The Beatles Music In The Movies (Not their own movies, mind you)

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” – James Bond (Sean Connery) GOLDFINGER (Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1964)As it has been well reported all over the internets the soon-to-be released ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Dir. Julie Taymor, 2007) is fully comprised of Beatles music – all cover versions sung by the actors who all have names (Jude, Lucy, Lovely Rita, Jo Jo, Sadie, etc. – wait where’s Michelle?) based on Beatles songs in scenes thematically suggested by Beatles material – yep, the Fab Four through and through. I know Beatle fans who are opposed to the project – and yeah it looks like it could be cringe-inducingly cheesy but I’ll reserve judgement for now. In the meantime let’s take a look at the Beatles music as it has appeared in soundtracks in the almost 40 years since they disbanded.

The catalogue is mostly owned by Michael Jackson who after famously outbidding Paul McCartney for ownership of ATV Music Publishing in 1985 has angered hoards of Beatle purists time and time again. First with his licensing of “Revolution” for the Nike spots of the late 80’s and most recently for the currently running “All You Need Is Love” Luvs diaper ads. The use of an original Beatles recording in a movie can be incredibly expensive – that’s why so many covers have appeared throughout the years. Even the Simpsons had to resort to using a sound-alike cover band for a HARD DAY’S NIGHT parody scene. Actual Beatles music has appeared sporadically over these last several decades but that have been some notable uses in the movies starting with :

SHAMPOO (Dir. Hal Ashby, 1975) Set in 1968 with a soundtrack full of 60’s gold (Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel) 2 major Beatles tracks appear – “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. I guess the rights weren’t as expensive pre-Jackson era. Either that or Warren Beatty and Hal Ashby had more clout than previously believed. Check out this Shampoo Montage somebody made on YouTube to get some of the flavor of said film.

I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND (Dir. Robert Zemekis, 1978) There’s more than a little of that coming-of-age in a single day AMERICAN GRAFFITI thing going on here. With the premise that the single day in question is February 9th, 1964 – the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan American TV debut. An ensemble cast of teenage fans (including Nancy Allen, Wendie Jo Sperber, Bobby Di Cicco and Marc McClure) all scheme to get into CBS-TV Studio 50 to see the historic broadcast. The soundtrack of the film contains 17 Beatles songs (including “She Loves You” twice) and since, of course, none of the actual Beatles were involved – stand-ins were used as Wikipedia best puts it :

“Stand-in Beatle-look alike doubles, dressed in identical attire and holding the same type of musical instruments in a similar manner, were seen mimicking the group’s performance of the song from that show while being shown on the stage floor, albeit from a distance so as not to see their identities, while the actual footage of The Beatles on The Sullivan Show of 02/09/1964 was revealed from the camera operator’s point-of-view. These two elements were combined together, along with reactions from the studio audience to recreate a brilliant moment in time.”
A brilliant moment in time indeed. Sorry, just became James Lipton there. Incidently the IMDb doesn’t give credit to the stand-ins but this cool UHM post revealed that the “George” was filled in by monster mask-maker (he designed the Captain Kirk mask used in the HALLOWEEN movies), actor, and horror-movie director Bill Malone – seen above between director Zemekis on the right and an unknown “Lennon” on the left.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (Dir. George Roy Hill, 1982) In the opening credit sequence as “When I’m 64” plays a baby is bounced upwards into the clear blue sky in slow motion. McCartney’s soothing nursery rhyme vocal is perfectly suited here to the baby’s (Infant Garp credited to Brandon Roth – not to be confused with Brandon Routh – the new Superman) happy expressions. This may be the best and most original scene in the canon of Beatles-synched cinema. But, wait what about :

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (Dir. John Hughes, 1986) After somehow commandeering a parade float in downtown Chicago to lip synch to Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” Ferris (Matthew Broderick) gets down to the Beatles cover of Phil Medley and Bert Russell’s immortal “Twist And Shout”. The entire crowd dances as a marching band provides horns that weren’t on the original recording. Despite the fact the song re-entered the charts at #21 that summer (also because of its use in the Rodney Dangerfield college comedy BACK TO SCHOOL) McCartney criticized the addition of horns to the track. Pretty picky Sir Paul – I mean it was a parade!

WITHNAIL & I (Dir. Bruce Robinson, 1987) Now is a good time to bring up George Harrison’s Handmade Films. Formed in the late 70’s to back Python related projects, Handmade made a handfull of interesting films in the 80’s and 90’s. One of the best was WITHNAIL & I – a hilarious cult classic mostly taking place around a country cottage with Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann at their tawdry best. At one point a portion of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is heard – it’s safe to assume that since George was one of the producers it seems like this was probably given some kind of significant discount.

(Dir. Michael Moore, 2002) Can see why Moore would pay the extra buck to get the original song – no other would do the same job. As I wrote in a post about Moore’s movies as a baby-boomer era hit song “The Beatles’ ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ made an obvious point”. Lennon’s vicious vocal snarls in such a manner that benefits a montage of kids with guns, a blind man with an assault rifle, and a smattering of public execution-style killings.

Some Other Honorable Mentions in the Beatles Music in the Movies Sweepstakes :

COMING HOME (Dir. Hal Ashby, 1978) – “Hey Jude” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

MASK (Dir. Peter Bogdanavich, 1985) Although the soundtrack in this under rated biopic about Roy L. “Rocky” Denis (played by Eric Stoltz) who suffered from a cranial enlargening disease was dominated by Americana like Springsteen, Bob Seger, Gary U.S. Bonds, and even 4 Little Richard songs – there were 2 seminal Beatles standards present – “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Girl”.

FIVE CORNERS (Dir. Tony Bill, 1987) “In My Life” plays during the end credits – again, Harrison’s Handmade hook-up helped out. He was executive producer to be more exact.

PRICK UP YOUR EARS (Dir. Stephen Frears, 1987) – “A Day in the Life.”

(Dir. Steve Rash, 1987) Can’t remember what song was featured in this one but man I bet it was effective!

A BRONX TALE (Dir. Robert Deniro, 1993) An impressive – obviously Scorsese influenced (as if that’s a bad thing) soundtrack to Deniro’s directorial debut includes the Kinks, Wilson Pickett, Miles Davis, various Rat Packers, etc. But the inclusion of the original “Come Together” gives it full cinematic cred.

So – that’s all for now. One day I’ll get around to the Beatles covers in the movies – especially since ACROSS THE UNIVERSE adds to the universe of soundtracks full of Beatles covers like the infamous flop – SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (I’ve given many shout outs to the Nathan Rabin’s Year Of Flops series but particularly his entry on Sgt. Pepper’s should not be ignored) and I AM SAM – a horrible movie but a good Beatles cover oriented soundtrack all the same.

More later…


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