disc CAV Laserdisc format. The additional features section on the CAV edition include the original theatrical trailer, an interview with Richard Lester, and his The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film.
In 1993, Voyager Company produced a Mac format CD-Rom with most of Criterion’s elements, including the original script. It was briefly issued by MPI on DVD without any additional content.
In 2000, Miramax Films reissued the film in theatres in the United States and then as a collector’s edition DVD two years later, as well as its final issue in the VHS format. The film had been transferred from the restored 35 mm negative and presented in 1.66:1 Widescreen. The prologue that Universal added in 1982 is absent on Miramax releases.
In addition to the original film, the DVD edition contained a bonus disc with over 7 hours of additional material including interviews with cast and crew members and Beatles associates. The DVD was produced by Beatles historian and producer Martin Lewis, a longtime friend of Shenson.
40th anniversary cast and crew reunion screening
On 6 July 2004, the 40th anniversary of the film’s world premiere, a private cast and crew reunion screening was hosted in London by DVD producer Martin Lewis. The screening was attended by McCartney, actors Victor Spinetti, John Junkin, David Janson and many crew members. In media interviews at the event, McCartney disclosed that while he had seen the film many times on video, he had not seen the film on the ‘big screen’ since its 1964 premiere.