Writer Alun Owen put together the plot of the movie while following The Beatles around on their tour of France before they went to America. From observing them, he created their "stereotypes": John Lennon is a smart-ass, Paul McCartney is "cute" and sensible, George Harrison is quiet and shy and Ringo Starr is dim-witted and sad. He also picked up their manners of speech, and their daily routines, with which he created the plot. Despite the comic elements, it really was a "day-in-the-life" look at The Beatles.
In the scene where The Beatles are running and playing in the field, John Lennon was not there. He was away promoting his new book "John Lennon: In His Own Write." A body double filled in for John, and close-up shots of him were edited into the scene later. A copy of the book can be seen on a mantelpiece in the background of a shot of Norm, Shake and Paul's (very clean) grandfather.
The resulting album of the same name is the only one The Beatles released with every song written and composed exclusively by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was also the first Beatles album not to contain any covers of other artists' songs (e.g. "Roll Over Beethoven", "Twist and Shout").
United Artists executives didn't really care about the film itself, they were mainly interested in exploiting a legal loophole which would allow them to distribute the lucrative soundtrack album. In fact, they fully expected to lose money on the film. With a final cost of about $500,000 and a box office take of about $8,000,000 in the first week, "A Hard Day's Night" is among the most profitable (percentage-wise) films of all time.
United Artists was pressuring the producers to finally come up with a title for the film. When John Lennon told producer Walter Shenson about Ringo Starr's malapropisms, Shenson thought that Ringo's phrase "a hard day's night"--referring to his resting up after an exhausting day--might make a good title. John agreed. Shenson called United Artists with the proposed title, which was coolly received. Shenson suggested that they ask the secretaries and other young employees, who might be fans of The Beatles, what they thought of the proposed title. The suggestion worked and the title was accepted.
Ringo Starr is invited to "Le Cercle" gambling club, the same club where James Bond makes his first appearance in Dr. No (1962). Coincidentally, both "A Hard Day's Night" and "Dr. No" were originally released by United Artists.
Another James Bond connection is the song, "This Boy" (a.k.a. "Ringo's Theme"), an instrumental version of which was used in the film to accompany Ringo Starr's solo scene. The guitarist was Vic Flick, who previously played on "The James Bond Theme" from Dr. No (1962).
Pattie Boyd appears in several scenes in the first act, all on the train. 1) She is one of the two "schoolgirls on the train" they first encounter 2) Paul McCartney chats her up with her friend. 3) She sits next to Paul and smiles and sings on "I Should Have Known Better". She and George Harrison, who met during filming, married within 18 months.
The tire that Ringo Starr trips over in the scene at the river bank had to be thrown again and again, as it kept rolling incorrectly. Finally, after numerous wasted takes, it was offered to young actor David Janson, on hand to play the young boy Ringo meets. Janson rolled the tire correctly on the first try.
George Harrison stumbles and falls during the opening sequence of the group running down a street towards the camera. This wasn't intended and he ripped the suit he was wearing, but as he quickly recovered, laughed and continued running, it was decided to retain the shot in the film.
The song accompanying the boys' romp in the field was originally "I'll Cry Instead". It was changed to the previously-released track "Can't Buy Me Love" when director Richard Lester felt the first song didn't fit the mood properly.
Ringo Starr was praised for his solo scene at the riverside as a forlorn soul. However, his expression in that scene was actually the result of being severely hung over after a previous night of heavy drinking.
Two scenes were filmed but never used. A sequence where The Beatles are stuck in a traffic jam along with their chauffeur (Frank Thornton) and a solo scene where Paul McCartney meets a Shakespearean actress (Isla Blair) rehearsing in her dressing room.
Mal Evans, one of the Beatles assistants along with Neil Aspinall, makes a cameo in the film. He is the person carrying the upright bass/cello in between John Lennon and Anna Quayle (Millie) as they are talking in the hallway backstage at the television theater.
Ringo Starr's answering a reporter's question "Are you a mod, or a rocker?" with "I'm a mocker" was voted as the #58 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. Ringo originally coined the quip during an appearance on Ready, Steady, Go! (1963).
