‘Good Ol’ Freda’: Beatles’ secretary content to let it be
A review of a documentary about Freda Kelly, a Liverpool secretary who worked for 11 years in the office of the fellows who would become the Fab Four.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Good Ol’ Freda,’ a documentary directed by Ryan White. 85 minutes. Rated PG for some thematic material and smoking. Sundance Cinemas.
You’d think the well of Beatles nostalgia had run dry — hasn’t everyone remotely associated with the Fab Four long ago weighed in, cashed in and told their stories to anyone who would listen?
Turns out that all this time, Freda Kelly was sitting quietly in Liverpool, raising her children and working her office job and telling virtually nobody that yes, she was secretary to the Beatles for 11 years, from their humble beginnings at the Cavern Club down that long and winding road to their end. And, lucky for us, she’s finally decided to tell her story, in Ryan White’s delightful documentary “Good Ol’ Freda.”
Kelly, a divorced grandmother who still works as a secretary, isn’t about to dish the dirt. “I don’t want anybody’s hair falling out,” she says, answering a question about whether she dated any of “the lads” with a firm “That’s private.”
But she’s full of tidbits about the Beatles and their families: how Ringo’s mum would have her over for egg-and-chips; how the screaming girls at the Cavern would leave their hair rollers in until just before the Fab Four came on stage; how John, “a man of many moods,” once sacked her, but the other three didn’t, so he apologized.
Photographs, video and memorabilia of the era flit by (Kelly still has, in her attic, an envelope marked “George Harrison/Real Hair”) and by the end there’s a poignant sense of finality — an era ending, lives moving on.
Among Kelly’s duties were writing a monthly letter — “Dear Beatle People” — for the fan-club magazine, describing such news as Ringo’s new baby, George’s dental visits and John’s displeasure with his passport photo.
Here, she reads the final one, telling the fans “Please do not write again.” It was as if she closed a box tightly; how fortunate for Beatles fans that she decided, decades later, to open it again.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725. firstname.lastname@example.org