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05 July 2014

The Beatles

Today is the final day of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy. This week, the Piazza Maggiore radiated each night with the light of new restorations. Closing Night is entrusted to the music of The Beatles, the protagonists of A Hard Day's Night. We will see the restored version of the Fab Four's first film, in the presence of director Richard Lester, on the 50th anniversary of its first release in 1964, which even anticipated the release of the album of the same name.

Paul McCartney in A Hard Day's Night
Czechoslovakian postcard by Press Foto, Praha (Prague), no. S 148/10, 1965. Photo: publicity still for A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964).

The Beatles
Big German postcard, no. HD 109.

The Beatles
German postcard by Filmbilder-Verrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 835. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Elektrola.

The Beatles
British postcard by Fotofolio.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg. Retail price: 20 cent.

The Beatles
Vintage postcard.

The Beatles
Vintage postcard.

Beatlemania


A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964), captured Beatlemania as it was happening.

George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr played themselves in a boisterous mock-documentary of the Beatles phenomenon.

When shooting began, they had not yet joined the British actor's union and were hastily inducted on the set with actor Wilfrid Brambell proposing their membership.

The resulting film was innocent in a way no other later rock 'n' roll film could be. A Hard Day's Night premiered in London and New York in July and August, respectively, and was an international success.

The plot is just a study of A day in the life of the Fab Four beginning with them running from their adoring fans to catch a train. Every plot point circles around the band getting to a television show in order to perform a live concert, and within this stream of action is a series of slapstick, zany, and otherwise whacky bits of funniness. The film ends with an ear-shattering concert and the band yet again running from the adoring fans.

The film was nominated for two Oscars (Best Writing and Best Music) and John, Paul, George and Ringo were nominated for a BAFTA Award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles’.

According to Ritchie Unterberger at AllMusic, the accompanying soundtrack album, A Hard Day's Night, saw the Beatles "truly coming into their own as a band. All of the disparate influences on their first two albums had coalesced into a bright, joyous, original sound, filled with ringing guitars."

That 'ringing guitar' sound was primarily the product of Harrison's 12-string electric Rickenbacker, a prototype given him by the manufacturer, which made its debut on the record.

The Beatles
German Postcard, no. H 107.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard by Rembrandt N.V., Amsterdam. Sent by mail in 1964.

The Beatles>
Dutch postcard by Remaco NV, Amsterdam.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam (SPARO).

The Beatles
Dutch postcard by Syba, no. 464. Sent by mail in 1964.

The Beatles
Vintage postcard.

The Beatles
French postcard by E.D.U.G. no. 412.

The Beatles
Italian postcard by Silvercart, Milano, no. 514/3. Photo: Nems Enterpriser London Ltd.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard.

Eight Arms to Hold You


Next the Beatles were going to make a Western. The story was going to be set in Texas and involved the four of them fighting over the affections of a cattle baron's daughter. There are even publicity photos showing them on horseback and wearing cowboy outfits.

However the film shut down production and the Beatles ended up making Help! (Richard Lester, 1965) instead. The original film title was Eight Arms to Hold You, although no one really liked it much and by the time the film was edited, it didn't really fit the storyline at all.

John Lennon had written the song Help! around the same time, and it suited the theme of the film so well it became the title song.

Ringo Starr, having accepted a ring from a fan, unwittingly becomes the target sacrifice of an eastern cult. Attempting to rid themselves of this deadly jewellery, the Beatles encounter Mad Scientists, Scotland Yard, the entire compliment of the Nassau police force and one wayward long distance swimmer. As the Fab Four flee from England to Austria, to the Bahamas there's always time for a musical number.

The film inspired a mixed response among both reviewers and the band. McCartney said, "Help! was great but it wasn't our film — we were sort of guest stars."

The soundtrack was dominated by Lennon, who was lead singer and songwriter on the majority of songs, including the two singles performed on it: Help! and Ticket to Ride. The accompanying album, the group's fifth studio LP, again contained a mix of original material and covers.

Help! saw the band making increased use of vocal overdubs and incorporating classical instruments into their arrangements, notably the string quartet on the pop ballad Yesterday. Composed by McCartney, Yesterday would inspire the most recorded cover versions of any song ever written.

Although Help! was a much sillier and less sophisticated affair than their first feature, it too was a huge commercial success.

There followed two more Beatles-films. Magical Mystery Tour (1967), directed by themselves, lacked according to AllMusic "focus or even basic professionalism. The picture bombed when it was premiered on BBC television in December 1967, giving the media the first real chance they'd ever had to roast the Beatles over a flame".

The Beatles had little involvement with the last film, the animated feature Yellow Submarine (George Danning, 1968), either in terms of the film or the soundtrack. They participated only in the closing scene with the fictional counterparts of the Beatles voiced by other actors.

Yellow Submarine was a box-office hit, drawing in crowds both for its lush, wildly creative images, and its soundtrack of Beatles songs.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard. Prettige feestdagen is Dutch for Pleasant holidays.

The Beatles
Spanish postcard by Oscarcolor, no. 211. Photo: Fleetway Studio.

The Beatles
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. AX 6334.

The Beatles
French postcard by Publistar, no. 971, offered by Corvisart, Epinal.

The Beatles
Italian postcard. Photo: Carisch.

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney. Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.


New and improved trailer for A Hard Day's Night (1964). Source: bf2sluvr (YouTube).


Trailer of The Yellow Submarine (George Danning, 1968). Source: britfix (YouTube).

Sources: Richie Unterberger (AllMusic), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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