Click Here To Purchase A Hard Days Night: Music on Film Series

Author: Ray Morton

Publisher: Limelight

ISBN-10: 0879103884: ISBN-13: 978-0879103880

After all the Beatle books and documentaries we’ve seen over the decades, is there anything new we haven’t heard before? Not likely. But it seems doubtful Ray Morton’s little volume on A Hard Day’s Night was intended to offer previously unheard revelations or present fresh perspectives analyzing a rock and roll classic. For those who remember the years of Beatlemania, this quick history is a short trip down memory lane. For those who were born after the fact, this is a succinct tale of one chapter of the Beatles saga, a book you can read in about the same time frame as you can see the 85 minute film.

While John, Paul, George and Ringo were the subjects of A Hard Day’s Night, any book about their first movie has to focus on three primary shapers of the 1964 release: director Richard Lester, producer Walter Shenson, and screenwriter Alun Owen. There were many fortunate accidents that resulted in this movie being something far different from the then-typical rock musicals. The captain of the ship was clearly Lester whose cinematic sensibilities, sense of humor, and directorial style made him the right man at the right time. Working with a tight budget on a film that United Artists thought would be

Essentially an excuse to release a Beatles soundtrack album, Lester and then Owen looked to the actual lives of the Beatles to inspire a comedy in which they played sanitized versions of themselves without “the swearing, smoking, or sex.” Seeing the group was living a very protected existence confined to hotels, trains, and concerts, Lester decided to use that isolation to shape his approach. For example, he stressed locations with low ceilings in the first half of the script to frame this claustrophobic atmosphere. But this was offset by permitting the “actors” to improvise” as they went along to give the finished product a surrealistic, spontaneous feel.

Again, this story has been told before and Morton repeats the pre-production, filming, and post-production details with no frills. There are only short quotes sprinkled throughout and no evidence of any conversations with any of the participants. The photos are few. Gratefully, there’s no analysis with vocabulary only a film student would understand. Still, even the most knowledgeable Beatles fan should enjoy a few surprises. I didn’t know the Beatles had been approached to star in a lurid flick called The Yellow Teddy Bears set in a girl’s school. I didn’t know a young Phil Collins was an extra in the concert scene or that when that concert was being filmed, the music was so loud it vibrated a cameraman’s tooth so badly that it had to be removed.

Considering the educational mission of the publisher for this compact book (128 pages, 6.3 x 4.7 x 0.5 inches), the most likely audience for A Hard Day’s Night will be young readers who know little or nothing about the historical contexts surrounding this film. As its emphasis is on the making of the movie and the techniques involved, the book certainly has a place on library shelves alongside other volumes on cinema history. For Beatle fans, well, it’s the perfect size to be a stocking stuffer this Christmas. And if you don’t already have a DVD . . .


Click Here To Purchase A Hard Days Night: Music on Film Series