It is already difficult to find a real winter in Europe. Do you know in which Austrian ski resort you can be almost a hundred per cent sure that it will snow there? It is Obertauern in the federal state of Salzburg. People who live there say that they never carry skis on their shoulders but only fastened to their feet. It seems this was also known to the film director Richard Lester who directed the second Beatles film Help! in 1965. An eastern cult sect is chasing after the long-haired boys in that crazy music comedy, even to the Alps. The decision about the filming location was made very quickly. For the scene, the filmmakers had chosen Obertauern, not only because they were certain about snow, but also because there was a railway station and even a lake near here, which were also necessary for the screenplay. So there were about 5000 fans at the airport of Salzburg on March 13th, 1965. Exactly at 14.10, when their idols were getting off the aeroplane, they hysteric started to yell: „Yeah, yeah, yeah!“, which was well-known from the first Beatles film „A Hard Day’s Night“. All the airport workers were on alert, they had prepared several buckets with water for young girls who, seeing their beloved musicians, would faint. The four and their manager Brian Epstein quickly got in a bus and left the crowd of girls behind. The most devoted fans were still kissing the snowy earth on which the musicians had set their feet…
The band moved to Obertauern – 1700 meters above sea level. In the 60th of the 20. C, it was still a quiet secluded place, no wonder that in the beginning some local people had believed the long-haired musicians to be women… The next day they were supposed to start with the first clapboard. But suddenly there was a problem: except for John Lennon who was so-so able to stay on the ski nobody else could ski. There was no other way but to hire doubles – four young local ski teachers. One of them was Herbert Lürzer who „played“ Paul McCartney. I met that man some time ago and at the first moment, I thought – well, he did not look like Paul at all! But it was not important, skilled filmmakers are always able to do everything. They put makeup on the young skiers, dark glasses on their noses and wigs, specially made by the Beatles hairdresser Betty Glasow, on their heads. Then the skiers put on dark and long coats and after that – holding a torch in a hand – they were just going down the hill, jumping over snowy humps and hiding behind trees so that cinema spectators would think these are John, Paul, George and Ringo. Herbert Lürzer was happy that he got 1000 shillings for every shooting day which was big money at that time. And as a special bonus: for almost two weeks they could spend 24 hours daily in close proximity to the famous band. What would have many devoted fans given to be in their place?
The only concert
Herbert Lürzer confessed that he was a little bit sorry that they had to give back the coats and all the other props. At least he was able to give several autographs as Paul – but better unreadable, as he added with a smile. His memories did not fade even after 50 years. He also remembers the evening very well when the director assistant Clive Reed celebrated his birthday in the hotel Marietta where the film crew was staying. To this day legends on how many whiskey bottles were opened that night are being told… But something else went down in the history of Obertauern – the moment when John, Paul, George and Ringo bobbed up on the stage where the hotel band used to perform and played their greatest hits. Actually, that has been the one and only Beatles concert in Austria! The audience was so excited that some hotel guests, even in pyjamas, came to the reception to complain about noise disturbance. It is rumoured that the next day the hotel owner – looking at tattered strings on the piano, broken drums and damaged loudspeakers – demanded compensation from the manager. But the quick-witted Epstein said: „Okay, but you have to pay for a two-hour concert of the Beatles!“ And problem solved…
The presence of the popular band in the ski resort Obertauern is immortalized on the cover of the Beatles SP Help! which was taken here. They even had to pull a piano Bösendorf out of the hotel into the snow! Beatles’ fans are still coming to the hotel Edelweiss and when they are lucky they can stay in the same rooms in which the famous musicians were accommodated 50 years ago (by the way these are the rooms Nr. 502, 503, 504 and 505!). You can see also some pictures from the shooting days or even the lunch menu from March 15th, 1965 with signatures of the unforgettable music legends. Thanks to the film Help! a new image of Obertauern was created and the resort received international awareness. Nowadays it is one of the most visited ski resorts in Austria.
Fotos: © Obertauern
For more information: http://www.salzburgerland.com