Review: Good Ol' Freda

Of all the documentaries and films about the Beatles, "Good Ol' Freda" may be the most heartwarming.

Focused on the career of the band's fan club secretary from their pre-fame days in Liverpool (when she was just 17) through their demise in London 10 years later, this documentary tells the story of a Beatlemaniac who made it into the inner circle.

To Freda Kelly, the Beatles were "the boss," but she also idolized them as a fan. This combination  made her the perfect person for her jobs of answering fan letters and penning her own column in the group's official Beatle Book Monthly magazine.

Hearing Kelly reminisce about those days in voiceovers as hundreds of vintage, rarely seen images of the Beatles (and her) stream by, it's easy to see why the Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein loved and trusted her so much. She's utterly charming, with twinkling eyes and a ready smile even today. When pressed to dish some dirt on her famed employees, she just giggles and says "that's personal!"

That's the same high road approach she took during the sixties, when sometimes angry letters about John Lennon's divorce from his wife and burgeoning romance with Yoko Ono, and similar ones about Paul McCartney's breakup with Jane Asher and marriage to Linda Eastman, flooded her office. "Beatle People," as she called the fans, owed the group some privacy in their personal affairs, she wrote in her column.

Along with responding to fans' requests for Beatle hair clippings and bits of Fab-worn shirts, Kelly also served as a liaison between the group and their Liverpool family members after the Beatles moved to London and started touring the world.

Ringo's mom took her in as the daughter she never had. George's father taught her how to ballroom dance. While Epstein could be formal and remote, Kelly helped put these worried parents at ease, taught them how to deal with and understand the fans, and helped make the Beatles' camp more of a family affair.

Despite numerous offers, Kelly never sold her story and never wrote a book. She's worked as an office secretary pretty much from 1972 when the fan club folded, content to put her Beatles years in the past.

This film, she says, is the only time she plans on sharing her experiences of those years, and she's done it with true warmth and class.