In an acclaimed 60-year career, documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles has made films on subjects ranging from door to door Bible salesmen to the infamous mother and daughter in Grey Gardens, but he will always have a connection to The Beatles and February 1964. Budd Mishkin sat down with Maysles for Part 3 of his series commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first trip to New York and the United States and filed the following report.
On February 7, 1964, Albert Maysles received a rather important phone call.
"I got a call from Granada television in England, saying that 'The Beatles are arriving in two hours. Would you like to make a film of them?' Arriving at Idlewild Airport in New York," Maysles says. "So I put my hand over the phone and turned to my brother, and I said, 'Who's The Beatles? Are they any good?' And he said, 'Yeah, they're good.'"
A few hours later, Maysles found himself in The Beatles' limo heading into Manhattan. For the next week, he and his brother David would be the envy of millions, hanging out with the Beatles, filming them in hotels, trains and Central Park.
"Anyone seeing the film can have an authentic, truthful view of who these guys were," Maysles says.
The film is the documentary "What's Happening: The Beatles in the USA." We watched parts of the film at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem.
As in every Maysles film, there is no narration.
"It's always behind the scenes and getting close up with people that we try for," he says.
The film is a series of small moments, primarily away from the limelight.
Maysles says that there is a theme that connects all of his films.
"There's this kind of common humanity that we have that we got to get into in our filmmaking, and it's something that I'm trying for all the time," he says.
The documentary "What's Happening: The Beatles in the USA" will be screened next Thursday night at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.