A part of me really wishes I was some sort of gatekeeper for Beatles memorabilia and stories. It seems like every week we get a new photo, story, anecdote…something. I want to have the basement full of stuff that’s gradually being released. A perfect companion piece would be Good Ol’ Freda, a joyous documentary about a joyous woman. Freda was the Beatles’ personal secretary for eleven years, for her ages 17-28. She started off as a crazed fan in Liverpool, but soon met the Fab Four and took on responsibility for their fan club. I honestly believe her when she says she could have never imagined getting wheelbarrows full of mail on a daily basis.
Good Ol’ Freda pretty much introduces the world to Kelly, as she’s lived most of her life out of the spotlight and has been nowhere near seeking it. One might assume that she’s some kind of closet millionaire with her stash of Beatles goodies and endless stories. She gave away all but four boxes of her Beatles merchandise to fans after the group broke up in 1970.
Kelly is what makes Good Ol’ Freda such an involving film when it covers otherwise well-traveled Beatles lore. Freda is a fantastic interview, full of answers and insider stories. She only shies away a bit when asked if she could be romantically linked to any of the Beatles. She took her job very seriously and the success of the fan club, which did reach a comically astronomical size, can be mostly attributed to her organization and competence.
Director Ryan White gets access to a host of photos and even the rights to a few Beatles songs, no small feat for an independent documentary mostly funded by members of The Fest, a Beatles fan club. You’re not going to learn anything you don’t already know about the band, but the film is Freda’s. Sure, it’s a bit of a fluff piece, but White accomplishes what all documentarians set out to do, which is to entertain and enlighten on a subject that we don’t know much about. Having said that, I’d have a beer with Freda any day.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Length: 86 Minutes
Rating: PG for some thematic material and smoking.
Theatrical Release: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Ryan White
Written by: Ryan White & Jessica Lawson
Cast: Freda Kelly, George Harrison (archive footage), John Lennon (archive footage), Paul McCartney (archive footage), Ringo Starr (archive footage)