Peter Sellers Recites The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” in the Style of Shakespeare’s Richard III

“Now is the win­ter of our dis­con­tent….” If you know noth­ing else of Shakespeare’s Richard III, you’ll know this famous open­ing line, and it’s like­ly many of us know it through Lau­rence Olivier’s per­for­mance of Richard as a “melo­dra­mat­ic bad­die” in the famous 1955 film. If not, take a look at the clip below to famil­iar­ize your­self with Olivier’s dis­tinc­tive man­ner­isms and speech. The ref­er­ence may large­ly be lost these days, but in 1965, at the very height of The Bea­t­les’ fame, Olivier’s per­for­mance was still fresh in the minds of the TV view­ing pub­lic. And the mer­cu­r­ial Eng­lish come­di­an Peter Sell­ers put it to good use in a Bea­t­les-trib­ute vari­ety pro­gram called The Music of Lennon and McCart­ney that aired in the UK. In the clip above, Sell­ers recites the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” in char­ac­ter as Olivier’s dandy­ish Richard.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Sell­ers and the Bea­t­les had hit it off right away when they were intro­duced by George Mar­tin, and as we showed you in a recent post, the come­di­an milked their lyrics for more mate­r­i­al, read­ing “She Loves You,” in a vari­ety of accents. Sell­ers’ ren­di­tion of “A Hard Day’s Night” was hard­ly the first Shake­speare­an turn for the band.

The pre­vi­ous year, they appeared in anoth­er vari­ety tele­vi­sion spe­cial called Around the Bea­t­les, “pro­duced con­cur­rent­ly,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds, “while A Hard Day’s Night was being shot.” (Around the Bea­t­les was direct­ed by pro­duc­er and man­ag­er Jack Good, a “Shake­speare fan,” who also, it turns out, con­vinced rock­a­bil­ly star Gene Vin­cent to dress up like Richard III.) In this ear­li­er pro­gram, the band—always good sports about this kind of thing—dressed up in Shake­speare­an garb and staged a rau­cous per­for­mance of a scene from A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Sell­ers Reads The Bea­t­les’ “She Loves You” in 4 Dif­fer­ent Accents: Dr. Strangelove, Cock­ney, Irish & Upper Crust

The Bea­t­les Sat­ur­day Morn­ing Car­toon Show: The Com­plete 1965–1969 Series

The 15 Worst Cov­ers of Bea­t­les Songs: William Shat­ner, Bill Cos­by, Tiny Tim, Sean Con­nery & Your Excel­lent Picks

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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