Hear See

The Quirks of “A Hard Day’s Night”

5 beatles song with girls in title

60 years ago this month, the Beatles began shooting their first film (starting March 6 through April 24, 1964) on a platform at London’s Paddington Station. A Hard Day’s Night was completed and edited for release in record time, the film hit the shores of America with a US premiere in July of 1964.

Writer Alun Owen’s outstanding screenplay is still entertainingly watchable, even for non-Beatles fans. It captured much of what was happening at the time of Beatlemania, although John Lennon would say years later that it was a “glib” reproduction. The film’s release was a watershed event for Rock and Roll productions. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert stated that the movie was one of the top 5 musicals he’d ever seen, “right up there with Singing in the Rain.” Almost universally praised by the critics of the day, (“The Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals”) Owun’s script ended up being nominated for an Academy Award (as did George Martin’s score). A Hard Day’s Night made The Beatles stratospheric.

Much has been written about the no-name extras that later became fixtures in 60’s popular culture. A 20-year-old model and commercial actress named Pattie Boyd played a schoolgirl and later married George Harrison in January 1966. 13-year-old child actor Phil Collins was a paid extra (among 350 others) during the March 31 Scala Theatre sequence in London. By the late 70s, he’d be a household name in rock music.

There are some eccentric appearances as well. Actor Richard Vernon (playing the upper-crust passenger on the train – “Hey mister! Can we have our ball back?”) would achieve the distinction of being the only person to be in a Beatles movie and a James Bond Film (playing Dink, Bond’s masseuse in Goldfinger).

The movie’s director Richard Lester would appear, Hitchcock-like, looking out from the back of the stage at the Scala during the sequence of their television appearance (at the 1 hour:15 min:46 sec point in the film). It’s unknown if this was a planned filming.

Beyond its black & white docu-landscape, there are other quirky elements to A Hard Day’s Night, that make it even more entertaining:

Real Beatlemania Comes Calling

While filming the iconic opening sequence of paid extras chasing the Beatles through Marylebone train station, a group of “real” fans broke through the production’s heavy security. The Beatles, quite aware of the dangers of charging fans, quickly but awkwardly took shelter via an open door to the train. It just so happened that director Dick Lester was holding a hand-held camera at that very moment. His instincts took hold, and he was able to capture the actual shot of the Beatles diving onto the train. Lester’s real-life action was edited into the film and can be seen at the film’s 2 min:33sec point.

Paul’s Missing Scene

The movie was structured for each Beatle to be featured in a separate adventure, designed to develop their persona for the fans. George ventured into a production agency and hilariously challenged their thinking of what young people preferred (describing their shirts as “grotty”). Ringo was an escapee from his show-biz existence, befriending a young boy. John enjoyed a fun sequence with actress Anna Quayle who mistook John to be “him.” John plays along until she realizes John holds no resemblance to “him” at all. But where was Paul’s solo scene?

Director Dick Lester decided he couldn’t get Paul to play his scene on a natural level. He was to be out looking for the “escaped” Ringo when he meets a young woman practicing her lines in a nearby rehearsal hall (played by actress Isla Blair). Despite two days of shooting and several rewrites (including contributions from Paul), Lester deemed the sequence not worthy of the final cut. There’s no known copy of this scene available.

Stepping Out His Old Brown Shoe …. and onto Vincent’s Line

In a scene set in a TV control room, actor Victor Spinetti (the TV director) is lamenting that without the return of the missing Ringo, the Beatles aren’t going to make their deadline to air. George asks if he can comment, and Spinetti begins to answer his rhetorical question. But George steps on Spinetti’s line while using a magic marker to draw a mustache and glasses on the face of a man on a nearby TV monitor. Never edited out, the awkward exchange between the actors can be seen at the film’s 1 hour:19min:34 sec point.

It’s The Three-tles

One of the film’s most endearing scenes (filmed on April 23) is when the Beatles frolic at Thornbury Playing Fields in Isleworth, Middlesex England. They are seen playing tag, dancing about, and falling in slow motion from a step ladder (except Ringo who just jumps in place), while the backing song “Can’t Buy Me Love” chugs along.

