Gary James' Interview With
A Hard Day's Night Actress
In 1964 it would have been the dream of every teenage girl to meet The Beatles. It would've been an even bigger dream to appear in their first film, A Hard Day's Night with them. For Prue Bury, she did both. She met them and had a part in their movie. Travel back in time with us as Prue Bury remembers her time with The Beatles.
Q - Prue, there's this photo of The Beatles that was widely circulated where you're standing behind Paul McCartney, looking like you're combing his hair. That was just a publicity picture, wasn't it?
A - It was a publicity picture.
Q - You weren't a hair stylist, were you?
A - Oh, absolutely not. I was trained as a classical dancer. I was at the Royal Ballet School.
Q - Writer Doug Pratt has it that you're thinking of writing your memoir. Are you in fact going to be writing your autobiography or your memoir?
A - I'm trying, but I'm finding it very difficult. There's a question of honesty. You think, Oh, my God, should I be saying these things? Then you tend to crawl back into your shell. I certainly have started it, but it's not an easy thing to do.
Q - Does that mean you have a publisher in mind?
A - Oh, no. Absolutely not. I haven't got that far yet. I would have to be satisfied with what I've done to approach anyone. There again, who wants to know about me? (laughs)
Q - I do! I've looked at that photo of The Beatles sitting in what appears to be director's chairs, having their hair combed by these girls, wondering who are these girls? Are they really combing their hair? And today I found out!
A - Well, there you are.
Q - I'm sure there are many people interested in what you have to say.
A - Well, perhaps I'm working on it.
Q - I'm sure you have stories.
A - I certainly have stories, yes.
Q - To me, you're one of those people where everything truly fell into place for you. I'm not saying you didn't work hard, but you were in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. You would agree with that, wouldn't you?
A - No, I don't think so. Being the person and everything falling into place, absolutely not. You were lucky. You went to auditions. You met lots of people and happened to fall in with them and they happened to like you, whether that's being in the right place at the right time, I'm not absolutely sure. Obviously I was part of that whole sort of '60s evolution that we had, I say London, I mean England, but it basically all started in London more or less in the late '50s rather than the '60s. But, I mean I was part of all that at a young age. So, I was very lucky and met lots of famous, now famous people. I suppose perhaps you're right, I don't know.
Q - I think I am right. If you were in any other city besides London, you would not have done the things you did and met the celebrities you met. If you were in Seattle, Washington, or Boise, Idaho, you wouldn't have met those people.
A - That's absolutely true. I was fortunate from that aspect. Going to New York in 1965 for five years, that was also a great time 'cause that was also when New York was evolving. It was quite extraordinary. When I went there I thought it was going to be this great, wondrous world. If fact, it was walking into a step backwards, which was very strange. But it soon caught up.
Q - In 1965, London was the place to be.
A - London was the place.
Q - When you were in London, you were going to these trendy nightclubs. Are we talking places like the Saddle Room and the Ad Lib?
A - I was a member of the Saddle Room. I had my little Gold Key which meant that you could get in. I think my number was something like 2,400. So, Saddle Room was the first place. Then of course we all went to the Ad Lib club. Then there was the Garrison. These were the ones I remember the most.
Q - Was the membership fee to these clubs expensive?
A - No.
Q - In U.S. dollars how much would it have been?
A - Oh, I don't know. I can't remember. It wouldn't have been expensive, otherwise I wouldn't have been a member.
Q - At that particular time you were working as a model?
A - I was working as a model. I loved the ballet. I worked at Covent Garden for about a year and then for some reason which I regret very much I left and then I took up modeling or modeling took me up, photographic modeling. Toothpaste, face creams, soaps and all that sort of stuff. I'm not very tall so I wasn't a fashion model as such, I was a model for things.
Q - Products.
A - Yeah.
Q - You were at one of those clubs and you met Judy Garland.
A - Oh, I met Judy Garland, yes, at the Ad Lib.
Q - Did she strike up a conversation with you first or did you know who she was and say, "Hello Miss Garland"?
