“This is going to surprise you — it may knock you right out of your chair — but the new film with those incredible chaps, the Beatles, is a whale of a comedy.” So began Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review of the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, which premiered at London’s Pavilion Theatre on July 6, 1964. Coincidentally, it was seven years to the day that John Lennon met Paul McCartney.
The movie didn’t turn Crowther into a Beatles fan. In the same review, he referred to their music as “moronic monotony” and admitted he had trouble distinguishing them from each other “except for Ringo Starr, the big-nosed one.” Still, he praised the movie’s self-aware, comedic take on Beatlemania, and, for a country that was generationally divided on the group, such words from someone so entrenched in polite society carried significant weight.
And, for the upcoming generation of film critics, the movie was pivotal in their development. “I remember I walked into the theater,” Roger Ebert said in the 1995 documentary You Can’t Do That! The Making of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ “I had a short hair cut. I was dressed kind of ‘fraternity-boy’ style, and I came out with my idea about how to carry and express myself really influenced. I started to let my hair grow. While I was watching that movie, my hair started to grow. … I’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night at least 25 times, and on at least five occasions, I’ve taught it to film classes one shot at a time.” MORE