As the tune ends, an older man scolds the boys: “I suppose you know this is private property!”  George sarcastically replies:  “Sorry if we hurt your field, mister.” At that point, viewers can quickly note that only three Beatles were moving off the field.  John had left the filming earlier that morning for London. He was due to speak at a literary luncheon held in his honor at the Dorchester Hotel, accepting congratulations for his best-selling book In His Own Write.

Can Buy Me A Drummer

And speaking of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” on March 10, 1964, producer George Martin was busy at Abbey Road studios putting the final touches on the songs to be featured on the soundtrack album. This tune was being addressed on this day and it was determined that it needed some sweetening in its rhythm track. Studio documents reveal that a “drummer” was brought in to do overdub work while Ringo was busy at Twickenham Film Studios; this is why the drumming on this song’s stereo mix differs slightly from the mono treatment. Sixty years on, the world still doesn’t know who the drummer was, but we know how much he was paid (£5 15p).

-Steven Valvano

Photo: Getty Images

Other Posts You Might Like

32 comments on “The Quirks of “A Hard Day’s Night”

  1. Steven Lux

    Great article. Steven. Learned some new things! Thanks

  2. Peter Denmark

    I learnt something as well. The Beatles were just finishing ” A Hard Days Night” – meanwhile in Malta, my Mum was having a hard days night as 24.4.64 was the day I was born.

  3. Great article, Steve. One of my favorite movies..a classic. And quirky to be sure! Paul’s grandfather, who was ‘very clean’ was a favorite bit of mine. You captured the gist of the film well, along with great tidbits and insights about the cast and filming locales. I’m reminded that I’m overdue to binge watch it again!

    • Steven Valvnao

      You are right Barbara! Wilfrid Brambell was known in he UK for his role in a popular comedy Steptoe and Son (a forerunner to our Samford and Son). The running joke in the film of his character being “a very clean old man” was the opposite to his being referred to as a “dirty old man” in Steptoe and Son. The UK audience got the joke it immediately…more credit to Alun Owne’s script genius! – SV

  4. NJ Riley

    I must have seen this movie well over 20 times! George’s bit is the best! (“Who’s this Susan when she’s at home?”) John had some really funny lines: “Can somebody get these handcuffs off me? My wrists are killing me!” and “I bet you can’t guess what I was in for!”
    Probably best they cut Paul’s scene. I love him, but he can’t act his way out of a paper bag! 😂

    • Steven Valvnao

      “She a drag, a well known drag…we turn the sound down and say rude things”….

      ….and to your point of Paul’ acting, they did make up for his lacking presence in Help! as he is featured in a number of scenes…
      ….my fav line was George, who is getting winked at by Elenore Bron, saying- “I seem to be getting winked at these days, it use to be Paul.” -thanks, SV

      • NJ Riley

        I just realized John’s line was “Has anybody got a nail file? These handcuffs are killing me!” I knew what I wrote didn’t sound quite right!
        And Paul was much better in Help! (especially in color!) 🥰
        George was the best, and John & Ringo did great jobs too in AHDN. Alun Owen really did a great job on that script.

        • Barry Baddams

          Paul’s big solo scene was cut from HELP! too. It was a scene with Wendy Richard and Frankie Howerd in an acting studio. The reason Paul’s solo scenes in A Hard Day’s Night and HELP! got cut is because Paul is to this day not a natural actor. He is very self-conscious in front of the camera and it’s as though you can see him on screen struggling not to look directly at the camera lens and give a thumbs-up. It also didn’t help that old-pro Howerd disapproved of Paul’s improvisational approach to the scene i.e. he hadn’t learned the script verbatim.

      • Joseph Chimi

        Just one nitpick. The TV producer was played by “Victor’ Spinetti.

