Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To Sir Paul McCartney, With Love

Happy Birthday, Sir Paul!
After all these years, I am still amazed that I got to spend one hour with a true living legend, Paul McCartney.  This privilege, this honor, this great meeting occurred thanks to VH1.  I was a VJ and talk show host.  He was promoting his new 1989 album, Flowers in the Dirt.  I flew to London to tape a special interview show for the network.  We also talked about films.  A movie that deserves a second look and re-appreciation is A Hard Day's Night, the 1964 pop musical that starred The Beatles as themselves.  There's a touch of the Marx Brothers mixed in with the mayhem of the "mod" 1960s British scene at the time.  John, Paul, George and Ringo play themselves and lampoon their pop star images.  It's fun, funny and music-filled.  It's sweetly irreverent and very imaginative.

The Fab Four made its film debut in a winner.  I'm positive that the pacing and hip editing of A Hard Day's Night, directed by the innovative Richard Lester, had a huge influence on music videos two decades later.  This film came out in 1964, the same year the group made its first appearance on CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show.  The Beatles made TV history.

When Oscar nomination time came, the Academy really dropped the ball in overlooking A Hard Day's Night in one popular category.  More about that later.  Paul McCartney did eventually get an Oscar nomination -- in the Best Song category for writing the theme to the 1973 James Bond adventure, Live and Let Die starring Roger Moore.
Singer Tom Jones was a guest on my VH1 talk show and said that said that he definitely would've entertained the idea of auditioning to play 007.  Here's a clip of Sir Paul and me in London from our VH1 special.  He talks about the classic film role that got away.

When he mentioned director Franco Zeffirelli, it did not throw me off.  I was familiar with his work.  I'd seen the film.  Why?  Because going to see it was a field trip one day when I was a student in the post-riots Watts section of Los Angeles.  Our English Lit. teachers at Verbum Dei High School on South Central Avenue didn't have a big budget like schools in upscale middle class neighborhoods, so good movies in theatrical release were utilized as part of our fine arts education.  We took buses to areas like Hollywood or Westwood.  We saw fine films like A Man for All Seasons and Far from the Madding Crowd.  That Catholic school still holds a special place in my heart.  It's still in operation in Watts.
Now.  About the major Academy oversight at nomination time for the films of 1964:  Lennon and McCartney tunes in A Hard Day's Night were eligible for Best Song.  Eligible songs included "And I Love Her," "Can't Buy Me Love," "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You," "I Should Have Known Better," "If I Fell" and the title tune, "A Hard Day's Night."

Not a single one was nominated for Best Song.  The Oscar went to "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins.  The Disney film song beat out "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte," "Dear Heart" and "Where Love Has Gone," all songs from movies of the same name.  The fifth nominee was "My Kind of Town" from Robin and the Seven Hoods starring and introduced by Frank Sinatra.

A Hard Day's Night got two Oscars nominations.  One was for Best Original Screenplay and the other was for Best Music Adaptation and Scoring.  The songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney should've been nominated.  Their songs have endured.

Here's a DVD double feature recommendation for you:  Watch 1964's A Hard Day's Night and follow that with another film that deserves more attention today than it gets -- the 1982 family drama, Shoot the Moon, directed by Alan Parker.  A couple with four children breaks up after 15 years of marriage.  Albert Finney and Diane Keaton are so powerful as the bitter, resentful parents.  This was one of those top films that showed folks that Keaton was not just Woody Allen's Annie Hall.  One of my favorite scenes in Shoot the Moon has Keaton, as the emotionally devastated wife, in a bathtub and singing Lennon & McCartney's "If I Fell" to herself, in French.  A great scene with a song from the movie A Hard Day's Night.  Another moving performance, one that almost steals the film, came from the late Dana Hill as Sherry, one of their children.  She's the oldest child, overwhelmed trying to deal with the unhappy emotions of two people more than twice her age.  Dana Hill moved me to my soul with that performance.  My parents divorced when I was just starting high school.  I'm the oldest of three kids.  I knew how that character felt.  So, with the common bond of my favorite song by Lennon & McCartney, there's my DVD double feature top for you -- A Hard Day's Night and Shoot the Moon.

You might also want to check out this classic box office hit from Franco Zeffirelli.

Once again, I wish a very happy birthday to singer/songwriter, musician and humanitarian, Sir Paul McCartney.  Interviewing that gentleman will always be one of the highlights of my life.

And thank you, Verbum Dei High School, for the preparation.

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