I have a serious confession to make: I prefer Help! to A Hard Day’s Night.
Yes, yes, I know. A Hard Day’s Night won two Academy Awards. It’s the artsier of the two films, capturing in black-and-white the vivid symbolism of Beatlemania’s captive, life-in-a-box existence. In close-quartered scenes (a railroad car, a tiny backstage Green Room, a darkened hallway) the film emphasizes the asphyxia of Beatlemania. I get it.
But Help! – that droll, clever, tongue-in-cheek James Bond spoof – has been (almost as much as Beatles music) the backdrop of my life. My husband, Rande, and I speak in Help!-ese.
When Rande begins some involved scientific or engineering-related explanation, I peer at him and say, “I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.” And, when I flub something up – as I am wont to do – my husband drones, “Jeweler, you failed!” I can’t count the times when one or the other of us has held up a hand and murmured, “Say no more.” Or the happy times when in a brief moment of victory, we’ve shouted, “With this I can (dare I say it?!) rule the world!”
Every year since 1965 on my birthday (much harder to accomplish before the advent of Beta, VHS, and then later DVDs) I have managed somehow to watch Help! and wolf down a Mexican TV dinner. It’s a cherished teen tradition I won’t let go. And every single bike ride we’ve undertaken in our married life has begun with in a circular loop or two while we chanted: “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do” and argued about whether or not we should, in fact, go to the Temple. Help! is our thing.
However, all of this being said, I love A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour, and Let it Be. They have had no small airplay around our home. The Beatles’ movies are endlessly watchable and quotable.
Brian Epstein was a marketing genius. He knew that his boys were supremely talented composers/lyricists/musicians. But, he also knew that they were equally adroit performers: natural comedians. The Beatles drew, in part, on the satiri-comical nature of Scousers. Liverpudlians are reared in an atmosphere they refer to as “mickey-takin’” (smarting off to anyone and everyone at will). And to ice that pound-you cake, Scousers cut their teeth on the vaudevillian Music Hall tradition so well represented by Arthur Askey and “The Cheeky Chappie,” Max Miller. They grew up with swift, witty retorts.
Brian knew that the boys’ penchant for repartée would woo audiences, and screenwriter Alun Owen was Scouse enough to capture that repartée authentically and wise enough to let the boys (especially John) improvise as often as they wanted to improvise. Therefore, The Beatles’ films blossomed with brilliant banter.
Honestly, the question, “Which film is the best Beatles’ film?” has no “right” answer. The answer is individual. Flower Children of the late 1960s adore Magical Mystery Tour. Stark realists lean toward the all-too truthful scenes of Let It Be. And even though they don’t actually star in Yellow Submarine, the entire nature of the film is inspired by John, Paul, George, and Ringo, so it must be included as well. Indeed, many Second Gen fans were reared on the “I’ve got a hole in m’pocket” script. The colourful cartoon was their introduction to the Fab Four. So….
Which Beatles “fil-um” (as Liverpudlians pronounce it) and which scene in that film is your all-time fav? Is it John Lennon’s hallway bit in A Hard Day’s Night? (“She looks more like him than I do!”) Is it the press conference clip? (“No, actually we’re just good friends.”) Which scene in which Beatles movie do you most cherish?
Just as you did last week, please post at the end of this blog, and let’s share a conversation with one another. Let’s remember the good times, inspiring moments, and memories to which we still cling. Shoot a quick comment our way, and in 2 weeks, we’ll have a random drawing from all of those who posted…and we’ll award a Beatles-related film as the prize.
One lucky person will receive a copy of Good Ol’ Freda, the beloved story of Freda Kelly who served as the head of The Beatles Fan Club and worked in the Liverpool NEMS for 12 years with “Mr. Brian.” It’s a great, great movie – a true inspiration for the whole family. You’ll adore it.
Remember, there are no “correct answers” to these two questions. We’d just love to chat together and enjoy the discussion. In the words of British author, E. M. Forrester, “ONLY CONNECT.”
We’re waiting to hear from you.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com