Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hot Docs 2013 Film Review - Good Ol' Freda

Silicone valley is full of secretaries, janitors and receptionist who were original employees at a start up and became millionaires when those companies went public. The entertainment world  is famous for former assistants, publicist and bodyguards who take an advance and write a tell all book about their celebrity employer. Freda Kelly has none of these qualities. She was the only Secretary that  the Beatles ever had and later became their Fan Club manager.  Kelly was a very private person who did not tell her story until more than 40 years after her association with the band ended.

Freda worked in a typing pool in 1963 Liverpool having left school at 16. She was invited by two of her colleagues to go to the Cavern Club for lunch and saw one of the Beatles early shows at the club. After the first visit she was hooked and became a fixture at the lunch time sets and well known to all of the band members and their manager Brian Epstein. Therefore it was a natural fit when Epstein set up his office on the second floor of his fathers store Mems to hire Frieda as his secretary.

Director Ryan White presents an excellent tale and brings out all of Freda's qualities. She was a fan of the band but not a fanatic. Did her job well and always had the band members and fans best interest at heart. Shot mainly in a one camera interview style with questions coming from off screen Freda tells her story and lets her personality come out. Her account is very straight forward but deliberately cryptic when she discusses her individual relationship with each Beatle. One great passage is her description of Ringo's request to have her help him to answer his fan mail.  Freda would not do it herself but agreed to come round to his home and give his mother a few pointers.  It turned out he had 9 letters and that initial visit started a close relationship with Freda and Ringo's then the other Beatles parents.

Filled with old photos and stills of the band the film brings you right back to the height of Beatlemania. Especially poignant are the behind the scene shots in the Cavern Club during the lunch time performances. A key point was when Paul no longer wanted Frieda to refer to him as a Beatle when she put updates on his activities in the Official Beatles Fan Club Newsletter. While around the same time John was off doing the bed in with Yoko Ono in Montreal. Freda tells part of her story as she looks through a few boxes that she has kept in her attic She reads from a Beatles newsletter all that start with Dear Beatle People and end with Lots of Good Luck and Tarrah for now.

Freda talks of the memorabilia that she had in her office which she gave all away as in her mind it belonged to the fans. Two other quick points on her character were her attempt to slip in her autograph book for a signature but did not want to say who the autographs were for or when she fired all of her assistants when one tried to put in her own hair to send to a fan claiming that it was Paul's.

Freda Kelly had the dream job of any young Liverpudlian. Still working as a secretary for a law firm today. She did not take advantage of her position and presents a unique inside view of the Beatles and their families that even her family did not know many of the details until the making of the documentary.  Good Ol' Freda is a film that I can recommend.

*** 1/2 out of 4.

Good Ol' Freda | Ryan White | U.S.A. | 2013 | 86 Minutes.

2013 Hot Docs Film Festival.

Tags: Beatles, Music, Liverpool, the 60's, Founding Employees.

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