Looking Back at the Classics: A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Directed By: Richard Lester
Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
Rated G (1979 re-rating)

Whether or not you are a fan of The Beatles, you must be able to admit that their music has withstood the test of time. People of all ages love their songs, and the band finds new listeners with every year, ranging in age from 4 to 104. Why, then, should we not expect a film starring The Beatles to also be timeless? There’s no edict stating that all great films must be dour and depressing. Nor is there any standing law that great films can only come from great works of literature. Not all great films must rely on a moment of significance, or, for that matter, a plot.

A Hard Day’s Night is a simple, yet utterly enjoyable film about a couple days in the life of The Beatles. While the band’s name is never mentioned in the film, the name is seen on Ringo’s bass drum and on the backdrop of the television program on which they’re performing. Director Richard Lester, with the aid of screenwriter Alun Owen (who was nominated for an Oscar for this film), crafted a perfect time capsule, a snapshot of Beatlemania, which showcases not only the music, but the strong audience reaction it, and the men behind it, evoked.

In the course of the film, all four Beatles are given subplots, none more prominent than Paul McCartney. He is tasked with looking after his grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell). Grandfather, it seems, is nursing a broken heart. Paul, and the rest of the family, thought a change of scenery might do him some good, but he’s a bit of a troublemaker and almost ruins the band’s planned television appearance when he convinces Ringo to cut loose and live a little.

It’s true that they main actors are mainly playing themselves (the screenwriter followed them for some time while crafting the screenplay so he could capture their personalities), but they seem to come alive on screen and are extremely likable. John Lennon, particularly, has wonderful comic timing, and the camera simply adores him. It’s also interesting to note how much time they devote to Ringo Starr on screen, when the drummer is usually the least noticed member of any band.

Whether or not you enjoy A Hard Day’s Night may hinge on how you feel about the music of The Beatles, as it is filled with now classic songs. But if you are in any way merely ambivalent about the music, I urge you to give this film a look. I last saw it over 15 years ago, and time (and a recent viewing) has not tarnished my memory of it. It truly belongs on a list of the great films.

A Hard Day’s Night features footage of real Beatles’ fans having a near riot in an attempt to merely touch the Fab Four, which proves one thing: Beatlemania > Bieber Fever.