After much anticipation, theatrical screenings of the Beatles documentary “Good Ol’ Freda” will officially begin this Friday, September 6, 2013, with much fanfare. We have watched an advance screening of the film, which lives up to its promise of shedding new light on the Beatles' history. (See film trailer this page) The film began with a successful Kickstarter campaign, has been in production with Tripod Media since 2011. It tells the story of Freda Kelly, the fan who had the enviable job of being the Beatles Fan Club Secretary for a full eleven years. Fifty years later, this is the first time she has shared her memories and photos of that amazing time in her life. And what a time it was!
At eighty-six minutes long, the documentary is presented from Freda's personal recollections. Besides Freda herself, others share their memories of her work and give their perspective of her relationship with the Beatles and their families. Included are Liverpool legend Billy Kinsley (Merseybeats), Billy Hatton and Joey Bower (Fourmost), Freda's daughter Rachel Norris, Beatles publicist Tony Barrow, and Angie McCartney (Paul’s step-mom) as well as June Underwood who worked at the Fan Club under Freda.
In a heartwarming moment at the very end of the movie, Ringo Starr gives a warm message to Freda on behalf of all the Beatles.
The title of the movie, “Good Ol’ Freda” came from a comment yelled out by the Beatles in the 1963 Christmas record sent to fans. In the greeting, George acknowledges their fan club secretaries, (one in London, and Freda, who remained in Liverpool) and in the background the rest yell “Good Ol’ Freda!!” Freda witnessed first-hand the rise of this Liverpool group to unimagined success and fame, and was still with them when it all fell apart. Freda tells her story now for the sake of her only grandchild Niall. She is proud of her history and the exciting time she had, but has always been extremely private.
Freda tells the fascinating story of how she became a very early Beatles fan in 1961 while watching them at the lunchtime Cavern sessions, and how her father highly disapproved, as she was just sixteen. Vintage photos of the Cavern and Mathew Street from that time period provide a priceless and historic background, as well as actual photos of her in the Cavern watching the Beatles perform. The story progresses to her hanging out with the band back stage, and her introduction to Brian Epstein, who then offered her a job in the office. Her Liverpudlian reply is humorous: “Oh go on, then,” as she didn't believe what she was hearing.
The consistent theme that runs throughout the movie is Freda’s dedication to “her boys,” her loyalty to them, and her staunch work ethic. She worked hard to communicate accurately with the fans who wrote to her regularly, despite the fact that the daily letters quickly went from 200/day to over 2000, and there are even photos of the postmen arriving with huge bins of letters. She never betrayed the Beatles’ trust, even in tough times. And apparently, despite her shy demeanor, she could quickly reduce to shreds anyone who dared spread lies or gossip. Despite having faith that the Beatles were going to be famous, no one, not even she, knew just how famous they would be.
Four Beatles tracks are used in the film: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Will,” “I Feel Fine,” and “Love Me Do.” The rest of the songs in the film are original versions of songs the Beatles did covers for, and other early rock music contemporary with the period. The unprecedented licensing permission by Apple is a testament to their lifelong mutual respect and love for Freda.
Many of the photos, and there are hundreds, are from her own never-before-seen collection. Several others were used with permission by Apple, as well as Mike McCartney, Paul’s brother. All together they paint a wonderfully fresh portrait of what it was like working for the Fab Four at that time.
Some highlights of the film include following Freda up into the attic, where she discovers for the first time in fifty years, the boxes that hold all her Beatles’ treasures—photos, scrapbooks with loose newspaper clippings, yellowed with time, including an envelope that reads, “George Harrison’s real hair.” Her close relationship with the Beatles’ parents is explained, with plenty of photos and personal stories. They all considered her part of the Beatles family, a rare commodity in this day and age. She explains which of the Fab Four's parents she was closest to and why.
Also in the film is why she briefly got “sacked” by a jealous John Lennon once, examples of Brian Epstein’s explosive temper tantrums and how John saved her from it, and various examples of how her loyalty was tested time and again. She also tells the story about why she sacked all the girls in the office one day over an unfortunate incident done by one girl, illustrating the high standard of ethics that she adhered to. You will not find salacious stories, but she does discuss Brian's insistence that John’s marriage be kept secret; and when it came to John's many infidelities, she still kept her lips sealed.
Fifty years is a long time to keep memories to yourself, let alone working for the Beatles! Freda's willingness to share her eleven years of recollections, photos, laughter and tears with the public will be appreciated by many for years to come. We enjoyed the film a great deal, and were pleasantly surprised by the fresh perspective provided through the stories told along with all the previously unseen photos. "Good Ol' Freda" sheds new light on Beatles history and what it was like to work in an intimate setting with the most famous rock group of all time. Beatles fans worldwide will enjoy this new opportunity to understand and see behind the scenes of the Beatles' rise to glory, and just how unexpected the explosive fame was.
The film is a Tripod Media production, and distributed through Magnolia Pictures. Produced by: Ryan White, Kathy McCabe, and Jessica Lawson. Ryan White directed the film. (Read our interview with Ryan here.)
The producers of ‘Good Ol’ Freda’ including Freda Kelly herself will be in attendance at New York’s Museum of Moving Image September 4, at 7 p.m. for a special sneak preview of the film. Screenings around the country and in Canada begin the 6th. (here is a list) In Los Angeles the film will be shown at Sundance Sunset Cinemas on the 6th and 7th, with Q&A sessions with Freda Kelly and director Ryan White.
The DVD will be available on December 3, 2013, and will contain bonus features and extra stories.
Read our interview with producer Kathy McCabe, and learn how the stars aligned to make this film happen, with more background stories.
The team from “Good Ol’ Freda” encourages everyone to contact their local independent theaters if they do not see a listing in their town. “If people request the film, the theater can contact Magnolia Pictures and request it” Kathy McCabe told us. Subscribe to their mailing list for updates, and follow them on Facebook.
Copyright notice-©Shelley Germeaux 2013: This article and photos are subject to copyright restrictions and may not be reproduced without the author’s permission. Excerpts with link to original article are welcomed. Please subscribe to the John Lennon Examiner for instant notifications of future articles.
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