The 1960s was a period of huge social and political change in Britain. The generation born during or just after World War Two – as the Beatles were – became increasingly tired of the old ways of doing things and wanted more freedom, excitement and innovation. These changes extended to fashion, music, the arts, education and society as a whole. In 1964, the year in which A Hard Day’s Night was made, a new government came in, bringing with it a wide range of liberal measures, such as the abolition of the death penalty, the liberalisation of the divorce, abortion and homosexuality laws, family planning clinics, the abolition of theatre censorship, and the building of several new universities. So, change was in the air…
The Beatles were already hugely popular in Britain in 1964, and this film helped to establish their name across the world. The film cost relatively little to make (£190,000) but earned the (American) production company $11million. British films featuring pop music stars had always been rather wooden and uninspiring until A Hard Day’s Night came along to shatter this tradition. The director, Richard Lester, had a background in making short comedy films and TV commercials: this proved very helpful in creating the joyful tone and lively style of this film. The Beatles had never acted before but, as young though experienced performers, soon adapted well to what they were asked to do. They were helped in this by the brilliant script, written by Alun Owen who – like the Beatles – was born in Liverpool and worked as a playwright for theatre and TV. (Owen was nominated for an Academy Award – or Oscar – for his script, but did not win.) The film received an excellent welcome by critics and public alike, and has been re-issued and shown on TV many times since. The film is also credited with having influenced the style of the videos created for MTV (Music TV), the American cable channel which first started in 1981.