CMBA Blogathon: Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blogathon – A Hard Day’s Night

 “A train and a room, and a car and a room, and a room and a room…” 

A Hard Day’s Night has been touted by fans and critics alike as one of the most influential musical films of all time and a precursor to the modern music video. A huge financial and critical success, it inspired numerous films and television shows (most notably The Monkees), and featured innovative filming and editing techniques, marking the ascent of Richard Lester into the pantheon of important 1960s directors. Village Voice auteurist Andrew Sarris called it “The Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals,” while many other critics hailed it as being in the tradition of The Marx Brothers with homages to the silent-era comedies of Buster Keaton and the Keystone Cops.

And, yes, I’m sure it is all that, and probably more — but for me it’s simply a guaranteed good time… From the moment I hear the iconic opening chord* at the very start of the film, well, that’s the cue to me that, for the next 87 minutes, I will be smiling, anticipating my favorite dialog, bouncing my head, singing along, and fighting an irresistible urge to pick up my guitar and start playing… And, it’s always been like that… ever since I was a little kid… in a nutshell, The Beatles just put me in a good mood!

*BTW: the structure of the opening chord is a popular topic of debate among Beatle fan guitar players  🙂

A Hard Day's Night Movie Poster

Part comedy, part cinéma vérité, A Hard Day’s Night essentially ‘chronicles’ a day-in-the-life of The Beatles. So, what does this have to do with Planes Trains and Automobiles??? Well, the first section of the film is set entirely on a train as the boys travel to a television gig, and it’s here that we meet most of the main characters, and also get a sense of The Beatles’ personalities and comradery… And, yes, the footage was actually shot on a train, filming from Monday, March 2, 1964 for a full six days, as the train traveled slowly through the suburbs of England’s West Country…

That said, let’s spend some time with the boys on the train as they make their way to their live television performance…


A Hard Day's Night, John, George and Ringo running to train with fans chasing themAs the opening song (“A Hard Day’s Night”) winds down, the Beatles finally escape a deluge of crazed fans and hop on board a train heading for their next gig, a TV performance…


A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles on the train with Paul's grandfatherOnce the Fab Four is safely on the train, we meet three of the film’s four supporting characters… the first is Paul’s grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), a clean old man…

John: Hey, pardon me for asking, but who’s that little old man?
Paul: Er, what little old man?
John: That little old man?
Paul: Oh that one, That’s my grandfather
George: Your grandfather?
Paul: Yeh.
George: That’s not your grandfather.
Paul: It is, you know.
George: But I’ve seen your grandfather. He lives in your house.
Paul: Oh, that’s my other grandfather, but he’s my grandfather, as well.
John: How do you reckon that one out?
Paul: Well, everyone’s entitled to two, aren’t they? and that’s my other one.
John: We know that but what’s he doing here???
Paul: Well, me mother thought the trip would do him good.
Ringo: How’s that?
Paul: He’s nursing a broken heart.

John: Oh, poor old thing. Hey mister, are you nursing a broken heart? He’s a nice old man isn’t he?
Paul: He’s very clean.


A Hard Day's Night, John with Paul's GrandfatherYes, Paul’s granddad is indeed a clean old man, but also a king mixer…

John: Hellow grandfather!
Grandfather: Hullo!
John: He can talk then, can he?
Paul: Of course he can talk. He’s a human being, isn’t he?
Ringo: Well if he’s your grandfather, who knows, ha ha ha…
John: And we’re looking after him, are we?
Grandfather: I’ll look after meself.
Paul: Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.
John: He’s got you worried, then?
Paul: Him? He’s a villain, a real mixer. And he’ll cost you a fortune in Breach of Promise cases.
John: Get on.
Paul: No, straight up.

A Hard Day's Night, on train, the Beatles meet Norm and ShakeAnd now we meet supporting characters number two and three… Manager Norm (Norman Rossington, right) and Tour Manager Shake (John Junkin, left)

Shake: Hey, who’s the little old man?George: It’s Paul’s Grandfather.
Shake: Oh, eye, but I thought…
John: No, that’s his other one.
Shake: Oh that’s all right then
John: Clean though, isn’t he?
Shake: Oh, eye, he’s very clean.

Norm: Now look, I’ve had a marvelous idea. Just for once, let’s all try to behave like ordinary, respectable citizens. Let’s not cause any trouble, pull any strokes, or do anything I’m gonna be sorry for. Especially tomorrow in that television theater, because…
Norm: Are you listening to me, Lennon?
John: You’re a swine. Isn’t he, George?
George: Yeah, a swine.
Norm: Thanks.


The Beatles’ personalities start to emerge during Norm’s ‘lecture’…

A Hard Day's Night, George eats, Ringo takes photos

Shy George and Lovable Ringo, each immersed elsewhere, totally disregard Norm…

A Hard Day's Night, Paul McCartney feigns interest, on train

Adorable Paul feigns interest, hanging on Norm’s every word…

A Hard Day's Night, John Lennon sniffs coke bottleAnd, yes, Witty John sniffs Coke (or maybe it’s Pepsi?)


