The Beatles’ first film A Hard Day’s Night, helped establish their witty and charming personalities among a broader audience. However, their second film Help! changed this image into that of a group of meandering fools. The Beatles, as musicians and song writers, evolved greatly from their teenie- bopper beginnings in Love Me Do to their sophisticated album Rubber Soul that defined classic rock.
In A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles gained their first chance to establish a broader consumer base apart from the usual screaming teenage girls. This was the first time when adults, who payed no heed to teenie-bopper hits, would come to see the band in a new light. Some critics argue that the personalities of the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night are exaggerated, but as Ringo points out in a 1964 interview: “At first it was hard, because we wouldn’t learn the lines like you’re supposed to. We’d learn them on the way to the studio. In a way it might have been better because it was more natural” . This natural approach in A Hard Day’s Night resulted in the superb personalities unique to only the Beatles. Their wit and charm, which many have come to recognize in television shows and newspaper interviews, was exactly what was portrayed in A Hard Day’s Night. Thus the Beatles’ personalities in A Hard Day’s Night are very much the real thing.
Ringo was a clever and “cheeky” fellow in A Hard Day’s Night. For example, in a scene where he is being interviewed by a woman who asks “are you a Maude or a Rocker?”, Ringo responds “I’m a Mocker”. This cleverness was lacking in Help! where Ringo was a clueless simpleton: falling prey to obvious traps and reciting dim dialogue; resembling an unintelligible fellow. Another example in Help!, is where Ringo, who was kidnapped by two Americans, is rescued from the trunk of their car by George. Ringo doesn’t bother to escape and simply says “Hello”. Some critics welcome the idea that the script writers were at fault for Ringo’s lacking role. To them, he was indeed a clever fellow as portrayed in A Hard Day’s Night and interviews.
John was a spontaneous and delightful character in A Hard Day’s Night, where “you always had to keep your eye on him because you never knew what he would do next” . For example, in A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles are walking through the theater where they would perform; John spots a woman’s hat with an extravagant ribbon, and says “look it’s a bird!”. Another example is when John is with the barber and is shaving using an electric shaver, he suddenly points the shaver at the camera and then winks. However, John’s humorous spontaneity does not shine in Help! as he is given a mediocre role supporting Ringo.
George was a straightforward and cunning fellow in A Hard Day’s Night. As seen in television shows and interviews, George’s perfect timing with humorous jokes is spot-on in A Hard Day’s Night. In a scene where George meets with a Record label manager who tries to take advantage of his popularity, George is humorously straightforward in refusing the offer. However, just as the other supporting Beatles, George did not have much of a role in Help!. He is, however, portrayed as being heroic when he rescues Ringo from two Americans who kidnap Ringo.
Paul was the charming fellow who acted well with Wilfred Brambell, as his grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night. His interaction with Wilfred Brambell was superb as many jokes stemmed from their roles. Paul’s role in Help! was somewhat more involved than the rest of the Beatles, as he was often the one contacted by Ahme, played by Eleanor Bron, in the cult that was after Ringo. However, his role was comically deprived as the type of chemistry between him and Brambell in A Hard Day’s Night was outstanding compared to that with Bron in Help!.
More-so in A Hard Day’s Night than Help!, the oft-made similarities of the Beatles to the Marx Brothers becomes apparent as the film is full of clever slap-stick comedy and jokes typical of Marx Brothers. There is a tighter integration of jokes and spontaneity that shines through the Beatles’ charming persona in A Hard Day’s Night, compared to poorly timed and loosely coupled jokes in Help!.
From their first debut album Please Please Me in 1963 to Rubber Soul in 1965, the Beatles dramatically evolved both as musicians and song- writers. Their initial albums consisted of songs all of which could be used in dance clubs. These songs used mostly intimate words like “you” and “I” and were focused mainly on teenage love themes. Not surprisingly, their initial fan-base consisted mainly of teenage girls who fueled Beatle-mania. These early songs were not at all sophisticated with complex word play as they were usually love letters and such for teenagers. However, one can find in the Beatles’ later albums that, no longer were all songs suitable to be used in dance clubs and themed about teenage love; a new type of Beatles songs emerged, those with profound poetry and unique melodies which one could simply listen to and enjoy.
The Beatles began to express their individual styles in later albums, such as John’s theme of anger, George’s song-writing debut with “Tax Man”, Ringo’s complex new drumming patterns and Paul’s cheerful and upbeat musical styles. Lyrics of “Run For Your Life” show John’s anger, with phrases such as “I’d rather see you dead, little girl” and “Catch you with another man, That’s the end” . John was also writing down-hearted songs such as “I’m a Loser” in Beatles for Sale album, and “Nowhere Man” in Rubber Soul. Alongside musical development, the Beatles’ lyrics become more sophisticated with poetry and wordplay. Another down-hearted yet poetic song is “Eleanor Rigby” from Revolver. The lyrics refer to “All the lonely people” using poetic elements that develop over the course of the song: “No-one comes near … Nobody came … No-one was saved.” . Such sophisticated lyrics create a gloomy and yet content mood as one thinks about the song’s message. This type of creativity was not present in earlier albums and occurs more frequently throughout later albums.
Although the Beatles’ films established their personalities with the general audience, it is their progress as musicians and song writers which truly defined them as a band. The charming and witty bunch from Liverpool may have been portrayed as fools in Help! but their fantastic work in later albums such as Rubber Soul and Revolver undoubtedly defines the genre that is classic rock.
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