The Beatles’ first movie, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, paved the way for their next film, HELP!, which opened a year later to the day.
NIGHT, which hit NYC cinemas on Aug. 11, 1964, has done about $11M worldwide since then. HELP! arrived in NYC the next Aug. 11 and has done over $12M globally. Both films were distributed by United Artists & directed by Richard Lester. The Beatles wanted to work with Lester because of his 1959 short THE RUNNING JUMPING & STANDING STILL FILM, co-directed with Peter Sellers.
NIGHT’s working title was first THE BEATLES and then BEATLEMANIA. It famously was changed when Ringo Starr, exhausted from filming, said he was resting on “a hard day’s night.” John Lennon shared that with producer Walter Shenson, who pitched it as the new title to UA, which didn’t like it. At Shenson’s suggestion, UA bounced it off some young staffers — and then changed its mind. John with Paul McCartney began work on the title song that night, along with George Harrison & Ringo, and played it the next morning for Shenson.
UA was most excited about a loophole it had found in The Beatles’ U.S. contract with Capitol Records, which didn’t cover movie scores — meaning that UA could release a NIGHT soundtrack album. On that album, The Beatles performed eight songs and there were also four instrumental tracks from the score arranged by George Martin. It quickly became a #1 LP. Years later, UA got out of the record business and sold its catalog to Capitol, which then reissued NIGHT’s soundtrack on its own label.
As for HELP!, it wasn’t supposed to be The Beatles’ second movie. They were going to do a western where they all pursued a cattle baron’s daughter, but that project evaporated and, instead, they made HELP! Paul has said HELP!’s screenplay was written to meet their requests to film in places like the Alps and the Bahamas where they’d never been. Since the Bahamas was a British territory, it was also attractive as a tax shelter for the group.
HELP! wasn’t the film’s first title. When Capitol released “Ticket To Ride,” the first single, it was said to be from the movie EIGHT ARMS TO HOLD YOU — a title The Beatles disliked and that didn’t fit the storyline. “Help!,” of course, turned out to be the perfect title. The Beatles weren’t particularly happy with how Lester directed HELP!, but since then it’s been called an influence on the making of music videos.
During production, Paul was working on a song he called “Scrambled Eggs,” driving Lester crazy by playing its melody over & over. By the time filming wrapped, Paul had finally sorted out the lyrics — and “Scrambled Eggs” had become “Yesterday.”
“Lovely lads and so natural, I mean, adoration hasn’t gone to their lids one jaunt, has it. You know what I mean…success!”
“Just so natural, and still the same they was before they was.” – Dialogue from HELP!