The Beatles had a ‘Hard’ time in black-and-white


“A Hard Day’s Night”

Q: I watched “A Hard Day’s Night” on Turner Classic Movies recently. Since The Beatles were so popular, why was it filmed in black-and-white? — Kris Blake, Providence, R.I.

A: Besides the fact that monochrome films still were fairly common at that time, United Artists wasn’t sure what it had, since the “Fab Four” were unproven as movie stars. The studio really wanted the American rights to the soundtrack for its music label, knowing how well the quartet was faring on the charts internationally. Filming in black-and-white rather than color helped keep the budget low, minimizing the risk at the box office.

As we know now, the picture proved to be a smash with audiences and critics alike upon its 1964 opening, prompting United Artists to sign The Beatles up quickly (along with two other pivotal returnees, director Richard Lester and producer Walter Shenson) for a follow-up film. The following year’s “Help!” not only had a bigger budget that allowed for location filming in sites including the Bahamas, where Sean Connery was making the James Bond movie “Thunderball” at the same time, but it was in … color!

Helen McCrory

Q: I was sad to learn of the passing of Helen McCrory of “Peaky Blinders,” who I know was the wife of Damian Lewis. Will the return of “Billions” have more of a delay now? — Bruce Wise, via e-mail

A: It’s possible, depending on how much production had been completed on the remaining episodes of Season 5 of the Showtime drama when the tragedy happened in mid-April. The cast and crew had gone back to the set at the end of February, and we suspect work on all of those episodes wasn’t done yet, but it also depends on how much of the remaining work involves Lewis. Those scenes could be rewritten, but with his Axe being one of the foremost characters in the show, it might not be possible to work around him extensively.

The plan is for filming of the rest of Season 5 to segue right into production on Season 6, which Showtime already has ordered. The network and the “Billions” producers are sure to give Lewis whatever time he needs before resuming his job, particularly given the continuous energy that playing Axe requires, so time will tell when new installments will be seen again.

Q: Will ABC have more episodes of “Soul of a Nation”? — Cynthia Reed, Negley, Ohio

A: Nothing is definite yet, but the documentary series got lots of attention, thanks partially to the network’s promotion of it and the prominent guest hosts it had (Sterling K. Brown, Marsai Martin, Jemele Hill, etc.). Its themes certainly were relevant, too … in some cases, even more so than when the content initially had been planned.

Whether the program gets a second round will depend largely on Kimberly Godwin, the CBS alum who is coming in as the new president of ABC News, which turned out the series. One would suspect that she will give this matter careful thought when the time comes for a decision to be made, particularly since so many of the division’s correspondents had active roles in making the series.

Q: I was surprised that the death of James Hampton, who played bugler Dobbs on “F Troop,” didn’t get more attention. Wasn’t he good friends with Burt Reynolds? — Michael Kenner, via e-mail

A: He certainly was. They first worked together when Reynolds was a regular and Hampton was a guest star on “Gunsmoke,” then the two made a number of movies together in the early 1970s including “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing,” “The Longest Yard,” “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” and “Hustle.” Like Reynolds, Hampton also was interested in directing, and he also got to do that with Reynolds on the comedy series “Evening Shade.”

Of course, Hampton also did much else during a career that stretched over more than 50 years (even doing ads for MeTV and referencing some of the classic series he had been on). His other television work ranged from “The Doris Day Show” and “Centennial” to “Teen Wolf” and “Days of Our Lives,” and in films, he earned particular notice for “The China Syndrome” and “Sling Blade.”

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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