      • Tom Knox Jr

        Super article about One of my favorite all-time movies. I can watch this movie any given day and enjoy it like the first time I watched it. Witty as heck. “Give us a kiss”

  5. Actually, 60 years on, yes we do. George Martin was driven to distraction at the studio by someone tapping on the wall just outside. When he went to check it out, he found a very young Steve Valvano assaulting the bricks with a a pair of popsicle sticks during Valvano’s first of dozens of visits to Westminster. In immediate need of someone to fill in, Martin sat the young lad down at the studio kit and told him to “just keep doing whatever you were doing on the wall”. The secret’s out. Really interesting article.

    • Steven Valvnao

      …..Only in my best known dreams!!! Thanks, that’s very creative of you! -SV

  6. Eoghan Michael Lyng

    Nice work, Steven.

    • Steven Valvnao

      Thanks Eoghan…coming from you, it take on another level!-SV

  7. Barry Baddams

    Another quirk is that Norman Rossington, who played Norm in a sort of Mal Evans role, is the only performer to work in both a Beatles film, in A Hard Day’s Night, and an Elvis Presley film, Double Trouble.

  8. Barry Baddams

    Geoff Emerick’s 2006 book “Here, There And Everywhere” sheds some new light that may very well reveal the identity of this mysterious drummer. Regarding the master tape of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Geoff Emerick writes: “There was a technical problem to be overcome, discovered when the tape was brought back and played at our studios. Perhaps because it had been spooled incorrectly, the tape had a ripple in it, resulting in the intermittent loss of treble on Ringo’s hi-hat cymbal. There was tremendous time pressure to get the track mixed and delivered to the pressing plant, and due to touring commitments The Beatles themselves were unavailable, so George and Norman took it upon themselves to make a little artistic adjustment.”

    “As I eagerly moved into the engineer’s seat for the first time, Norman (Smith) headed down into the studio to overdub a hastily set-up hi-hat onto a few bars of the song while I recorded him, simultaneously doing a two-track to two-track dub. Thanks to Norman’s considerable skills as a drummer, the repair was made quickly and seamlessly, and I doubt if even The Beatles themselves ever realized that their performance had been surreptitiously augmented.”

    • Steven Valvnao

      Are you saying Norman “Hurricane” Smith got the 5 pounds?…LOL
      Thanks- SV

      • Barry Baddams

        Hurricane was probably a paid-up Musicians Union member by then so yes!

    • John Smistad

      Emerick’s book is revelatory on a number of levels. This guy is really underrecognized in the grand scheme of things.

      • Barry Baddams

        Although there is a cautionary rider- his book has around 100 errors due to memory flaws and poor fact-checking by the journalist co-writer.

  9. John Smistad

    Aaahh. Still, quite the key component of The Beatles sound, aye, mate?

    • Barry Baddams

      No doubt about that.

      • Steven Valvano

        John and Barry… I have been told by reliable sources that the book was heavily ghost written and riddled with factual failings…..that doesn’t take away his history as a engineer and an innovator for sure.-SV

        • Barry Baddams

          That’s for sure. George Martin got the kudos but Emerick’s role has been undervalued. Paul McCartney used him in his post-Beatles projects so he obviously rated him.

  10. Steven Valvano

    Sorry everyone, that ‘s Victor Spinetti, …..NOT Vincent. My fault! – SV

  11. James Kempster

    I must be reading it wrong… but as far as I remember “Dink” was an actress named Margaret Nolan not Richard Vernon.

    • Mark Zutkoff

      Per IMDB (which, as we know, is not always correct), Vernon played a “Colonel Smithers” in Goldfinger. “Dink” is indeed listed as Margaret Nolan.

  12. Larry Lewis

    Richard Vernon had a small but important role in “Goldfinger,” released six months after AHDN. In YouTube, search for, “007 Brandy Scene In Goldfinger.”

    • Larry Lewis

      Oops…..as “Colonel Smithers.” Wonder whether that name inspired Matt Groenig for “The Simpsons?”

Leave a Reply (and please be kind!)