Beatles Poster History

Andrzej Szyszkiewicz, from northern Poland, says the poster could be an original from 1964-66. Mr Szyszkiewicz confirms that "A Hard Day's Night~ was shown in Poland with distribution delays of only "about a year or two." His story about seeing the film in a small Polish town in 1966 demonstrates how Bealemania transcended the Cold War divisions of Europe. With the film and music apparently approved by Warsaw's central censors, a route was opened for pirate tapes of Beatles music to move further east - to places like the Soviet Union and Bulgaria where it was initially outlawed. Here are Mr Szyszkiewicz's thoughts on the subject:

"A Hard Day's Night" was shown in ordinary Polish cinema houses in the mid-1960s -- just like hundreds of other Polish, Russian, Italian, French, English and some American movies. It should be said that most of the American films shown at the time were made by Walt Disney. I still remember seeing westerns like "Rio Bravo" with a young Ricky Nelson and a not-so-old Dean Martin. And all those films with Brigitte Bardot... well...

I was born and live in Szczecinek in northern Poland. In 1966, there were three cinema houses for the 17,000 people there. One was in a "House of Culture," another one was owned and operated by a local garrison and the third one was a state-owned cinema. Though its name "Przyjazn" meant "Friendship" - you know what sort of friendship it meant.

We used to go to to movies every week - on Sundays after church with Grandmother. We popped in for some Disney or maybe a Russian adventure. It was kind of risky sometimes. There were usually posters and pictures on display about the films, but sometimes there weren't any. So we once went to see a movie called "Mikojan" - we didn't know better. You were allowed to leave if you didn't like the film and we often did.

As for the Beatles, well, we had a band in our high school in 1966 and I played drums. When "A Hard Day's Night" came into town, it was called simply: "The Beatles." We went to see it a couple of times. It cost 8 zloty per ticket, or 6 zloty if you got seats in the first five or six rows - these were considered "second class."

One scene, in particular, stands out in my memory: Ringo sitting behind his Ludwig kit, hitting the snare drum HARD. What was so fascinating was that he kept the thin-end of the stick in his hand and hit the snare with the thick-end. Since that day, I did the same. Another thing was the way he kicked the bass-drum. There is a very short sequence, less than two seconds, showing a camera shot from behind the drum set at floor level. Just to see this again, I went to the movie the next day. Yes, you had to stand in a queue to get tickets. Some people even paid double and triple price - those who simply HAD to go.

I remember later, perhaps in 1967, seeing an enormous poster on one of the principal streets in town. It was three to four meters tall and had HUGE letters saying: "THE BEATLES." I thought, "What the....." When I got closer, I saw that the announciement was for another band from England - called The London Beats (not the voice ensemble called The London Beat) playing "As loud as THE BEATLES." Of course, we went to the concert. It didn't matter, really, what they played. We were happy just to look at the Vox amplifiers, real Ludwig drums and Gretch and Rickenbaker guitars. This concert took place at the House of Culture, which doubled as a cinema with a stage, curtain and so on. A couple of years later I saw the films "Help" and "Yellow Submarine" as well - in Poland of course!

Polish movie posters were very good at that time. They were created by well-known artists - never supplied from abroad - and were commonly collected. Some of us decorated our rooms with them. Quite a few can be found in museums around the world. There must be a signature at the poster - try to read what it says. There is a database on Polish Cinema and you might be able to find some information about the artist there.

There is another thing about posters. As all the printed items had to be approved by state censors before printing, any poster from the 1960s would have had an approval code number printed somewhere near the edge of the poster, probably on the front. It would have looked like "N/Z - 12330340 - 62" Some of these numbers correspond to the year of issue. With a bit of of luck, you could identify the printing date in that way.

Andrzej Szyszkiewicz