United Artists wanted to produce the film because The Beatles' US contract with Capitol Records did not include a provision covering film scores. As a result, the original soundtrack for "A Hard Day's Night" was released on United Artists Records. The UA version was more of a soundtrack than the comparable album released in the UK, which was actually a new 13-track Beatles album; the UA album had only 8 songs performed by the Beatles, plus 4 tracks from the score (easy-listening orchestral versions of Beatles tunes, arranged by George Martin). All of the Beatles songs on the UA album were also released on Capitol as well, on either the "Something New" album or as 45-rpm singles. Nevertheless, the UA strategy worked, as their album went straight to #1. A few years later, UA decided to exit the record business, and sold their catalogue to Capitol -- which promptly reissued the "missing" album on their label.
Screenwriter Alun Owen claimed that the word "grotty" was a word used in Liverpool to mean "grotesque", but The Beatles never heard it before and believed Owen made it up. It subsequently passed into general usage and linguists certainly cite The Beatles as the popularizers of the word in the early 1960s and trace its origins to Liverpool.
Besides Grandfather's gambling at "Le Cercle Club," there is other James Bond connections: Richard Vernon (the grumpy old man on the train) plays Smithers - the man who lectures Bond on gold in Goldfinger (1964), and Margaret Nolan (girl at "Le Cercle Club") also appeared in that film, as "Dink", the girl at the hotel swimming pool.
While Paul McCartney is singing "And I Love Her," the camera panning around him picks up an arc light that flashes straight into the lens. United Artists executives, reviewing the dailies and certain the shot had to be a mistake, asked producer Walter Shenson if he was aware of it; Shenson replied it had taken them all morning to get it like that.
The camera's 360-degree pan around Paul McCartney during his performance of "And I Love Her" was achieved by dangling the camera from strings marionette-style and moving it in a circle around McCartney.
Paul McCartney's grandfather tells a policeman that he is "a soldier of the Republic". This is a reference to the IRA and shows the links to the Irish immigration to Liverpool. He quotes from the song, "A Nation Once Again" written in the 1840s by Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845), a founder of an Irish movement whose aim was the independence of Ireland.
Since The Beatles are credited in the opening set of credits, but are not in the more comprehensive end credits, they are listed first, followed by those in the end credits, as required by IMDb policy on cast ordering.
According to Norman Rossington, in the scene where John Lennon takes the scissors and cuts the tailor's tape and says "I now declare this bridge open", John improvised other versions where instead of "bridge" he would say "synagogue", "fish-and-chips stand", etc. The tailor in the scene is actually The Beatles' real tailor.
It was reported in contemporary press cuttings that 15 minutes was later cut from the film, including scenes involving a London double-decker bus. The Beatles autographed the ceiling of this bus, which was by that time privately owned by Tim Lewis of Twickenham. Many years later, in 1987, David Thrower purchased the bus in a derelict state, from Wicksteed Park, Kettering, and it is now fully restored to the condition it was in when used in the film - though the signatures of the Beatles on the ceiling are long gone, unfortunately.
When Paul McCartney's grandfather is trying to fake The Beatles' autographs he is sitting on a tail lift and is moved into an operetta rehearsal. The play that is rehearsed in the scene is "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauß.
The song "I'll Cry Instead" was written for the film, but later removed. It still appeared on the soundtrack album, and the US single had "From the United Artists Picture, 'A Hard Day's Night'" on the label. In 1982 the movie was re-released with an opening prologue that used "I'll Cry Instead" accompanied by an animated collage of photos of The Beatles (similar to, but more complex than, the photos that play under the end credits). Richard Lester was reportedly furious over the prologue sequence, and publicly stated that it was added without his involvement. All home video releases of the film in the 1980s and 1990s include the prologue, including the first DVD release in 1997. In 2000 the film was remastered and re-released on DVD without the prologue, and all editions since then have omitted it.
Each of the Beatles, with the exception of Paul, are addressed by their whole names once in the movie. George's name is told when the group is on the train, when John says "George Harrison, a scouse of distinction" (a scouse being a native of Liverpool). Ringo's name is mentioned on his casino invitation, though it's his actual real full name, Richard Starkey, that is said. John's name is said at the end of the movie, when Norm says, "I have one thing to say to you, John Lennon."
In the first ten seconds of the film, as the group of kids chase John, George and Ringo down the street, George stumbles, which causes Ringo to stumble. John looks back and hesitates for a moment before continuing to run. The lead pursuer - a tall blond in a three-piece suit and a mac who had been running close to the wall - moves to the center of the sidewalk, throws both arms straight out to block the kids behind him, and yells "stop!" The other kids stopped just long enough for George and Ringo to regain their footing and start running again.