When you’re dealing with a musical entity as massive as The Beatles, you typically have an idea of the type of response you’re going to get. Even to this day, nearly everybody enjoys The Beatles or at least appreciates their contributions to the music industry. At their peak, The Beatles were the biggest phenomenon music has ever seen and were globally recognized as such. Not many fans can say they were there at the beginning, the end, during all the travesties that hit home, through the thick and the thin, to celebrate their most lucrative accomplishments, and everything in between. But one woman named Freda Kelly was there during all of it and for the first time in her 50-year career as a secretary, she’s an open book regarding her 11-year stint as the lifelong secretary for The Beatles and it’s all documented in Ryan White’s documentary, “Good Ol’ Freda.”
What’s really appealing about “Good Ol’ Freda” is that not only are you getting a fan’s perspective of the birth and demise of the biggest foursome to ever hit music, but Freda managed to have a bird’s eye view regarding everything concerning the band. She knew each member personally, was friends with each of their parents, and was the main source of communication between the band and their families back home while they were touring. Freda just had a normal job with extraordinary circumstances.
During the film’s 86-minute duration, you’re taken from the band’s incarnation in Liverpool in 1961 to The Beatles going their separate ways in the late 60s to Freda’s resignation from Apple Records in 1972 due to wanting to start a family of her own. Freda reveals fascinating details regarding the job she acquired at the tender age of 17. She mentions the countless times she used to see The Beatles perform at The Cavern Club with Pete Best, the drummer before Ringo Starr, starting the official fan club, witnessing The Beatles play at the Empire Theatre and knowing that they finally made it, being there through Beatlemania, having to dodge questions regarding the relationships of the band members, and enjoying every minute of what would be a dream job for just about anyone.
The really admirable part of Freda’s story is that she always stayed true to herself, the band, and her profession. She’s not rich and didn’t sell anything Beatles related to anyone. In fact, she gave most of the merchandise she did own away in 1974 by personally handing most of it to Beatles fans. When she was offered money to give details regarding the relationship status of the band members, Freda politely refused. She’d personally go out of her way to get The Beatles to sign autographs for fans and even catered to absurd demands from fan letters including sending locks of hair or having one of them sleep on someone’s pillow case before sending it back. Freda had an incredible story to tell and it’s quite shocking that she’s sat on it for this long.
Despite being extremely informative for its short length, “Good Ol’ Freda” feels like it ends a little too soon. The documentary kind of fizzles out once it gets to the band members going their separate ways. Obviously being a Beatles secretary, information was probably pretty scarce on Freda’s end especially since she was starting a family during that time. But it would’ve been nice to hear a bit more about that portion of The Beatles’ lives. Were the members happy to be touring as a solo act? Did they miss the glory days of being together as a full band? Did they keep in touch? These are things that aren’t covered in the film. On the surface, it seems like a different story but at the same time you find yourself wanting to know more about that segment of their lives since you just learned so much about the first 11 years of their career.
“Good Ol’ Freda” feels like a peek behind the curtain of one of the biggest bands in history. Freda was practically considered family by the Apple Records crew and even The Beatles themselves. If this is the last true story of The Beatles, then it’s a remarkable tale full of magnificent triumphs, devotion, sorrow, and maturity.
“Good Ol’ Freda” begins playing today, September 27 at Sundance Cinemas.