'Birth of the Beatles' | 'John and Yoko: A Love Story'
'The Hours and Times' | 'Backbeat' | 'Two of Us'
'The Linda McCartney Story' | 'In His Life: The John Lennon Story'
'Nowhere Boy' | 'Lennon Naked'
The Linda McCartney Story, also known as Linda, was a Canadian CBS television drama. It was made in 2000 in Vancouver and Britain and was based on the book Linda McCartney The Biography by Linda's long-term friend Danny Fields. Alternating between 1965-1980 and 1995-1998, the biopic shows the story of Linda McCartney's relationship with rock 'n' roll and especially her husband Paul McCartney, as well as her later battle with breast cancer.
Paul McCartney was not consulted during the making of the film and at the time of broadcast his spokesman released the statement:
Sir Paul can't comment [on 'The Linda McCartney Story'] as he has not seen it nor been asked for any input.
In the 1990s, Linda McCartney and her family learn that she has breast cancer soon after launching a show celebrating her photographic career. The memories of the photographs send her mind back to the early 1960s when she was a divorced single mum with a four-year-old daughter, Heather. In the flashback she is working at City & Village magazine as a receptionist whose chief responsibility is opening the post. After receiving a press invite to see the Rolling Stones at a press event on board a yacht in 1966, she takes her camera and gets unique, wonderful, intimate pictures by flirting with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After selling her photographs to Datebook she gains a reputation as a remarkable rock 'n' roll photographer, taking pictures of many of the era's stars before they became famous including Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. She is even intimate with Jim Morrison. By 1967 she is hired to take the photographs for the book Rock and other Four Letter Words on the condition that she gets photographs of the Beatles.
Despite the disapproval of her father, and the worries of looking after her daughter, she travels to London where she bumps into Paul McCartney in a club in Soho. After leaving her photography portfolio with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, she is invited to be one of the few photographers present at the launch of the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Soon after, she returns home to New York and tells her close friend Danny that she has fallen in love with Paul, despite the two not having spent any time alone together and having been with each other for a combined time of less than an hour.
A press conference promoting the Beatles' company Apple Corp takes place in New York a year later (in 1968). Linda passes Paul her telephone number and is invited to the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, where they make love and bond over a shared love of nature, especially frogs and salamanders. Soon after, Linda moves in with Paul who wishes to adopt Linda's daughter Heather as his own. As his home life grows happier, life in the studio becomes tenser; Yoko Ono begins encouraging her partner John Lennon, Paul's song-writing partner in the Beatles, to disagree and not co-operate with Paul. The only freedom Paul feels is with Linda. That leads to his proposal to her on a trip to New York, which Linda at first declines. Instead Paul meets Linda's father and brother, Lee and John Eastman, who are both lawyers and soon become his representatives. Paul shows Linda his rustic farmhouse in the Mull of Kintyre. Shortly after, they marry at the Marylebone Registry Office, with Linda saying to the press, 'Just write that the bride wore a big smile'.
After Paul and Linda celebrate the birth of their daughter Mary, relationships within the Beatles continue to deteriorate and in 1969 John announces that he is leaving the group. Lee Eastman advises Paul that, despite never appointing 'Bruce Grossman'1 as his manager, as the other three Beatles did, Grossman will be entitled to 20% of any money he earns in the next seven years. The only way to escape this contract is to sue the other Beatles, which he successfully does; John throws a brick through his window in retaliation.
In early 1970, after the Beatles have disbanded, Paul is depressed, having no energy to do anything except drink. After a cheesy, turbulent emotional moment in which Paul admits he feels on the scrapheap without John, Linda helps him pull himself together. In London in 1971 their daughter Stella is born. Worried about losing both Linda and Stella, McCartney dreams of angel wings, with 'Wings' inspiring the name of a band. Paul states that he always enjoyed sharing his stage experience with his best friend, and that is now Linda. Paul teaches Linda to play the keyboard and although she hates the criticism, by 1976 they are playing a giant concert in New York. That Christmas, they visit John and Yoko. Next it is 1980 and Wings are on a world tour when, on arrival in Japan's Tokyo International Airport, drugs are discovered in Paul's baggage, leading to his arrest. Paul faced a potential sentence of up to eight years in prison, although he was released after nine days, the only period in their marriage that Paul and Linda were apart. Wings are disbanded and Paul promises not to tour again until the children are older. In a blink-and-you'll-miss it scene, Linda writes a vegetarian cookbook and a photography book, and gains a friend who promotes animal rights.
