The Beatles arrived to the United States during a time when America needed them and I Wanna Hold Your Hand captures the Beatlemania.
Americans were still mourning the late President John F. Kennedy in February 1964. They needed this almost as much as The Beatles themselves. All eyes were tuned into The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS that evening for a record-setting 73 million Americans tuned in for their first U.S. performance. Television programmers today would love a 45.3 rating and a 60 share but those days are long gone with a gazillion channels to choose from. The Beatles would perform five songs during the Sunday night broadcast. Imagine being one of the other acts booked for the evening!
This film follows several teenagers from New Jersey and then some. All with the same goal of seeing The Beatles in person! Honestly, this film is no different than your run of the mill comedy about friends. But at the same time, it is a first feature capturing an exciting time for Americans. Robert Zemeckis does a fine job in capturing the action. Of course, the music is wisely weaved in and out as necessary. Utilizing nothing but their early songs, I Wanna Hold Your Hand features one of cinema’s best soundtracks ever. It is right up there with American Graffiti and That Thing You Do! After all, we’re talking about four lads from Liverpool here! Fun fact: it took nine months to secure the rights.
You cannot help but feel for Grace (Theresa Saldana). She has the $50 for the security guard in order to attend the show. But at the last minute, she goes back to the car to get Larry (Marc McClure) out of a jam. The cops were going to have him go down to the station. She brides the police officer with the money she would have otherwise paid the guard. But at the end of the day, Grace still wins because of a moment that could only happen in this film.
What impresses me the most is that this is Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s first feature. This was two years before Used Cars–a film that I regret not seeing yet. It would be another seven years before Back to the Future. Warner Bros passed because of their first-time director policy. Universal Pictures really took a chance on them and it paid off in the long run. But in terms of the film itself? It was released eight years after The Beatles broke up in 1970. Was that a factor in why the film didn’t break even during its theatrical run? Maybe, maybe not. The fact of the matter is that this film isn’t so much about The Beatles themselves but a group of trying to see them. I Wanna Hold Your Hand captures the essence of Beatlemania even if we don’t really see them except on stage.
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
SCREENWRITERS: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
CAST: Nancy Allen, Bobby Di Cicco, Marc McClure, Susan Kendall Newman, Theresa Saldana, and Wendie Jo Sperber