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50 Years Ago: The Beatles Premiere Their Second Film, ‘Help!’

After the runaway commercial and critical success of their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles were given the opportunity to make another one. Their second movie, Help!, had its world premiere in London on July 29, 1965.

According to Beatles Bible, it took place at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus, with Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, in attendance. It was not the group’s first brush with royalty. In November 1963, they played the Royal Command Performance, where John Lennon famously introduced the Beatles’ closing number, “Twist and Shout,” by saying, “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.” And in June 1965, Queen Elizabeth II had controversially named all four Beatles to her Birthday Honors list as the first pop stars to be awarded MBEs.

Because of his breakout performance in A Hard Day’s Night, the plot for Help!, which had the working title of Eight Arms to Hold You, centered around Ringo Starr. An Eastern cult needs one of his rings in order to ritually sacrifice one of its members, but it’s impossible to remove, which puts Ringo’s life is in jeopardy. On top of that, a pair of scientists who think the ring will allow them to rule the world enter into the picture. After a series of madcap adventures, which includes trips to the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas, everything is sorted out.

Seven new Beatles songs — “Help!,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “Ticket to Ride,” “I Need You,” “The Night Before” and “Another Girl” — made their debut in the movie, but it also helped point the way toward their musical future. In one scene, the Beatles go into an Indian restaurant, which is where George Harrison was first introduced to the sitar.

As with A Hard Day’s Night, Help! was directed by Richard Lester and included Victor Spinetti in the cast. Although it has some very funny scenes and great music, it lacks the tightness of its predecessor. Part of that was because the script wasn’t as good, but also because, as Lennon said in Anthology, “[W]e were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period. Nobody could communicate with us, it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time. In our own world. It’s like doing nothing most of the time, but still having to rise at 7AM, so we became bored.”

After the premiere, the Beatles, Lester, Princess Margaret, Lord Snowden and the other cast members attended a party at the Orchid Room of the Dorchester Hotel.

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