Back in the 1990s, Linda learns her cancer has spread to the other breast and worries that her customers would be upset as she had promoted vegetarianism as a healthy lifestyle choice. She agrees to undertake a trial of a new treatment. Although by 1997 Linda appears to be recovering, she is tired after attending Stella's fashion show in Paris. The cancer has spread to her liver and so the family leave for Arizona where she enjoys a horse ride in the desert. Two mornings later, on 17 April, 1998, she dies while Paul tells her that she is riding a horse on a beautiful day. Her ashes are later scattered in Sussex.
|Linda McCartney||Elizabeth Mitchell|
|Paul McCartney||Gary Bakewell|
|Danny Fields2||David Lewis|
|John Lennon||Tim Piper|
|Yoko Ono||Linda Ko|
|Mick Jagger||Matthew Harrison|
|Lee Eastman||George Segal|
|Jim Morrison||Aaron Grain|
|Heather McCartney||Moya O'Connell|
|Heather - Age 5-6||Jodelle Ferland|
|Heather - Age 7-10||Jillian Marie|
|James McCartney||Alexander Ruurs|
|George Harrison||Chris Cound|
|Ringo Starr||Michael McMurtry|
|Felicia (Linda's friend)||Nicole Oliver|
|Chrissie Hynde||Jane Sowerby|
|John Eastman||Paul Magel|
|Keith Richards||Claude Duhamel|
|Brian Jones||Rafe McDonald|
Gary Bakewell who played Paul McCartney had previously played Paul in Backbeat.
Biopics about the lives of musicians often contain musical performances, although The Linda McCartney Story, by focusing on the life of someone not in a band for long, has less prominent music. The songs shown being performed by the Beatles are:
- 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'
- 'Please Please Me'
Another song is 'Kansas City', a 1952 Leiber-Stoller number that became a US 1959 number one for Wilbert Harrison. The Beatles often sang this song before 1964 - they performed it for the BBC and it appeared on Beatles For Sale. Another version appears on the album On Air3. In this biopic, the song is shown being performed by Wings, Paul's band.
These songs are sung by Ron Mendonca, Rolo Sandoval, Michael Amador and Ardy Sarraf as The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute, Canada's premiere Beatles tribute band. Considering that the biopic is set in 1965 onwards, it seems strange that the Beatles songs they perform both date from 1963.
Additionally, the Doors' song 'Back Door Man' features, performed by Peace Frog. The Association song 'Never My Love' dominates every romantic scene between Paul and Linda for no apparent reason - the love songs Paul had written about Linda would have been much more appropriate.
The Linda McCartney Story is a Canadian Beatles biopic that contains some silly errors showing that little research into life in the UK had been done. For example, many of the actors and extras seem to have learnt how to talk at the Dick van Dyke School of British Accents. The sound effects team inadvertently implies that Paul McCartney's homes have incurred an insect invasion as strange, loud chirping insect noises accompany each exterior night scene - insect noises which, while common in the North American continent, are completely unknown in the UK. Another minor cultural detail missed is that in the UK a 'Public School' is completely different to a US 'Public School'4. By saying that Paul and Linda sent their children to the Sussex 'public school'5, what the film actually means is that the children went to the local state school, Thomas Peacocke Comprehensive, not that they were sent away to a boarding school.
We have already noted how, although most biopics use songs released at the time to signify the year the scene is set in, for a scene set in 1965 The Linda McCartney Story plays a song from 1963. Then for events set in 1968 the biopic sets the scene with a song from 1963 and in 1969, when the Beatles are breaking up, we again get to hear a song from 1963. What the producers had against Beatles songs released in any other year is unknown.