Norm (seeing Paul’s grandfather for the first time): Hey…
George, Paul, John, Ringo (in unison): Who’s that little old man?
Norm: Well, who is he?
Ringo: He belongs to Paul.


A Hard Day's Night, i'll bind him to me with promises

Probably not a good idea, but…

Grandfather: I want me coffee
Norm: Well you can come with Shake and me if you like.
Paul: Look after him, I don’t want to find you’ve lost him.
Norm: Don’t be cheeky. I’ll bind him to me with promises. Very clean, isn’t he? Come ed, granddad.


A Hard Day's Night, uptight man on trainNow we meet another character (Richard Vernon)… this will be his only scene in the film… 

Man shuts window…
Paul: Do you mind if we have it open?
Man: Yes I do.
John: Yeah, but there are four of us and we’d like it open. That’s if it’s all the same to you, that is.
Man: It isn’t. I travel on this train regularly, twice a week, so I suppose I’ve some rights.
Ringo: So have we.


A Hard Day's Night, Ringo listens to radio

Ringo turns on the radio, and the Man abruptly shuts it off…
Man: And we’ll have that thing off as well, thank you.
Ringo: But…

A Hard Day's Night, man on train and Paul

Man: An elementary knowledge of the Railway Acts would tell you that I’m perfectly within my rights.
Paul: Yeah, but we want to hear it, and there’s more of us than you. We’re a community, like, a majority vote. Up the workers and all that stuff!

A Hard Day's Night, John Lennon, give us a kiss

Man: Then I suggest you take that damned thing into the corridor — or some other part of the train — where you obviously belong.
John (leaning over towards Man): Give us a kiss.

Paul: Look Mr. we paid for our seats too you know.
Man: I travel on this train regularly. Twice a week!
John: Knock it off Paul. You can’t win with his sort. After all, it’s his train isn’t Mr.

Man: Don’t take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.
Ringo: I bet you’re sorry you won.

Man: I shall call the guard!
Paul: Ah, but what? They don’t take kindly to insults, you know. Come on. Let’s go and have some coffee and leave the kennel to Lassie!


A Hard Day's Night, hey mister can we have our ball back

Hey mister, can we have our ball back?

A Hard Day's Night, hey mister can we have our ball back

Hey mister, mister… can we have our ball back?

A Hard Day's Night on train


Now, we go to the Dining Car to see what Norm, Shake and Granddad are up to…

A Hard Day's Night, Beatles, dining carWell, Paul warned them, didn’t he…

Norm: I’ve a good mind to bump you Shake.
John: Hey, if you’re gonna have a barney can I hold your coat?
Norm: He started it.
Shake: I did not, he did.

Paul: You two have never had an argument in your life and in two minutes flat, he’s got you at it. He’s a king mixer. He hates group unity so he gets everyone at it.


A Hard Day's Night, Patti Boyd and Paul McCartneyNow we meet ‘the girls’…  Incidentally, the blonde is Pattie Boyd who later married George  (December 25, 1965).

George: Hey look at the talent…

Paul: Excuse me madam. Excuse me, but these young men I’m sitting with wondered if two of us could come over and join you. I’d ask you myself, only I’m shy.


A Hard Day's Night, prisonersPaul’s Grandfather strikes again…

Paul’s Grandfather: I’m sorry miss, you mustn’t fratranize with me prisoners.
Girl (Boyd): Prisoners?
Paul’s Grandfather: Convicts in transit… Get out ladies, get out while you can!


A Hard Day's Night, where's Paul's grandather

Norm: Hey, have you seen  Paul’s Grandfather???
John: Of course, he’s concealed about me person.

Paul: Honestly, I can’t trust you with anything Norm. If you’ve lost him, I’ll cripple you…


The boys go looking for Grandfather…

A Hard Day's Night, Ringo and George on the train

A Hard Day's Night, Ringo and George on Train

Won’t tell you what Ringo sees here, but suffice to say, it might have been his lucky day… or not…

A Hard Day's Night, Paul and John look for Grandfather

A Hard Day's Night, excuse me girls

Paul: Excuse me, have you seen that little old man we were with?

A Hard Day's Night, looking for Grandfather, freedom of it all

A Hard Day's Night, have you got a nail file, these hand cuffs are killing me

John: We’ve broken out. Ah, the blessed freedom of it all! Have you got a nail file, these hand cuffs are killing me. I was framed. I’m innocent. I don’t want to go!

A Hard Day's Night, I bet you can't guess what I was in for

Paul: Sorry for disturbing you, girls.
John: I bet you can’t guess what I was in for, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…


A Hard Day's Night, John and Paul on train

Paul: Should we go in here?
John: Nah, it’s probably a honeymoon couple or a company director or something…
Paul: Well, I don’t care, I’m going to broaden me outlook…


A Hard Day's Night, congratulate me boys, I'm engaged

Paul’s Grandfather: Congratulate me boys, I’m engaged!
Paul: Oh no you’re not!!! Not this time.


