I grew up during the Sixties and Seventies and Beatles music permeated much of my life those years. No, I wasn’t a fanatic (I liked the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, the Who, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash a lot more), but I saw them when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, saw all the screaming, fainting teenage girls, and listened with fascination to their music. I have a much greater appreciation for their music today than I ever did then, so I had to see this documentary on the long-time secretary for the Beatles (she was the only one they had for their entire career as a band), Freda Kelly.
Though I was a bit tired when it started and the interview segments that filled the early part without much of a visual break didn’t help keep me focused, I soon perked up and started to gain an immense amount of respect for this unassuming woman. When others who had even a tangential connection to the Beatles were cashing in on their name shamelessly, she remained silent–for almost 50 years. This documentary is the first such film or even extended interview she’s participated in since the Beatles broke up in the early ’70s. And she said this would be the only one she’d ever do. Given what I learned about her in the film, I’m certain she’ll keep her word.
It turns out that the filmmaker, Ryan White, who has a local connection with the Center for Documentary Studies, has known Freda all of his life. And until just a few years ago, he didn’t know she’d been the Beatles secretary! When he pitched the idea of a film to her, she thought long and hard but ultimately agreed because he was making the film. She trusted him, and only him, to make it right.
Though the film is a bit of mixed bag in my estimation, I still liked it for its sensitive portrayal of an ordinary woman caught up in an extraordinary time. This really was the story of Freda Kelly, secretary, first and foremost, and a story of the Beatles secretary secondarily. To this day, Freda still works as a secretary and most of her friends still don’t know she was once so famous! I guess what drives this home in the film is that at the beginning there is an overhead shot of her driving into the parking lot where she works–hers is the only car there. At the end of the film, we get a similar shot, and hers is still the only car in the lot. Simplicity itself.