Is A Hard Day’s Night the greatest rock and roll movie of all time? Ray Morton, author of a new book devoted to the Beatles’ breakthrough black-and-white 1964 pic, thinks so. A just-published title in a nifty series called Music On Film from Limelight Editions, A Hard Day’s Night examines the Richard Lester-directed Fab Four vehicle frontwards and back, inside out and outside in. (The other new Music On Film book is on Grease, and past titles include lively studies of West Side Story, This is Spinal Tap and Cabaret.)
Less a critical analysis than a step-by-step account of the film’s lightning-fast development, production, box office and critical reception, Morton’s book is full of cool details, like the fact that Lester (a Philadelphian transplanted to London) and screenwriter Alun Owen tagged along with George and John and Paul and Ringo as they settled in Paris for a three-week stint at the Olympia. Much of the behind-the-scenes, mucking-about-hotel-rooms business depicted in the film was gleaned from this trip.
A Hard Day’s Night took from the British New Wave and the Marx Brothers, from Peter Sellers’ old Goonies programs and Elvis Presely’s movies, offering charming, mirror-image personas of the real Harrison, Lennon, McCartney and Starr. The film succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams -- not just as a marketing tool, fueling worldwide Beatlemania – but in the way it incorporated music and image, narrative and mood. Even today -- especially today -- the invention, inspiration and knockabout insanity of A Hard Day’s Night can be detected in countless music videos and music films. Morton’s book is a great “making of” document, and more.