Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material and smoking
Released in Theaters: September 6, 2013 (also on iTunes and onDemand)
Genre: Documentary, Music, Historical, Biography
Runtime: 86 minutes
Directed by: Ryan White
Official Site: ‘Good Ol’ Freda‘
I am a casual Beatles fan. I enjoy listening to their music, but I only know the hits. I’ve karaoked “Yellow Submarine” with verve and vigor, and I had a good time when I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles’ Love in Las Vegas (I must admit it was probably the first time I had heard the song “Octopus Garden” though I knew it’s name).
So would a casual fan such as myself enjoy the documentary “Good Ol’ Freda” which chronicles Freda Kelly, the Beatles’ secretary from almost their meager beginnings in Liverpool to their breakup over a decade later?
The answer is yes.
Obviously, hardcore Beatles fans will enjoy this look into Kelly’s days with the Beatles, but I think music fans, in general, will be interested to see this documentary. The photos alone, some from Kelly’s personal photo books, along with the archival footage, is worth the price of admission.
Now a grandmother, Freda Kelly finally talks about her time with the Beatles in over 50 years. Raised in Liverpool just as the Beatles were trying to make their mark on the world by performing lunchtime gigs in a seedy dive called The Cavern Club (it’s actually still open today), she discovered them when well, she was just 17 (I’ve had that song in my head ever since I saw this doc) after she was dragged to The Cavern Club by a friend and instantly fell in love with the Beatles and their music.
Through a mix of good fortune and just being in the right place at the right time, she befriended the Fab Four, then befriended their manager, Brian Epstein, who eventually offered her a job as his secretary.
After taking over the role of fan club president when her friend lost interest in the Beatles, Kelly was the go-to gal for all things Beatles at the time. She wrote the monthly newsletter, answered fan mail and being a fan herself, she could relate to all the girls who just wanted a piece of their favorite Beatle. She did her best to fulfill all their requests, even going so far as to get the Beatles’ hair clippings from the local barber so she could send a lock of hair to the fans who requested it.
The documentary is a charming look at a charming lady who led a charmed life for a short while as the Beatles’ secretary. She never cashed in on her fortuitous time with them, and perhaps that is why she still works six days a week (and maybe a hard day’s night?) as a secretary. It is only now she speaks out about her time – not to cash in on their still-influential fame, but to chronicle a portion of her life for her grandchildren.
What’s astonishing about the documentary is that Ryan White, the filmmaker, was able to get the rights to four Beatles songs to use in the production. The Beatles are notoriously hard to clear (and usually quite expensive), but once White had the full backing of the remaining Beatles on this film, many doors were suddenly open to him.
I do wonder if Kelly ever truly grasped the enormous influence the Beatles had on music and the world in general, because to her, they were just a group of local lads who made it big and she was lucky enough to be there for the ride.
Watch the trailer below.