Good Ol’ Freda Director: Ryan White Cinematographer: Austin Hargrave Editor: Helen Kearns
On their 1963 Christmas record, The Beatles give thanks to “Good Ol’ Freda!” in Liverpool, their devoted secretary and friend. Directed by Ryan White, Good Ol’ Freda is a documentary about Freda Kelly, who was just a shy Liverpudlian teenager when she was asked to work for a local band hoping to make it big.
The Beatles were together for 10 years, but Freda worked for them for 11. She had no idea how far the band would go, but she had faith in The Beatles from the beginning, and they had faith in her. Many people came and went as they sky-rocketed to international stardom, but Freda remained a staple of the inner-circle because of her unfaltering loyalty and dedication. As the band’s devoted secretary and confidant, Freda was witness to the evolution of the greatest band in history.
In Good Ol’ Freda, Freda shares her stories for the first time in 50 years. What’s most noteworthy about White’s film is that it’s one of few documentaries made with the support of The Beatles themselves, who allowed White to use several original songs in the film.
The 86-minute film made its world premiere at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival as part of the documentary spotlight section. This year’s SXSW has been filled with not only great documentaries, but a number of intriguing music docs like Sound City, Muscle Shoals, and A Band Called Death. Good Ol’ Freda stands out for its unique story about the band’s secretary, who managed The Beatles Fan Club and would often find herself mailing clippings of the band’s hair to crazed fans.
The stories shared are endearing and less like the kind of crazy tales you might hear from roadies schlepping gear for Van Halen. There are no drunken orgies or hotel trashing sprees, but rather an intimate look at John, Paul, Ringo, and George as mere members of a band – people who attempted to stay sane in the midst of superstardom, and the loyal secretary who saw them as real human beings and not just mythic legends of rock ‘n’ roll.
The film is a celebration of Freda Kelly, and not only how The Beatles shaped her life, but how she influenced theirs. White’s film is more than just another Beatles movie, it’s the story of a teenage girl plucked from obscurity for one of the most amazing jobs in the world. Good Ol’ Freda can next be seen at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham, North Carolina, and the Cleveland Film Festival. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to see White’s film – an essential part of The Beatles mythos.