A Hard Day's Night Revisited :
The Space Between Before and After Page 3
by Candice Leonard
Checking Out The Set
After the tedium of the press conference they are energized by seeing the stage
at the television studio, and eagerly head down to it. Ringo is forced to contend with
a stagehand who doesn't understand why he can't "have a little touch" of Ringo's drums.
George observes that Ringo is "sulking again," at which point John says he can
cheer him up and proceeds to sing him a love song. In addition to the fairly overt homosexual references, there is a pronounced homoerotic quality to this scene, and
it draws our attention to the extraordinarily close and symbiotic relationship of these four men. Shortly after, John admires an actor's feminized costume, and is asked if he wants to swap.
The Beatles are chased by young women and gladly take notice when an attractive one happens to be nearby, but at no point do any of them pay genuine attention to
a woman, or turn his focus away from the others towards a woman. Their interest in women seems almost perfunctory, yet sufficient to allow every young girl watching
to imagine she could be the object of their fleeting gaze. Their bond with each other, even when one of them is separated, is the most important thing. The extraordinary affection and airtight friendship that ties them together is always in evidence, even during their musical performances. In addition to modeling a new style for men, they are displaying affection and dependency among men rarely shown in the mass media prior to the mid-1960s.
Playing The Field
After once again being told to stay put but refusing to be contained, the Beatles
open the door to a fire escape leading to an open field. They romp happily on a field
in patterns and choreography meaningful only to them, or without meaning at all. Described in 1964 by New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther as "audio-visual poetry," the scene celebrates freedom and youthful energy—so much freedom and energy that they are able to fly. Frolicking like little boys but dressed like adult men, they are for the moment not the famous Beatles, but four buddies joyfully exploring
a new space, enacting some sort of bonding ritual. The scene rings true—male adolescent behavior that is mischievous and perhaps objectionable, but ultimately harmless.
Our bird's eye view of this romp makes us aware of the symmetry between them, how they are four integral parts of a whole. There are moments when shadows make it appear that they are running across a huge map, with the world at their feet. This jumping for joy happens against the backdrop of "Can't Buy Me Love," a song that eschews materialism and asserts the greater value of love and human connection. Their escapade abruptly comes to an end when a man, reminiscent of the stuffy commuter they vanquished in an earlier scene, tells them they are trespassing on private property. In other words, they have once again wreaked havoc with the
George's response, "Sorry we hurt your field, mister," subtly echoes the anti-materialist theme of the song, expresses further disregard for the class system, and questions the whole notion of private property—especially in regard to something as basic as an empty, open field. Standing up to authority through their sarcastic apology, the Beatles once again make authority look foolish and petty. They didn't hurt the field, and they aren't sorry. They leave, just as they left the train compartment, with moral superiority and the last word.
George Makes A Fashion Statement
In this classic scene, George wanders into an ad agency and is mistaken for an
actor playing the role of a real teenager who will offer his opinion about some shirts. In another surreal twist, these trendsetters don't recognize him as one of the Beatles. George is amused, polite, and eager to help, despite the condescending "you'll dig them" attitude of the too-cool marketing man.
Answering honestly, George tells them the shirts are "grotty" and that he wouldn't
be caught dead in them. He proceeds to insult Susan, the company's "posh bird" spokeswoman, calling her "a drag, a well-known drag." The marketing folks cry
"get him out" expressing the same fear of contagion expressed by the commuter's lowering of the arm rest, and the TV producer's weary request that they be removed from the set, lamenting (and foreshadows a youth culture phrase), "Once you're over thirty, you're past it."
The Beatles pose a threat, although the particulars of that threat are not exactly clear. Perhaps, like the marketing people, all the authorities are trying to discern whether they are "just troublemakers" or "an early clue to the new direction"
—never suspecting that they could be both. George's comments do leave an impression, and although the change in teen taste "is not due for three weeks" according to the calendar, they decide not to renew Susan's contract. Once again,
the Beatles have the last word and walk away triumphant.
Almost Show Time
In a scene loaded with gender commentary, we see the four Beatles preparing for
the imminent live performance. Ringo sits under a hair dryer wearing a black furry guard's hat, reading Queen magazine. There are several references to cross-dressing and they play with costume accessories, trying out different identities. John picks
up a fake beard which he incorporates into a few different routines. Especially noteworthy is the generational reversal when Lennon declares, "The older generation is sex-obsessed" and "leading the country to ruin." In another generational reversal, George gives in to Norm's pleas to teach him to shave with a safety razor.
This scene opened with Paul's grandfather complaining about not having any fun,
and calling them "a bunch of sissies." They don't refute this, and accuse him of being jealous. Paul's grandfather is presented as oversexed, although we are repeatedly told that he's "a clean old man," —a playful twist on the stereotypic "dirty old man." It's suggested that Ringo take granddad for a cup of tea. Ringo protests, telling them he is "a drummer and not a wet nurse," but then reluctantly agrees. The playful and casual references to sex and gender in this scene invite the viewer further into a world where sex and gender have no fixed meaning.