A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Richard Lester’s film charts a fictionalised day in the life of The Beatles, back in the UK after conquering America, and on the run from their fans.

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“The playful anarchism and exuberant vitality of this work – a thumbing of noses at the ‘straight’ adult world – caught the essence of the Beatles mystique.”
Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art, 1974

The Beatles chose the American Richard Lester to direct their first feature film on the strength of his association with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. The script was written by actor-turned-screenwriter Alun Owen, who John Lennon later dismissed as a “professional Liverpudlian”.

The result is a mix of faux cinema vérité and kitchen-sink surrealism, aiming but failing to deflate the Beatlemania phenomenon. The songs aren’t worked into the story as anything other than songs, heard as the band rehearse then perform a televised concert in London.

Shot on the hoof in March 1964 in order to make a July release date, it mixes Lester’s visual trickery with the Fab Four’s deadpan shtick, honed at press conferences like the one featured in the film.

George Harrison, whom Lester considered the best actor of the four, later executive-produced such films as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and Withnail & I (1987).

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