"A Hard Day's Night" (1964)

 

Production

Dennis O'Dell & Walter Shenson

Direction

Richard Lester

Screenplay

Alun Owen

Cinematography

Gilbert Taylor

Editing

John Jympson

Music

the Beatles

 

Starring:

John

John Lennon

Paul

Paul McCartney

George

George Harrison

Ringo Starr

Ringo

Wilfrid Brambell

Grandfather

Norman Rossington

Norm

John Junkin

Shake

Victor Spinetti

T.V. Director

 

No discussion of "A Hard Day's Night" would be complete without a preliminary discussion of the birth of rock and roll. For much of the period between the 1930s and the 1960s, there was a split in the top 40 music between the teenagers who like Little Richard ("Good Golly Miss Molly") and Chuck Berry ("Roll over Beethoven"), and the over-30 generation who preferred "show music". By the 1960's a reversal had taken place in the numbers of fans in those groups, and rock and roll flourished. People like Bob Dylan, the Beetles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Grateful Dead refined it and turned in into an art form.

Even so, the cinema hadn't truly come to grips with rock and roll until 1964, when Richard Lester made "A Hard Day's Night". Granted, Hollywood had made a few attempts to incorporate rock and roll in films -- most notably in the form of documentaries like "Woodstock," "Don't Look Back" and the fabulous "Gimme Shelter." To a certain extent, all were a kind of musical film.

In addition, rock was used to embellish and heighten certain dramatic films. One of the first films to do so successfully was "Easy Rider," which used existing songs to enhance the film's story line. This was followed by "The Graduate," which included a soundtrack composed of original Simon and Garfunkle songs. But it was not until "A Hard Day's Night" that Hollywood finally came to grips with rock and roll. The fact that the film was blessed with the music genius of the Beatles and the masterful direction of Richard Lester undoubtedly contributed to its success. It is included here not just because it was the first rock musical but also because it stands on its own merits as a classic.

It should be noted that lots of people would deny "A Hard Day's Night" the right to be called a musical for a variety of reasons -- not the least of which are the facts that it was not made in Hollywood, it contains no dream sequences, no dancing, no fantasy, and of course it wasn't even shot in color. None the less, it is truer musical that some of the embalmings passed off as musicals in recent years.

"A Hard Day's Night" is like any great musical in many respects. It is most certainly a star-vehicle designed to exploit the Beatles. The film was frantically rushed out by U.A. executives (it was filmed in 6 days) who thought the group's popularity would crest in 1964 (contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is not noted for its foresight in these matters). These were the same executives who reportedly thought that Julie Andrew's place in musical history was more secure than the Beatles would be (go figure). Aside from all of that, it is totally informed by music. Ultimately, it is a musical about an immensely popular rock band whose lives center around music. If that doesn't qualify the film as a musical, it is difficult to understand what does.