The Beatles — well, mostly Paul — were determined to begin filming Magical Mystery Tour today, despite having no script, no relevant experience, and no real plan. They did, however, have a very nice custom-painted bus — though as of this morning it was not quite ready, forcing the company to wait around London for a couple hours. According to Bob Spitz, they included “thirty-three actors, four cameramen, a soundman, a technical adviser, the four Beatles Fan Club secretaries, and an entourage of friends” including Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, and of course Magic Alex.

They did eventually get underway, and improvised some scenes on the bus (in British it is called a “coach”), as well as when they stopped for lunch in Basingstoke, Hampshire (wherever that is). Were all this happening today (2017), there would be someone filming every second with a phone, and we would have an interesting meta–Magical Mystery Tour showing what it was like to wander through England with Ye Olde Beatles and their coterie of hired hands and hangers-on. My guess is that MMT was much more fun to make than it is to watch (I certainly hope so).

Alas, we are left mostly to imagine what it was like. I’ll let The Beatles Bible take it from here:

Late in the evening the coach arrived at its first destination, the Royal Hotel at The Den, Teignmouth, Devon, where the entire party spent the night.

The Beatles arrived at the hotel in a car, having swapped vehicles just outside the town in a bid to remain incognito. Nevertheless, they were greeted by 400 local teenagers, who had discovered their supposedly secret plans and waited in the rain to catch a glimpse of the stars.

At the hotel McCartney gave an impromptu press conference, where he gave an outline of The Beatles’ plans for the film. He and Neil Aspinall then sorted out room arrangements for the coach party, before discussing the next day’s shooting with Lennon and technical director Peter Theobalds.

I started trying to find information about “Theobalds,” but my searches kept turning up a different, younger person of that name — a bass player who, says Wikipedia, “has been in multiple bands such as Xerox Girls, Photographing Girls, Three Days By Camel, Salem Orchid, Akercocke, Gonga, End of Level Boss, and Fosca.” He is also an actor and appeared in an episode of Game of Thrones, so of course is all over yon internet, obscuring lesser-known Theobaldses.

I did finally find this, in Fab, a biography of Paul McCartney:

It was Paul who decided that Magical Mystery Tour could be shot very quickly indeed, having seen a two-man crew filming the Maharishi at the London Hilton. Paul figured they could make the film in a matter of weeks. Pre-production was therefore hurried and absurdly inadequate. The Beatles didn’t even have a director, just a mate of Barry Miles’s named Peter Theobald, a young film-maker who’d been hired as a “Director/Cameraman,” handed 15 pages of notes and told he had six weeks to shoot the picture.

This Theobald (note the lack of a terminal “s”) did not end up having much of a career, it seems. There is a short IMDB page that could be his, listing only four credits, none of them for MMT. He may well have been sacked before it was finished; quite a few people were.  Who knew that working with The Beatles could be career suicide?

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