Cliveden House (Image credit: simononly)
It was May 11, 1965. The Beatles were on location, wrapping up filming their second movie Help! The Help! shoot had begun on February 23rd and this was the boys' 54th and final day of Help! filming. Director Richard Lester was to film a few atmosphere and scenery shots in London the next day, and after that, the 55th day of filming, Help! would officially wrap.
The Beatles' final scenes on this historic day were filmed at Cliveden House, a 19th century stately home in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Cliveden House was doubling as Buckingham Palace in these scenes.
Sometime during this day, the Beatles were officially "challenged" to a relay race by the crew of Help! Although world famous and universally popular as singers, musicians and composers, the Fab Four's athletic prowess left much to be desired. It was during the Help! shoot that all four Beatles openly admitted to smoking and indulging in marijuana use, frequently, if not daily.
Besides the marijuana indulgence, the Beatles also liked their meals and enjoyed fine food. John Lennon was to call this his "fat Elvis" period and remember it as his "steak and whiskey" era. But being adventurous lads, the boys readily accepted the challenge.
The race was to be around Cliveden Gardens, outside of and around Cliveden House. There were four separate relay teams, each team consisting of six members. Besides the Beatles team, there were the electricians, the carpenters and the camera operators.
The Beatles team consisted of the Fab Four, plus their road manager Neil Aspinall and their chauffeur Alf Bicknell. John, Paul, George, Ringo, Neil, and Alf were to be the victors in the once-in-a-lifetime race.
Paul McCartney is the only Beatle to actually speak publicly about the Help! relay race. Many years later, Paul said he "vaguely remembered Ringo handing off a baton" to him.
How long was the race? According to Paul (in an interview he gave that day): “Fifteen furlongs, I’d say" (one furlong is 1/8th of a mile). Paul also said the Beatles were "very proud" of their relay race victory.
There is no record of exactly when the race took place during the day, whether before the day's shoot was finished, during the lunch break, at the end of the day, or during a "wrap" celebration.
Interestingly, the relay race was filmed and captured by a home movie camera. It is footage any Beatle fan (like me) would love to view.