A - Oh, I absolutely knew who she was. I idolized her. Still to this day she's one of the major talents that ever existed in this world. She had the ability to walk on stage. Her presence was extraordinary as was her voice. She was a little worse for wear, but then that was very much Judy and she'd done this awful thing of slashing her wrists. They were all bound up. We were sitting together in the Saddle Room and started chit-chatting.
Q - Do you remember who started the conversation?
A - You know, those sort of things just happen.
Q - The reason I bring up Judy Garland is, rarely do you hear her name mentioned and she was a big star.
A - She was a major star and a major talent, for me and many, many other people too.
Q - What other famous people would you have met in those clubs?
A - Oh, I don't know. Everybody goes and you all mingle together. Nobody's looking for famous people. We're all out there having a drink, having a good time. As such, you could be talking to anybody, be they famous or not famous.
Q - If I had come into the club would I have recognized you as a model?
A - Oh, I don't know 'cause we all very much at that time had that sort of look. We had the Vidal hairstyle and Mary's (Mary Quant) clothes and the Courreges boots. I don't know, we were clones I suppose. (laughs) So no, I don't think you would have picked me out especially. We were all very young and very pretty and fun.
Q - Before The Beatles and the British Invasion broke through in America, were you aware of the excitement in London with music?
A - Oh, of course. I was part of it. One was aware. Mary (Quant) was and still is a great friend of mine. You were wearing Mary Quant mini skirts. They weren't in fact that mini but they were reasonably short. You were swingin' down the Kings Road and life was much freer than it had been before. I can remember young people sort of used to dress in sort of versions of their parent's clothes and then suddenly there it all changed. There was freedom. We had skirts and these sort of funny boots. I used to walk down Kings Road initially with bare feet. (laughs) That was all part of it. And yes you were aware of the music. I suppose what you were aware of was freedom. All the restraints seemed to have fallen away and you did things. You went to parties. There was a certain drug scene but I certainly wasn't part of that. I was more with the people who drank, the pub scene. (laughs) The musician scene of course there were drugs. The first time I was seriously aware and offered drugs was actually in America by The Box Tops. I wasn't into anything like that, but yes it was happening. Life in a funny way was much more innocent than it is today. We weren't aware of many, many things that people are aware of now. We were innocent and we were having fun.
Q - When I think of this club, The Ad Lib, I think of The Rolling Stones. If you had gone into The Ad Lib you no doubt would've recognized Brian Jones having a drink at the bar, wouldn't you?
A - Oh, absolutely. I wouldn't necessarily think Oh gosh, there's Brian Jones. I need to go and say hello to him.
Q - Would he have said hello to you?
A - I doubt it. (laughs) I don't know what his type was. The English are very different in that respect from the Americans. I remember once in New York, one of the Kennedys at a ballet and everybody sort of stood up and looked as they walked in. I thought, My God, that's awful. We don't do that.
Q - America is a celebrity culture.
A - Yes.
Q - Someone told me that in 1997 on a Sunday morning in London you could see Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger walking down the street. In any street in America they would be mobbed.
A - They would be mobbed. I mean, I was mobbed in New York. I was mobbed one time when I was modeling by a whole lot of children which was very frightening because they thought I had actually, well, they knew that I had been with The Beatles. I had touched The Beatles. I had spoke(n) to The Beatles. It was very scary.
Q - When The Beatles landed in New York on that February day in 1964, they looked like they were from another planet. No one looked like that in the U.S.
A - Yes, and they were extremely talented and all the songs they wrote were pretty good. One has to hats off to them, well there are only two of them left now. They did a lot of terrific, terrific work, but obviously if I saw Ringo walking down the street I'd go and say "Hi" But if I saw some other famous Rock star walking down the street it would just go through my mind, there goes so and so and that would be it. I wouldn't dream of going up and saying hello or mob them. It is a very American culture (thing). It's something we don't have.
Q - You had an agent who sent you over to Richard Lester for A Hard Day's Night. Was this a film agent? A modeling agent?
A - Do you know, I really can't remember. Initially I was with Al Parker. I had several agents and I really can't remember, but I was told, "Go, go. They're doing an audition. They're looking for somebody for a film."
Q - That audition probably would've been late 1963 or early 1964?
