When I compile lists of films that were never made and that I wish I could see, I always think of Up Against It, the script that British playwright Joe Orton rewrote for a Beatles movie, which allegedly was too racy for the band's then-wholesome image. According to Prick Up Your Ears, the Orton biography by John Lahr, Up Against It would have had The Beatles' characters "caught in flagrante, become involved in dubious political activity, dressed as women, committed murder, been put in prison and committed adultery." Can you imagine the possibilities? Instead, we have to satisfy ourselves with the zany Richard Lester movies featuring The Beatles in clean-cut situations, A Hard Day's Night and Help! (There's also Magical Mystery Tour, but I've never been able to sit through the whole mess of a film.)
The above image is from the credits of A Hard Day's Night -- of course, that's John Lennon, who was born on this day in 1940. A Hard Day's Night is still considered by many to be a comic masterpiece, but I fear it hasn't dated well over the years. In high school, I loved watching, reading about, and listening to John Lennon, but I'm not as blind to the film or the musician's flaws these days. The last time I saw the 1964 film, I felt restless and bored in spots. The non-Beatles actors aren't particularly interesting, and the "frenetic pace" is old hat for contemporary viewers. But the music is great and the guys are fun to watch as they race around mischievously parodying themselves, or titillate audiences of packed girls with their energetic musicmaking. It's the best chance we have these days to visualize The Beatles at their peak, when they were practically idolized by their followers.