For Fans And Correspondents, The Beatles Had Good Ol' Freda
In 1961, sixteen-year-old Freda Kelly left school and started working in a secretarial pool in Liverpool. Within two years, she went from her first secretarial job to the most prominent one she is likely to have. She became the secretary and fan club president to the most famous rock band of all time. The 2013 documentary Good Ol' Freda devotes its time to Kelly, and her stories about her association with the band. She first saw The Beatles at the Cavern Club during her lunch breaks, when people who asked her to do the typing treated her to lunch. It was there she first saw, and later met, Brian Epstein, a Liverpool music store owner who'd eventually hire Freda as his personal secretary. When the original president of the Beatles Fan Club no longer wanted to do the job, Freda took over and watched The Beatles become a musical phenomenon.
At the time of the documentary's filming, Kelly was still working as a secretary, and one of her children had made her a grandmother. She had kept just a few boxes of memorabilia from her Beatles days, which she took from storage in the attic of her home. Other people who share their memories of Freda and The Beatles include the band's press agent, Tony Barrow, two members of the Liverpool band The Fourmost, who recorded a Lennon-McCartney song The Beatles never released on their own until years later, and Paul McCartney's stepmother, Angie. Kelly and the others take a look at the changes of the band's career, as they grew from a popular local act to stars and solo acts.
Movies about The Beatles often get a big budget treatment. However, I think it appropriate that Good Ol' Freda didn't have that big budget. The documentary money came largely from a Kickstarter campaign. At the end of the Fan Club years, Kelly made a personal decision to focus on other areas of her life. She speaks humbly and proudly about going from her first job to the work that has earned he the most notice. One of the more humorous moments comes when Freda mentions that she originally had the Fan Club mail come to her house, which made her father question why she'd do that. Another comes as Freda recalls the filming of Magical Mystery Tour, when Paul wanted to get Freda in one of the shots. Freda asked Paul if she had to do that, and Paul simply ordered her toward the front to get her into the film more prominently. Freda's filmmaker friend, Ryan White, co-wrote and directed this look at Freda, and brings Freda's memories to life in a matter befitting his subject.
Freda admits to having crushes on all of The Beatles, including Pete Best, who was there when Freda became involved with the band. Her crushes, she recalls, changed every few days, depending on the attention each member paid to Freda. However, she does politely draw the line about what she'll say about personal moments. She assures viewers she could say things about the band that could curl a person's hair, but she's keeping those moments private. She also gets emotional as she reads her last Fan Club letter and thinks about the people she knew that are now gone, including John Lennon, George Harrison, and Epstein. In the closing credits, however, Ringo Starr appears in a film greeting specifically for Freda.
In Good Ol' Freda, Freda Kelly reveals why she's finally telling her story, and has appeared in other Beatles-related documentaries. Money has nothing to do with her reasoning, for she could have capitalized on other offers for her insights and memories. She realizes that many of her old associates have gone. She's also proud of the work she did for the band, and remains a loyal fan of a quartet she always felt would go far. Her life, though, took a different turn from most who worked for the Fab Four. She gladly took new responsibilities that took her her down a different path in life. Rock 'n roll gave Freda Kelly her biggest claim to fame, but she knows that not all rewards come when the spotlight shines.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Good Ol' Freda 3.5 stars. A quiet, but still important, chapter in Beatles history.
Good Ol' Freda trailer
© 2017 Pat Mills