For a film entitled The Linda McCartney Story, there is quite a bit of the life of Linda McCartney we do not see, including her childhood and her entire relationship with her first husband. We also learn far more about Paul McCartney's mother than about her own mum, who is never mentioned despite dying in a plane crash in 1962. Her brother appears in one short scene and her father fares slightly better although, despite being authoritatively played by George Segal, he only appears in a few short scenes.
The film concentrates on her photographic career, so Linda's animal rights campaigning is ignored and her vegetarianism has only a blink-and-you'll-miss-it mention. For one of the world's most famous vegetarians, with her own food range, cookbooks and even an appearance on The Simpsons, this seems a strange omission.
There is some very weak dialogue. That fateful, historic meeting in which Paul meets the woman destined to be his wife for thirty years is scripted with the words, 'I'm Paul McCartney' to which Linda replies 'I know'. Linda later admires Paul's songwriting talents by saying, 'Salt and pepper - Sgt Pepper. What a mind!' Soon after, Paul reveals the pain of his mother's death when he was 14 by saying how his mother Mary would come to him, speaking words of wisdom, 'She used to say 'Just let it be, son, let it be'. He uses a manner which leaves the audience under no doubt that a Beatles reference has been inserted into the scene with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Similarly the film crowbars in exposition to counter common criticisms of Linda, namely that she seduced Paul and forced herself on stage. For instance, Danny Fields clarifies to Linda for the benefit of the audience that after Linda met Paul, 'You didn't have sex with him, you spent no time alone, you don't know when you'll see him and you were together for what, like, an hour?' Later on we see how much Linda was upset about harsh criticisms of her musicianship while a member of Wings and that she didn't wish to be on stage.
The film is more-or-less true with a few minor tweaks and changes. Many of these are necessary to be able to compress a woman's life story into the time available.
As with other Beatles biopics, the film uses genuine Beatles footage, most notably of the Shea Stadium concert, in order to convince viewers that what they are seeing is factual. On the whole it is, though there are a few minor changes, especially of names. So for instance at the start of the film, Linda is working for 'City & Village' magazine with her close rock 'n' roll-loving friend 'Felicia', the boss's daughter. In fact Linda worked for Town and Country magazine while her music fan friend, Christina Berlin, was the daughter of Richard Berlin who ran the Hearst Corporation. Later on Allen Klein, one of the key figures in the Beatles' breakup, is renamed 'Bruce Grossman'. For some reason Wings' first gig, which was at Nottingham University, is shown as being at Leeds University instead. These details do not make any real difference to Linda's emotional journey or detract too much from the film.
The general facts are correct. Linda did take photos in clubs such as Ondine's as house photographer, photographing The Doors before they were famous. In real life, Linda did meet Paul in the Bag O' Nails Club in Soho when Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were performing, just as the film shows. She later flew to Beverly Hills Hotel in LA for a rendezvous that marked the start of their relationship. On a more personal note, Linda did encourage Paul to relax by driving around new places, which she called 'getting lost', finding freedom along the country lanes. Paul would later write about this in the song 'Two of Us' with lyrics including 'Two of us Sunday driving not arriving' and 'going nowhere'.
Though Paul telling Linda that he was fascinated by frogs as a child is an unusual way to begin a relationship, it is true. All three of Paul's completed animated short films to date have prominently featured frogs. First there was Rupert and the Frog Song (1985) in which Rupert the Bear discovers a whole frog chorus. In Tropic Island Hum (1997) Froggo, played by Paul, rescues William 'Wirral' Squirrel in his hot air balloon and Tuesday (2001) features a night in which frogs on lily pads fly around a sleepy town one night.
Overall, despite its weaknesses, the film is a fascinating account of someone outside the Beatles looking in and becoming a part of the Fab Four's fable. Elizabeth Mitchell shines as Linda, Gary Bakewell is among the more convincing biopic Beatles and Tim Piper's John Lennon is underused, even if John and Yoko are seen simply as the naughty, giggling villains that split up the group.
The film is ambitious in trying to compress 30 years of a woman's life into under 90 minutes, and though it doesn't quite succeed in covering every angle of such a complex character it does at least show a new perspective on the Beatles.
If only one person watching the film saw the story of Linda's cancer and chose to seek medical advice as a consequence, becoming successfully treated, then the film, despite its drawbacks, has been a force for good.