Freda Kelly was just seventeen when she became the president of The Beatles fan club and eventually Brian Epstein’s secretary. From the early shows at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to well after they broke up, Freda was there to support “the lads.” But as a dedicated fan and friend, Freda never told her stories or cashed-in on her unique relationship with the Fab Four. Close friends and even her children knew little about those 11 incredible years. But after five decades of silence, Freda, inspired by the birth of her grandson, decided to tell her “little tales” to producer Kathy McCabe and director Ryan White in what became Good Ol’ Freda.
What’s most compelling about Good Ol’ Freda is Freda herself. She was the center of gravity around which Beatles fandom rotated. She answered enormous amounts of fan mail, wrote newsletters, sent fans souvenirs such as locks of hair, pieces of clothing, and autographs; and she insisted they be the genuine articles. Freda’s fierce dedication and loyalty are central themes of the film, as well as the Liverpudlian sensibilities that helped shape her character. In today’s sell-out culture and cheap celebrity, Freda appears as a model of integrity.
There is a warm sense of nostalgia as Freda recalls her experiences, especially the early days when things were so fun and exciting. Her anecdotes often contain details that reveal the distinct characters of John, Paul, George, and Ringo as she saw them. Rare photographs and footage are backed by a well-orchestrated soundtrack featuring Buddy Holly, The Isley Brothers, Carl Perkins, and others—all songs that The Beatles covered at one time. Amazingly, White also got the rights to four Beatles hits. This is a testament to Freda. McCartney and Ringo both gave their blessings, making Good Ol’ Freda one of those rare Beatle-approved films.
The overall atmosphere of Good Ol’ Freda is earthy and intimate, without the overblown hype that is usually heaped onto The Beatles. This is refreshing, though nearing the end, things start to fizzle and become a bit repetitious—a small price to pay for what is ultimately a sincere documentary about an almost forgotten woman and her extraordinary adventures with the greatest band of all time.
Good Ol’ Freda opens in Los Angeles Friday, September 6th. It opens in New York Friday, September 13th, followed by a national roll-out.