A - I would think probably more '63. I can't be positive on the date. I can remember it was off Park Lane and there were a whole lot of girls and then I went in and chit-chatted with Dick (Lester) and the producer, Walter Shenson. He was a very nice man, extremely nice and we chit-chatted and they looked at my photos and I don't actually think, and I could be totally wrong 'cause I'm getting rather old now and I don't even think it was mentioned what the film was. I'm not even sure the name Beatles came up.
Q - But, had they mentioned the name Beatles, how much would you have known about them at that point?
A - Oh, well, I knew their songs and enjoyed their songs enormously.
Q - Did you know what they looked like?
A - I knew that they looked like. They were there. That's obviously why the film was made. I really can't remember, but I don't think it came up. What I do remember is the following day, which is when I met Patti (Boyd, later to become George Harrison's wife, but also in A Hard Day's Night), that we were called by various newspapers and photos were taken as The New Beatles Girls. It all sort of blew up.
Q - What kind of questions did Richard Lester ask you at the audition or interview? Or Walter Shenson?
A - I don't think anybody asked me questions. I think we just chit-chatted. I think it was just sort of a general conversation. They might have said, "What have you done?" I would've said I was trained as a classical ballet dancer at the Royal Ballet School, etc and I'd done a bit of this and bit of that. Then we just generally chatted. I think it was sort of obvious if you think. You've got Patti, who's sort of blonde and Brigitte Bardot looking, and I think they just wanted someone who was opposite of that, which was me.
Q - Is that what they told you? Did you ever ask why they chose you for the film?
A - No, no. That's my assumptions.
Q - So, they never told you why you got the job?
A - No. I think I was selected because I was just totally brilliant. (laughs) I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. I don't know. It's just a question of personality and getting along with people. I got a lot of television commercial work 'cause I used to get along with people and have fun and we all had fun. I think that counts for a lot.
Q - When you were on the set with The Beatles, were they friendly to you?
A - Hugely friendly. We didn't have any problems at Waterloo or somewhere like that, and they got on a bit further down the line and then everybody had lots of giggles, lots of fun. No nonsense like, "We're The Beatles", or "Who are you?" It was all very easy going.
Q - Have you ever watched that movie since 1964?
A - No. I started to watch it 'cause somebody gave it to me and there was the whole sort of pre-movie interviews with people. One of them was my ex-husband and he sat there telling such a bunch of lies I practically threw the DVD out the window. (laughs) So, no.
Q - The film was re-released two years ago, 2014, on the 50th Anniversary of A Hard Day's Night.
A - I think it was a great film of it's time. Dick Lester is a talent too. I don't know, is he still with us?
Q - Yes. He is still with us.
A - He must be in his 80s now, 'cause I'm 75, so he's got to be in his 80s.
Q - Of course, at the time A Hard Day's Night was made, John was married to Cynthia. George eventually married Patti Boyd. That leaves two eligible Beatles, Paul and Ringo. Why didn't you end up marrying a Beatle?
A - I had a friend at time. Absolutely no way. I mean, I admired them. I liked them. I especially liked Ringo, who was great fun, easy, easy. Well, they both were. The only one who was slightly difficult was John, but everybody knows John was difficult. It's a lovely idea. Gosh, I could be rich today.
Q - So, the idea of even having a Beatle as your boyfriend never crossed your mind?
A - No. No, thank-you.
Q - Did Brian Epstein ever show up on the set?
A - Not that I'm aware of. I mean, he may well have done, but as far as I'm aware, I don't think so.
Q - You are a part of Rock 'n' Roll history.
A - Well, that's very flattering. I don't see myself as part of Rock 'n' Roll.
Q - You're in A Hard Day's Night, therefore you're part of The Beatles' history. How does it feel to know you will be remembered? People will continue to be fascinated with The Beatles and A Hard Day's Night.
A - Well, I mean that's a question I've never been asked before, or even had any thoughts about. Well, I suppose it's flattering, amazing and probably not merited.
Q - Film goers who will look at A Hard Day's Night in the future will ask, "I wonder who those girls were?" You are a part of Beatles history.