A Hard Day's Night is a 1964 British black-and-white comedy film directed by Richard Lester and starring the Beatles—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison andRingo Starr—during the height of Beatlemania. It was written by Alun Owen and originally released by United Artists. The film portrays a couple of days in the lives of the group. The film is considered to be one of the best and most influential musical films of all time.
It was successful both financially and critically; it was rated by Time magazine as one of the all-time great 100 films. British critic Leslie Halliwell described it as a "comic fantasia with music; an enormous commercial success with the director trying every cinematic gag in the book" and awarded it a full four stars. The film is credited as being one of the most influential musical films of all time, inspiring numerous spy films, the Monkees' television show and pop music videos.
Halliwell encapsulates the plot as "harassed by their manager and Paul's grandpa, the Beatles embark from Liverpool by train for a London TV show." Having escaped a horde of fans, once aboard the train and trying to relax, various interruptions begin to test their patience, prompting George to go to the goods van for some peace and quiet. Paul, Ringo, George and John play a card game and sing to a schoolgirl before arriving at their destination.
On arrival in London, the Beatles are driven to a hotel where they feel trapped. After a night out during which Paul's grandfather causes minor trouble at a casino, the group is taken to the theatre where their performance is to be filmed. The preparations are lengthy so Ringo decides to spend some time alone reading a book. Paul's grandfather, a "villain, a real mixer," convinces him that he should be outside experiencing life instead of reading books, so Ringo goes off by himself. He tries to have a quiet drink in a pub, walks alongside a canal and at one point rides a bicycle along a railway station platform. Meanwhile, the rest of the band frantically (and unsuccessfully) attempts to find Ringo. Finally, however, he returns, after being arrested by the police along with Paul's grandfather, and the concert goes ahead as planned.
The film was shot for United Artists (UA) using a cinéma vérité style in black-and-white and produced over a period of sixteen weeks. It had a low budget for its time of £200,000 ($500,000) and filming was finished in under seven weeks. At first, the film itself was something of a secondary consideration to UA, whose primary interest was in being able to release the soundtrack album in the United States before Capitol Records (the American EMI affiliate who had first shot at releasing Beatles music in the States) got around to issuing their material in the US; in the words of Bud Ornstein, the European head of production for United Artists: "Our record division wants to get the soundtrack album to distribute in the States, and what we lose on the film we'll get back on this disc." As film historian Stephen Glynn put it, A Hard Day's Night was intended as, "a low-budget exploitation movie to milk the latest brief musical craze for all it was worth."
Unlike most productions, it was filmed in near sequential order, as stated by Lennon in 1964. Filming began on 2 March 1964 at Marylebone station in London (although the station used is often wrongly quoted as being Paddington). The Beatles having only joined the actors' union, Equity, that morning. The first week of filming was on a train travelling between London and Minehead. On 10 March, scenes with Ringo were shot at the Turk's Head pub in Twickenham, and over the following week various interior scenes were filmed at Twickenham Studios. From 23 to 30 March, filming moved to the Scala Theatre, and on 31 March, concert footage was shot there, although the group mimed to backing tracks. The "Can't Buy Me Love" segment, which featured creative camera work and the band running and jumping around in a field was shot on 23 April 1964 at Thornbury Playing Fields, Isleworth, Middlesex. The final scene was filmed the following day in West Ealing, London, where Ringo obligingly drops his coat over puddles for a lady to step on, only to discover that the final puddle is actually a large hole in the road.
Before A Hard Day’s Night was released in America, a United Artists executive asked Lester to dub the voices of the group with mid-Atlantic accents. McCartney angrily replied, “Look, if we can understand a fuckin' cowboy talking Texan, they can understand us talking Liverpool.” Lester subsequently directed The Beatles' 1965 film, Help!.