I Wanna Hold Your Hand (film)

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I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Tamara Asseyev
Alex Rose
Written by Robert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Starring Nancy Allen
Bobby Di Cicco
Marc McClure
Susan Kendall Newman
Theresa Saldana
Wendie Jo Sperber
Music by John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Cinematography Donald M. Morgan
Editing by Frank Morriss
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • April 21, 1978 (1978-04-21)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,944,682

I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a 1978 comedy film directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis, which takes its name from the 1963 song of a similar name by The Beatles. It was produced and co-written by Bob Gale.

The film is about "Beatlemania" and is a fictionalized account of the day of the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964). It was released in 1978 by Universal Studios.

The film is the feature film directorial debut of Robert Zemeckis and also the first film that Steven Spielberg executive produced. Even though modestly budgeted, in order to convince Universal to bankroll it, Spielberg had to promise studio executives that, if Zemeckis was seen to be doing a markedly poor job, he would step in and direct the film himself.[1]

Despite positive previews and critical response (The New York Times wrote that "the whole film sparkles with a boisterous lunacy" and called its plot "positively dazzling"),[2] the film was not a financial success and was considered a flop, unable to recoup its rather modest $2.8 million budget. Zemeckis later said, "One of the great memories in my life is going to the preview. I didn't know what to expect [but] the audience just went wild. They were laughing and cheering. It was just great. Then we learned a really sad lesson....just because a movie worked with a preview audience didn't mean anyone wanted to go see it."[3]

Over a year later, in December 1979, four of the film's stars—Bobby DiCicco, Wendie Jo Sperber, Nancy Allen and Eddie Deezen—appeared in the Spielberg-directed comedy film 1941, which was written by Gale and Zemeckis. Susan Kendall Newman, who played Janis Goldman, is Paul Newman's daughter.


Four girls from Maplewood, New Jersey set off to New York City to see the Beatles' guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show.

Rosie Petrofsky (Sperber) is in love with Paul, and wants to meet him; Grace Corrigan (Theresa Saldana), is certain that exclusive photos of The Beatles could secure her future as a photographer; Pam Mitchell (Allen), is about to get married and wants to have one last night of fun before her wedding, and Janis Goldman (Susan Kendall Newman) believes that the Beatles "undermine artistic integrity," so tags along to protest their music.

The girls are aided by Larry Dubois (Marc McClure), their "chauffeur," and tough guy Tony Smerko (Di Cicco), who is annoyed that the Beatles are supplanting American acts on the charts and on the radio.



The soundtrack features 17 original Beatles recordings:

  1. "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
  2. "Please Please Me"
  3. "I Saw Her Standing There"
  4. "Thank You Girl"
  5. "Boys"
  6. "Twist and Shout"
  7. "Misery"
  8. "Till There Was You"
  9. "Love Me Do"
  10. "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"
  11. "P.S. I Love You"
  12. "Please Mister Postman"
  13. "From Me to You"
  14. "Money (That's What I Want)"
  15. "There's a Place"
  16. "I Wanna Be Your Man"
  17. "She Loves You"

The song "She Loves You" was featured twice toward the end of the film. The first time was during the group's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. For this sequence, stand-in Beatle lookalikes, dressed in identical attire and holding musical instruments in a similar manner, were seen mimicking the group's performance of the song from that show while being shown on the stage floor, albeit from a distance so as not to see their identities. The actual footage of The Beatles was revealed from the camera operator's point-of-view. These two elements were combined with reactions from the studio audience to recreate a historic moment in time. The second use of "She Loves You" came during the end credits.

Other songs by the Beatles, ones published years after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, are referenced as in-jokes throughout the film. They are:

  1. "Helter Skelter", mentioned by an aristocratic woman who sojourns at the Beatles' hotel ("Things are all helter skelter!");
  2. "Get Back", mentioned by a cop trying to calm a riot against his arrest of a very young Beatles' fan ("Get back girls, get back!");
  3. "One After 909", "909" being the number of the hotel room of a man who is searching for a hooker in New York;
  4. "Polythene Pam", in the name of "Pam Mitchell", the girl that manages to sneak inside the Beatles' room and then has fetishistic behaviours towards objects and musical instruments belonging to the group. "Polythene Pam" was inspired by an evening that John spent with poet Royston Ellis and his girlfriend, Stephanie. The three wore polythene (a common British contraction of the word and the IUPAC version of the word polyethylene) bags and slept in the same bed out of curiosity about kinky sex.
  5. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", mentioned by a member of the Beatles' staff named Neil (probably a reference to the Beatles' road manager and personal assistant Neil Aspinall) while speaking to a cop after Pam has been discovered lying under John Lennon's bed ("Is that the bird that was under Lennon's bed?", a reference to a widespread interpretation that sees in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" a confession of adultery).
  6. "Girl", once again during the scene in which Pam is discovered: the cop does not get the aforementioned "bird" allusion, and Neil promptly states: "Girl"; to make this reference even clearer, the cop answers: "Girl, girl" (mimicking the chorus of the song). Noticeably, as the dialogue goes on, Neil speaks about an arrangement he made with Brian (a reference to the real Beatles' manager Brian Epstein) concerning how to handle the situation with the press.


  1. ^ Shone, Tom. Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Summer. New York: Free Press, 2004. p. 125. ISBN 0-7432-3568-1
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1978-04-21). "Screen: Recapturing Day of the Beatles: Out of Sight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  3. ^ Emery, Robert J. The Directors: Take Two. New York: Allworth, 2002. p. 68. ISBN 1-58115-219-1

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