Music on Film: A Hard Day’s Night by Ray Morton was a brief yet thorough account of the making of the Beatles’ first film. The idea to make a film initially was raised in mid-1963, when the Beatles were in the throes of British Beatlemania yet still unknowns in the United States. Morton revealed that while the filming only began once the group returned to England after their American invasion in February 1964, the entire background work–finding a director, producer, screenwriter, sets, actors–had already been months in the making. I have seen this movie many times and Morton provided information that I had otherwise not known, especially about the hiring of director Richard Lester, producer Walter Shenson and screenwriter Alun Owen. He also covered the legal shenanigans that managed to get United Artists in on the record deal when the Beatles were already signed to Capitol. In spite of the worries some executives had about the film’s chance of international success–American audiences wouldn’t be able to understand the Liverpudlian accents or the humour–the team of Lester, Shenson and Owen worked with the Beatles to create as much a natural film as possible, one that portrayed their daily lives and fishbowl existence and often irreverent humour. The Beatles had their say into what they wanted or didn’t want to do and plenty of ad-libs were kept in (who can forget the scene where John takes multiple sniffs of Coke from a capped bottle while on the train?). Morton profiled the actors, even the minor ones, and answered a question I had long thought about–which genuinely made me gasp “No way!” in front of my computer:
Charley, the young boy who rolls a tire that knocks down Ringo during his (hungover) scene when he deserts the band, was played by David Jaxon. Jaxon grew up to be known as David Janson, the actor who played the postman on “Keeping Up Appearances”. I found clips of the young actor, who was fourteen at the time yet playing ten, and could tell immediately that yep, it was Hyacinth’s postman, all right.