An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
"Let's face it, we just mutter a few words now and then and Dick Lester tells us how to do it." - George Harrison
To most people Richard Lester is The Guy Who Made The Beatles' movies, but I'm so backward I was a Richard Lester Fan long before I was ever a Beatles Fan. Was I ever really a Beatles Fan? Yeah, but only in the same way I've been a "Friends" Fan and I don't want to hear any stories about where you were when you found out John Lennon was dead anymore then where you were when you found out Courtney Cox had gotten married to that David Arquette guy. One day when I had nothing better to do (Courtney was busy at the studio and I'd finished doing her laundry) I made a little list of My Five Favorite Movies Of All Time and "A Hard Day's Night" starring The Beatles and directed by Richard Lester was right there in The Top Three with "King Kong" and "Doctor Strangelove". So The Beatles are obviously cool with me but if I were to make a list of My Favorite Albums Of All Time I'd be probably be in the thirties or forties before I got around to . . . Oh . . . I'm trying to think of a title of a Beatles album that would be on the list . . . Uh . . . You get the point. "A Hard Day's Night" is a great movie but it isn't about The Beatles anymore than "King Kong" is about a little gorilla doll photographed one frame at a time so when you roll the film it looks like The Eighth Wonder Of The World (Like "Doctor Strangelove", both of these movies are about a powerful force unleashed onto the world. Number Four on my list? "Night Of The Living Dead". Number Five? I dunno, I got scared and drank beer until I passed out.)
Lester's great misfortune is that he is credited with creating a style of filmmaking which was tremendously popular for about three and a half weeks in the early sixties and looks more and more horrible as the years go by. For example, several years ago The MTV Movie Awards honored Lester as "The Inventor Of The Music Video" and Lester was too much of a gentleman to tell MTV to take their award and shove it (Learned that one from Theresa Heinz). In addition to "Dumb And Dumber", I will forever respect Jim Carrey for getting up in the middle of the MTV Movie Awards and mocking the notion of there being any honor, value, or prestige in winning an award from an organization as fecculant as MTV. I've always had fantasies of MTV Movie Award winners going into convenience stores for a can of soda and . . .
CASHIER: That will be eighty six cents, Miss Diaz!
CAMERON DIAZ: Here . . .
CASHIER: Uh . . . Do you have anything smaller than a fifty?
CAMERON DIAZ: Oh . . . uh . . . oh . . . Oh! Here!
Cameron gives the cashier an MTV Movie Award.
CASHIER: Okay . . .
CAMERON DIAZ: Thanks!
CASHIER: Come back! I owe you a quarter!
Richard Lester is not to blame for any of this. Now, The Beatles . . .
Richard Lester was born in 1932 in Philadelphia and was so intelligent he could spell two hundred and fifty words at age two, graduated from high school at age fifteen, and got a degree from the University Of Pennsylvannia at age nineteen. Well, I wrote for the National Lampoon at age seventeen, nyah nyah nyah, Mister Smarty Pants Richard Lester! After graduation Lester got a job playing piano at a local TV station (He learned "Chopsticks" in utero) and worked his way up to directing all of the station's live programming by lunchtime of his first day. Well, if he was so damn smart why was he still in Philadelphia? Finding television about as creatively fulfilling as selling hot dogs on a street corner, Young Richard ran off to Europe to work as a free lance journalist and play piano in cafes. Boy, if that doesn't show how different the world was in those days - If a young American ran off to Europe to do that lately he woulda wound up in Afghanistan with the Taliban. But they didn't have Osama Bin Laden back then, they had Spike Milligan!
