Why The Beatles thanked the inventor of the sewing machine at the end of ‘Help!’ tt

As part of their plan to conquer the world, it was inevitable that The Beatles would set their sights on cinema, although they hardly went about it in a typical fashion.

The group’s A Hard Day’s Night followed them for 36 hours as they prepared for a television performance in a mockumentary that existed in a world just slightly off-centre from reality, doing big business at the box office and earning Academy Award nominations for its music and screenplay into the bargain.

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For their second feature-length foray, The Beatles channelled their love of the Marx Brothers for further exploration of comedic absurdity. This time around in Help!, Ringo Starr discovers a valuable gem that’s been sent to him by a fan, forcing the members of a sinister cult to descend upon London, with plans afoot to sacrifice the drummer in the name of appeasing the goddess they worship. It’s weird, for sure, but totally on-brand for both the mid-1960s and that period of the band’s careers.

Why The Beatles thanked the inventor of the sewing machine

During the end credits, a rather bizarre acknowledgement appears one that made little sense to those unfamiliar with the lore behind the creation of household appliances. “This film is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Mr. Elias Howe, who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine,” it reads. While it appears to have little to do with Help!, that isn’t strictly true.

While Howe wasn’t the first to stumble upon the idea of a sewing machine, he made his own adjustments and secured a patent. After trying to gain interest in England, he headed back home to the United States to discover that a number of people were infringing on his design, which was eventually settled in the courts and allowed him to claim royalties from the rivals who’d co-opted his concept without permission.

Of course, that isn’t why The Beatles decided to pay a glowing tribute in Help!, with a nightmare instead acting as the inspiration. An uncorroborated urban legend offered that Howe came up with the device after dreaming of being surrounded by cannibals, who were planning to murder him and feast on his flesh as they’re wont to do.

Upon being startled awake, he recalled how the spears had holes in the shaft that moved up and down, which legend has it inspired the vertical stitch innovation, marking his sewing machine out as being markedly different from the lockstitch method pioneered by Walter Hunt over a decade previously.

As the story goes, the scene in Help! where Ringo is being slowly encircled by cult members in preparation for his impending sacrifice was a direct nod to the dream that may or may not have inspired the sewing machine and was thusly reflected in the credits, which is every bit as unconventional as it sounds.

 

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