Charlie Is My Darling (2012) Starring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Andrew Loog Oldham Directed by Peter Whitehead, Mick Gochanour. Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, Robin Klein Run Time: 64 minutes. U.K. Black and White. Documentary
In 1965, the Rolling Stones were finally making a major international act. Their then new single, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, their fourth number one single in the UK, finally found them atop the charts in America, the first time they would accomplish this. At that time, a number one hit was a prerequisite for a British band to star in a movie. The Beatles had starred in A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965); Gerry and The Pacemakers starred in Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965) and The Dave Clark Five in Having A Wild Weekend (1965); so why not the Rolling Stones? At least Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones then manager/producer, anticipated that possibility.
With the band getting ready for a quick second tour of Ireland, Oldham hired Peter Whitehead, a relatively new filmmaker, who would go on to document the counter culture in London and New York, to film the band on their two day tour, September 3 and 4, 1965. He didn’t intend for the footage to be shown, but instead wanted the band to become comfortable with having a camera around recording them. Whitehead was given complete access to the band, literally following them on their car trip to Heathrow all the way through to their return flight back to London.
|Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Brian Jones sleep on the plane back to London.|
While no feature film deal came to pass for the Stones, what we are left with is a documentary that is sort of like the Rolling Stones starring in A Hard Day’s Night. We not only see the band before the show, in concert and relaxing afterward, we also see them writing songs, playing The Beatles’, I’ve Just Seen a Face and Eight Days a Week, as well as taking stabs at Elvis Presley and Fats Domino standards.
|Keith Richards and Jagger playing and singing in their hotel room|
There are snippets of interviews with the individual members of the band, as well as them in what appear to be impromptu press conferences. Like other British musicians, the Stones come across as thoughtful and well-spoken young men. Like most people in their early-twenties, they don’t seem to be thinking much about the future, unsure how long the ride on the Rolling Stones train would last. (They had no way of knowing that they would still be playing together nearly fifty years later.) Guitarist Brian Jones, who would be kicked out of the band and die in 1969, even speaks about his uncertainty of the band’s as well as his own future.
|Guitarist Jones would be kicked out of the group four years later.|
During this tour, the Stones played two concerts in Dublin at the Adelphi Theatre and two the following night at the ABC Theatre in Belfast. During the second Dublin concert, the band is only about three songs into their set when fans, mostly boys, run on stage and grab at the members of the band, thus ending the show. Later, Bill Wyman, bassist, who seemed no worse for the wear, would say that the fans were just looking for contact with the band.
|Jones and Jagger performing just before the stage is rushed.|
The film would see a premiere at the Mannheim Film Festival in October 1966, but otherwise would not get an official release until 2012, when Whitehead’s film was restored with the help of Mick Gochanour and Robin Klein, the producers on previous Stones restored documentaries, such as The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1996) and Get Your Ya Ya’s Out (2009). Klein, the Director of Film at ABKCO, is the daughter of Allen Klein, the group’s former manager and owner of their early recordings, including this film. Klein bought out Oldham’s interest in the group in 1966, though the latter continued to produce the group until 1967.
Footage that was shelved for years was painstakingly restored as each frame was scanned into 2K and cleaned up. The sound went through a similar process, so we’re left with not only the best possible picture, but audio as well. Additionally, found footage of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards writing together was added to pad out the film to its current run time.
According to Oldham, who was interviewed separately by Dave Grohl, a rocker and documentarian in his own right, Sound City (2013), the film got its name from the fact the camera seemed to love drummer Charlie Watts, the same way, according to him, the camera did Ringo Starr in the Beatles films. Watts is a shy star, stating quite honestly that he’s only really happy when he’s at home.
|Stones drummer Charlie Watts.|
There is a presence around the edges of the Beatles throughout the film. Not only do they come up in the interviews with the bandmates and the Stones goof around with a couple of their rival's lesser songs, but the whole film seems to be a reality film in the vein of A Hard Day’s Night. Rather than competition, Oldham would also say The Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits were the Beatles' closest chart competitors; the Stones seem to pay tribute to them with the same mocking respect they give to earlier rock and roll legends like Presley and Domino.
|Bassist Bill Wyman, Jones, Jagger and Richards on stage.|
But the Stones are the true stars of this film. They come across as smart and well-spoken young men who are consciously not the same on stage as off. But on stage then, and now, is where the group shines. We get to witness the group play some very raw live renditions of their early hits, The Last Time (which opens one of the shows), Time Is On My Side and Satisfaction. But the real treat are the behind the scenes footage, whether it’s Richards having his hair pulled by fans while they wait to board the plane at Heathrow or the group asleep on the flight back after the tour. This is a very nice insight into a band at the brink of superstardom. No one at the time could have predicted that the group would still be viable 50 years later, but that’s what makes this such a great and enjoyable find.