Birth of the Beatles (1979) 

In the late 1970’s, former Bandstand host Dick Clark secured a deal with ABC to produce two rock and roll biopics. Elvis Presley’s unexpected death in 1977 dictated that his biopic, starring Kurt Russell, would go to air first. Ten months later, Birth of the Beatles premiered on US TV screens. Though it too was helmed by an accomplished director, featured fine acting and superbly used sound-alikes to capture the artist’s live performances, this biopic doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor.

Kicking off with a line-up that included Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, the Beatles head off to Germany where the youthful band refine their act amid the din of Hamburg’s red-light district. After returning home to England, the group come to the attention of record-store owner Brain Epstein. A recording session with George Martin follows and soon the boys have a number one hit and are on their way, but not before a few changes in their line-up.

Based in part upon the recollections of Pete Best, this biopic not only expertly recreates the band’s on-stage performances, but also fondly recalls the boy’s off-stage banter as well. While each actor gives a worthy impression of their fab four counterpart, Stephen McKenna steals the picture with his adroit performance as John Lennon.

Yet there a few missteps which do detract. An overly dramatic score greets every event, be it a death, a fire or an unexpected pregnancy, with a farcical crescendo. And the inclusion of many brief scenes with minimal dialogue interrupts the overall flow of the piece. So although this biopic reaches the top it doesn’t, unlike the Beatles, reach the very top.

cast, Stephen MacKenna, John Lennon, Rod Culbertson, Paul McCartney
Stephen MacKenna
Stephen MacKenna

as John Lennon

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Rod Culbertson
Rod Culbertson

as Paul McCartney

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John Altman
John Altman

as George Harrison

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Ray Ashcroft
Ray Ashcroft

as Ringo Starr

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fact check, fact vs fiction, true story, Nigel Havers, George Martin

Beatles did not accidently set fire to the Kaiserkeller by knocking over a candle. They nailed a condom to a wall and deliberately set fire to it.

Infers Stuart Sutcliffe died shortly after leaving the Beatles, whereas his death occurred several months later.

Depicts Pete Best being sacked from the band before the group meets George Martin. In reality, it was Martin’s dissatisfaction with Best’s drumming that was one of the reasons for his removal.

John Altman, George Harrison, Ray Ashcroft	, Ringo Starr, beatles

No scene recreations, as this biopic concludes before the Beatles film career begins.

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