No modern American comedian has made the kind of impact on our nation's culture that Spike Milligan had on England's with his BBC Radio series "The Goon Show". No, not Richard Pryor. No. I said - NO! I'm not going to change my mind. No! Although I gotta give Richard Pryor this much - Setting himself on fire was a very Spike Milligan kind of a thing to do, maybe now that Spike is dead we can set him on fire and smoke him - I'll shell out a few bucks for an ounce or two of that shit. Just don't let Richard try to freebase any of it! Spike was quite possibly The Funniest Man Who Ever Lived but was so (It took me a very long time to find just the right word for this) disorganized that it is a miracle he was able to translate his humor to the medium of radio. His reputation as an (Another long pause in the writing as I try to find a polite way to put this) eccentric was so widespread throughout the world of British entertainment that, by the time Lester quit galavantin' around and began working for BBC TV, no one was expecting a TV show or movie out of him anymore than anyone's waiting for one out of Don Imus today. Hey, there's a challenge for ya, Miss Smarty Pants Sophia Coppolla! If a no talent bum like Ivan Reitman can make good movies with Bill Murray, anyone can!
Lester's Great Breakthrough was in combining his production skills with his appreciation of Milligan's comedy to create . . . No, not the music video! Get that damn David Bowie outta here! I'd give him a smack but I don't wanna give him a heart attack! He ain't man enough to go out the same way Joe Strummer did! John Ritter? Okay, I'll give him a . . . Aw, he's gone . . . Lester teamed up with Spike Milligan and his "Goon Show" co star Peter Sellers for the revolutionary, innovative, and - Oh, yeah! - funny comedy series' "The Idiot Weekly", "Show Called Fred", "Son Of Fred", and "The Running, Jumping, And Standing Still Film", an eleven minute home movie shot one afternoon that actually won the Academy Award! Whoa! Imagine the destruction brought down on LA if Spike had come over to accept that Oscar! No more English people woulda been allowed over here again until The End Of Time! No Beatles! No Stones! No Led Zeppelin! Charles Manson wuz robbed!
In 1963 The Beatles were at the point where they were definately going to make a movie and the odds of this thing being any good were slim to none (If Elvis couldn't do it no one was expecting very much from these yoyos - They weren't even popular in America yet!). But Richard Lester was at the point where as much was expected from his next movie as from The Beatle's next record. He was an artist at the height of his creative powers and The Beatles were as lucky to have him direct their movie as they were to have Charlie Watts playing the drums for them. Oh, wait a minute . . . Didn't Charlie Watts play drums for the Beatles? I dunno, go find that Bowie guy if you wanna talk about that shit. I've got an article to finish here.
"A Hard Day's Night" is such an inarguable masterpiece that if Lester had died right after finishing it he would still be remembered as one of the best filmmakers ever. Not that I wish that had happened, but after the way people responded to nearly everything he did afterwards, you can't blame the guy for thinking he should have faked his death and opened up a pet shop, like Buddy Holly. Lester was The Director Of The Time, unfortunately The Time was The Sixties and everything he did after "A Hard Day's Night" is as dated as anything else from that horrible decade. Lester directed The Beatles' second movie "Help!" which everybody agrees is not that great and for once in my life I agree - "Help!" sucks. What? Why is everybody looking at me like that? Nobody else thinks "Help!" sucks? Well, what were you all complaining about - I'VE BEEN SET UP! I guess now you think I'm going to be manipulated into putting down "The Magical Mystery Tour" and then I'll really be in a pickle! Well, I'm too smart to fall for that! I'm gonna turn the tables on you and say that I think "The Magical Mystery Tour" is BRILLIANT! "The Magical Mystery Tour" is a MASTERPIECE!! "The Magical Mystery Tour" is . . . Oh, God - Have I made an ass of myself. No woman will have me now. I am damaged goods.
Lester directed a series of flops which eventually found him in Italy directing
commercials for a living. The more I think about that the less I feel sorry for
the guy. What a great way to meet girls! Shit, I'm a total failure myself, who
do I call to get a job in Italy directing commercials? Hell, I'll take a job in
Italy mopping floors. That's gotta be a better way to meet girls than anything
I've come up with around here. Lester's first dog was a psychedelic version of
the Broadway musical comedy "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum"
that had musical comedy fans so upset . . . Oh, fuck those people. At least it
had Buster Keaton in it, what more do they want? "How I Won The War" - Now THAT
is a BAD MOVIE! An anti war satire so hilariously stupid that the government
should have broadcast it nonstop before we invaded Iraq . . . No, forget that.
