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The Beatles appeared in five motion pictures, most of which were very well received. The exception was the (mostly unscripted) television movie Magical Mystery Tour which was panned by critics and the public alike. All of their films had the same name as their associated soundtrack albums and a song on that album.

Contents

Films starring The Beatles

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A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day's Night poster

The Beatles had a successful film career, beginning with A Hard Day's Night (1964), a loosely scripted comic farce, sometimes compared to the Marx Brothers in style. A black-and-white film, it focused on Beatlemania and the band's hectic touring lifestyle and was directed by the up-and-coming Richard Lester, who was known for having directed a television version of the successful BBC radio series The Goon Show as well as the off-beat short film The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. A Hard Day's Night is a mockumentary of the four members as they make their way to a London television programme. The film, released at the height of Beatlemania, was well-received by critics, and remains one of the most influential jukebox musicals.[1][2]

Help!

In 1965 came Help!; an Eastmancolour extravaganza, which was also directed by Lester. The film was shot in exotic locations (such as Salisbury Plain, with Stonehenge visible in the background; the Bahamas; and Salzburg and the Tyrol region of the Austrian Alps) in the style of a James Bond spoof along with even more Marx Brothers-style zaniness: For example, the film is dedicated "to Elias Howe, who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine." It was the first Beatles film filmed in colour.

Magical Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour film was essentially McCartney's idea, which was thought up as he returned from a trip to the U.S. in the late spring of 1967, and was loosely inspired by press coverage McCartney had read about Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' LSD-fuelled American bus odyssey.[3] McCartney felt inspired to take this idea and blend it with the peculiarly English working class tradition of charabanc mystery tours, in which children took chaperoned bus rides through the English countryside, destination unknown. The film was critically dismissed when it was aired on the BBC's premier television network, BBC-1, on Boxing Day — a day primarily for traditional "cosy, family entertainment". While the film has historical importance as an early advance into the music video age, at the time many viewers found it plotless and confusing. Compounding this culture clash was the fact that the film was made in colour and made use of colour filters for some of the scenes - particularly in a sequence for "Blue Jay Way". In December 1967 practically no-one in the UK owned a colour receiver, the service only having started a few months earlier.

Yellow Submarine

The animated Yellow Submarine followed in 1968, but had little direct input from The Beatles, save for a live-action epilogue and the contribution of five new songs (including "Only a Northern Song", an unreleased track from the Sgt. Pepper sessions). It was acclaimed for its boldly innovative graphic style and especially stinging pangs of heartbreak, along with the soundtrack. The Beatles are said to have been pleased with the result and attended its highly publicised London premiere. Regarding the voices provided by voice actors for The Beatles in the film, each one of The Beatles thought his own voice was not quite right, whilst saying that the other three were perfect.

Let It Be

Let It Be was an ill-fated documentary of the band that was shot over a four-week period in January 1969. The documentary — which was originally intended to be simply a chronicle of the evolution of an album and the band's possible return to live performances — captured the prevailing tensions between the band members, and in this respect it unwittingly became a document of the beginning of their break-up.

The band initially rejected both the film and the album, instead recording and issuing the Abbey Road album. But with so much money having been spent on the project, it was decided to finish, and release, the film and album (the latter with considerable post-production by Phil Spector) in the spring of 1970. When the film finally appeared, it was after the break-up had been announced, which gave the film's depiction of the band's acrimony and attempts to recapture the group's spirit a significant poignancy.

Individual projects

In late 1966, John Lennon took time off to play a supporting character, Gripweed, in a film called How I Won the War, also directed by Lester. It was a satire of World War II films, and its dry, ironic British humour was not well received by American audiences. He would later produce avant garde films with his second wife Yoko Ono, such as "Rape" which was produced for the Austrian television network ORF.

In 1969, Ringo Starr took second billing to Peter Sellers in the satirical comedy The Magic Christian, in a part which had been written especially for him. In 1971, Starr played the part of Frank Zappa in Zappa's epic cult film about a rock and roll band touring, entitled 200 Motels. Starr later embarked on an irregular career in comedy films through the early 1980s, and his interest in the subject led him to be the most active of the group in the film division of Apple Corps, although it was Harrison who would achieve the most success as a film producer ( The Life of Brian, Mona Lisa, Time Bandits, Shanghai Surprise, Withnail and I ) and even made a few cameos in some as well (including a reporter in All You Need Is Cash).

Paul McCartney did a cameo in Peter Richardson's 1987 film Eat the rich and released his own film Give My Regards to Broad Street in 1984 in which Ringo Starr can be seen as well. As of 2008 Paul McCartney will also have a part in the upcoming Shrek film.

Documentaries

The Beatles have been the subject of a number of documentary films.

Promotional films

Fictionalised Beatles

  • Birth of The Beatles (1979), focussing on period from ca. 1957 at art college through Hamburg days to first number one
  • Beatlemania (1981), a poorly-received movie version of the Broadway show of the same name
  • Backbeat (1994), the Stuart Sutcliffe story
  • The Hours and Times (1991), speculation about the weekend Brian Epstein and John Lennon spent together in Barcelona in 1963
  • Two of Us (2000), covering a mid-1970s meeting between Paul McCartney and John Lennon
  • Nowhere Boy (2009), a John Lennon biopic
  • Lennon Naked (2010), a TV movie based on the life of Lennon from 1967 to 1971

Inspired by The Beatles

Several fictional films not depicting The Beatles have been entirely based on Beatles themes and songs

Other

In The 2007 mock-biopic film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Dewey Cox and his bandmates go to India to pray with the Maharishi. There, they encounter the intentionally miscast Beatles with Jack Black as Paul, Paul Rudd as John, Justin Long as George, and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo.

The vultures in The Jungle Book are considered caricatures of the Beatles.

Unmade films

During the 1960s there were many ideas pitched for films, but they were rejected or never saw the light of day, such projects included A Talent for Loving, a Western film written by Richard Condon, Shades of a Personality, film versions of The Lord of the Rings and the Three Musketeers starring the group (Richard Lester who directed the group's first two movies directed a version of "The Three Musketeers" in 1973), and a script by playwright Joe Orton called "Up Against It!" [4].

References

  1. ^ Sarris, Andrew (2004). "A Hard Day's Night". in Elizabeth Thomson, David Gutman. The Lennon Companion. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306812703.  
  2. ^ Schickel, Richard, Corliss, Richard (19 February 2007). "ALL-TIME 100 MOVIES". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/2005/100movies/0,23220,a_hard_days_night,00.html. Retrieved 27 February 2008.  
  3. ^ http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/mmt.htm Magical Mystery Tour on Television Heaven website
  4. ^ http://www.beatlesagain.com/breflib/joeorton.html Joe Orton and the Lost Beatles film

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