A Hard Day's Night, Paul's Grandfather in baggage compartment

Paul’s Grandfather: And to think me own grandson would have let them put me behind bars.
Paul: Don’t dramatize. Let’s face it, you’re lucky to be here. If they’d have had their own way, you would have been dropped off already. Well, you’ve got to admit you upset a lot of people. At least I can keep my eye on you while you’re stuck in here.

But Paul feels sorry for his Granddad, so…

A Hard Day's Night, Paul sits with Grandfather in Baggage CompartmentPaul joins him, and soon the other lads come by as well…

A Hard Day's Night, a laugh a line with Lennon

John: Don’t worry son, we’ll get you the best lawyer green stamps can buy
Paul: Oh, it’s a laugh a line with Lennon…

A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles play cards and sing

John: Let’s do something then.
Paul: Like what?
John: Hummmmm….

A Hard Day's Night, the Liverpool Shuffle

Ringo: I’ll deal… Aye aye, the Liverpool Shuffle…


 And now we are treated to our next song…at about 13 minutes into the film…

If this is love, you gotta give me more 🙂


A Hard Day's Night, baggage compartment scene Norm: Hey, don’t move any of you, they’ve gone potty out there… The place is surging with girls.

A Hard Day's Night, please sir can I have a girl

John: Please sir, sir, can I have one to surgery sir, please sir…
Norm: No, you can’t. Now listen, as soon as I tell you, get out through this door here into  that big car that’s waiting…

A Hard Day's Night train and crowd

A Hard Day's Night, train and crowd

A Hard Day's Night train and crowd

A Hard Day's Night train and crowd

The old in-one-car-door-and-out-the-other-give-them-the-slip trick…

A Hard Day's Night train and crowd

A Hard Day's Night, Beatles in car

Not a moment of peace when they’re out and about…


Well, at 17 minutes into the film, the boys are off the train, so this is where I will leave you… But suffice to say that, as the movie progresses, we are treated to some marvelous classics as The Beatles rehearse for their show, and later again, during their television performance (to a horde of screaming fans including a very young Phil Collins by the way). We also see some fun gags and side adventures along the way, plus a bunch of Ringo trouble caused by Granddad, culminating in some Keystone Cop like chaos…


 Just a few fun facts before I sign off…

  • The title track won a Grammy for Best Performance by a Vocal Group in 1964.
  • The movie was nominated for two Oscars:
    • Alun Owen: Test Writing (Story and Screenplay)
    • George Martin: Best Music (Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatement)
  • The word “Beatles” is never mentioned in the movie.
  • The plot was inspired by the Beatles themselves. According to director Richard Lester “The boys had just recently played Stockholm. I asked John, ‘How did you like it?’ ‘It was lovely,’ he said. ‘It was a car, and a room, and a stage, and a cheese sandwich.’ That became the script!”
  • In the “Can’t Buy Me Love” field sequence, Richard Lester stood in for John, who was at Foyles bookstore at a literary luncheon for his first book, In His Own Write.
  • George Harrison met his future/first wife, Pattie Boyd on the set. Boyd was seeing photographer Eric Swayne at the time, so she declined when George asked her out. A few days later, after ending her relationship with Swayne, she went back to work on the film and, when Harrison asked her out on a date for a second time, she accepted. According to Boyd, one of the first things Harrison said to her on the film set was: “Will you marry me? Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
  • The concert performance sequence at the end was filmed with six cameras in front of an audience of 350 screaming fans (including a 13-year-old Phil Collins) at the Scala Theatre on Charlotte Street, in London.
  • At one point the studio considered re-dubbing their voices with those of trained actors, but Richard Lester absolutely refused.
  • The constant mention of Paul’s grandfather as being “clean” are references to Wilfrid Brambell’s role in “Steptoe and Son” (1962) which featured the catch-phrase, “You dirty old man.”
  • In 1984 MTV honored Richard Lester with a special award for being “The Father of the Music Video”.
  • Songs featured in the film include “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “If I Fell,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “And I Love Her,” “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” “Tell Me Why” and “She Loves You”
Selected pieces from this CMBA Blogathon are available in the Planes, Trains & Automobiles eBook, available for free at Smashwords and on Amazon for $0.99, with all profits going towards the National Film Preservation Foundation.  

A Big Thank You to the marvelous Classic Movie Blog Association for hosting this very special event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub


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3 Responses to CMBA Blogathon: Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blogathon – A Hard Day’s Night

  1. There was a time I could recite that darn movie. Saw it “at the movies” when I was a kid in a plaid dress and white ankle socks. Watched it every time it was on TV. I have not done that in a very long time, and I don’t know why. There’s no reason. You reminded me that it is still as entertaining as ever.

  2. The Lady Eve says:

    Your deep affection for the Beatles comes through in every word of this lovely recap of the train section of Hard Days Night. Great choice, great write-up and, by the way, any hardcore fan of the Beatles is a friend of mine.

  3. I am so glad you chose this film for the blogathon! I just saw it recently and, I swear, I almost cried. They were so brilliant, so talented, so young! This is a joyful film and a true classic. Your post and choice of photos are excellent.

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