"How I Won The War" is a British movie so if the government had broadcast it
nonstop we would have nuked Great Britain and that would have intefered with The Darkness CD.
This movie couldn't represent everything that was wrong about the sixties more
succinctly if it was a Dennis Kucinich delegate at the Democratic Convention.
"Dig" how "heavy" this "trip" is - The Big Climax comes when the main character,
an upper class British Army officer, explains his world view to a German officer
who has been taken prisoner and the shocked Nazi exclaims "You . . . are . . . a
. . . FASCIST!!" Even the people who draw the syndicated political cartoons for
your local lefty weekly newspaper are disgusted with this movie.
"The Bed Sitting Room" finally finished off Lester as an A List Director and that's a drag cause I think "The Bed Sitting Room" is TOPS!! Written by Spike Milligan, this crazy thing presents life in London after civilization has been destroyed by a nuclear holocaust and LAWD HAVE MUSSY! it's so creepy I don't ever want to be in London before, during, or after no nuclear holocaust. This movie is every bit as self consciously meaningful as "How I won The War" but at least it's written by a funny guy and has a lot of good comedians in it. Spike appears as an idiot wandering around looking for something to eat while the entire British Government is represented by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore floating around in a hot air balloon yelling at people. The title is based on the main character, a middle aged man who mutates into a bed sitting room after being exposed to radioactivity - So at least his family has a comfy place to live! The cast's performance of the post apocolyptic version of "God Save The Queen" at the end of the film is possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen, aside from a drunk guy demonstrating how it is possible for a woman to use a wall urinal. (The funniest thing I've ever seen was a drunk guy using a woman as a wall urinal. But that's just me. - ED wil )
Any guy from Philadelphia who could become a movie director by going to England instead of Hollywood is Okay with me. Blake Edwards, who directed "The Pink Panther" and a million other great movies, is brilliant but too much of a Hollywood Sleazeball to be the topic of a web zine article by anyone as profoundly hip as John Saleeby. Look at him, sitting there writing words on a piece of paper like that - FAR OUT! The other day Saleeby went to the Post Office to keep in touch with the sullen drones of an obsolete process and when given postage stamps with Henry Mancini (the guy who wrote the music for "The Pink Panther") on em Saleeby whipped off his rubber Boris Karloff mask and declared "I ain't lickin' no stamps with no Hollywood Sleazeballs on em! Who do you think I am - Heidi Fleiss?" They should come up with a bunch of stamps with whoever wrote the music for "A Hard Day's Night" on 'em. Somebody find out who that was.
Lester has had a nice journeyman career since coming back from Italy - He directed "Three Musketeers", "Four Musketeers", "Superman 2", "Superman 3", and a lot of other stuff he asked me not to to remind anybody of and, Brother, I can't blame him. His final credit as a director was Paul McCartney's "Get Back". I've never seen that thing but I have seen an autopsy on a guy who dropped dead while installing a mobile home and the next time a guy drops dead while installing a mobile home I'll watch his autopsy before I see a movie with Paul McCartney in it. What? He was in "A Hard Day's Night"? I thought that was Ray Davies! Well, I'll be damned!
It would have been great if Richard Lester could have directed a Monty Python movie but, unfortunately, two members of Monty Python already wanted to be Richard Lester when they grew up so all he had to do with "The Life Of Brian" and "The Meaning Of Brian" was looking at the screen and wondering why the camera was always in the wrong place - Yes, just like you and me! Well, no - Not YOU, Ivan Reitman!
Wonder what Lester was so busy with he couldn't do "Kiss Meets The Phantom"?
What do you think America? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!
John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email - email@example.com
Saleeby's crazy web log!
I think this picture makes clear who the real Superman on the set was.
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