If "The Beatles: Get Back" has a villain, it might be Michael Lindsay-Hogg

The cigar-chomping director of "Let It Be" is catching heat from fans dubbing him "upper-class twit of the year"

By Kenneth Womack

Contributing Writer

Published December 1, 2021 6:00PM (EST)

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lenon in "The Beatles: Get Back" (Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lenon in "The Beatles: Get Back" (Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

Since last week, the Internet has been obsessed with "The Beatles: Get Back," Peter Jackson's three-part documentary on Disney+ about the Beatles' January 1969 struggle to cobble together new material for a return to the stage. And for many viewers, the docuseries even produced a new supervillain for us to collectively disparage.

Was it Yoko Ono, daring to sit stoically beside her man John Lennon in the Fab Four Boys Club? Or Paul McCartney, reprising his familiar Bossypants role as he attempted to rally his fellow Beatles into action? Or even Allen Klein, the notorious New York City businessman cum thug who would plunge their managerial world into new levels of disarray?

Nah. Would you believe that it was none of the above?

Enter Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the cigar-chomping director of "Let It Be," the 1970 film that had the misfortune of being released in the days after McCartney announced the Beatles' demise to a crestfallen world.

For consumers of the "Get Back" series, Lindsay-Hogg has earned nearly wall-to-wall disdain. Don't believe me? Mosey on over to the Steve Hoffman Music Forums, the longtime home of the most engaging Beatles conversations on the web. Registering their disgust with Lindsay-Hogg's conspicuous appearances in the docuseries, viewers have lambasted the then-28-year-old director for being "annoying," a "spoiled prick" and, my favorite, "the upper-class twit of the year." At one point among the rancor, one commentator good-naturedly proclaimed that "it's official, Michael Lindsay-Hogg broke up the Beatles :D."

RELATED: In 1969 the fifth Beatle was heroin: John Lennon's addiction took its toll on the band

As it happens, when it comes to Lindsay-Hogg the class derision isn't entirely out of place. Born into the family of an English baronet, young Lindsay-Hogg grew up among the small world of Hollywood royalty. Thanks to his mother, actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lindsay-Hogg was on intimate terms with such cultural stalwarts as William Randolph Hearst, Olivia de Havilland, Humphrey Bogart, and Henry Miller. He may have even been the son of Orson Welles—a mystery that has plagued him throughout his life.

Seasoned Beatles fans know that Lindsay-Hogg was already something of a Beatles insider by the time he settled into the "Get Back" production, having directed the promotional videos for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" back in 1966, and helming the video shoot for "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" only a few months before undertaking the original Beatles doc at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969. By that time, he was fresh off the set of "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus," the ill-fated production that would lie dormant for nearly 30 years.

Love the Beatles? Listen to Ken's podcast "Everything Fab Four."

And Lindsay-Hogg would later direct "Two of Us," a kindhearted, highly speculative TV movie about Lennon and McCartney's last day together. Even the most callous Beatles aficionados couldn't help shedding a tear as Lindsay-Hogg's narrative imagined a passion-filled reconnection between the vaunted members of the twentieth century's most celebrated songwriting duo.

With Jackson's docuseries, fans have found great humor in poking fun at the often obsequious and self-deprecating Lindsay-Hogg. As "Get Back" demonstrates, he's absolutely game for anything that might move his clumsy, stumbling documentary along. At one point, he is hoisted up to the famous rooftop where the story will climax with a lunchtime concert for the ages. As he is lifted atop the building, Lindsay-Hogg doesn't even break character, his ever-present stogie clutched tightly between his teeth.

RELATED: The Beatles' "Abbey Road" at 50, remixed

As for me, I hold no ill will towards Lindsay-Hogg. For me, he never comes off as "annoying." And while he may be pompous, at times, it has nothing to do with his fancy lineage. Rather, he acts as a stand-in for us Beatles fans, glibly wondering what direction the story might take — will they perform their much ballyhooed concert in the desert or on a ship at sea? Like us, he seems desperate to know where the Beatles are heading. Is this really their swan song? Are the Beatles donesville? At one point after George Harrison briefly quits the band, Lindsay-Hogg quips that he too might leave, although he doubts that anyone would truly care.

No, Michael Lindsay-Hogg isn't some insufferable arch villain dead-set on needling us into oblivion. Like us diehards, he's hoping against hope that the Beatles haven't already played their best hand, that they've got a few more winning cards up their sleeve. In short, he is a fan. Just like us.

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By Kenneth Womack

Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography of the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin and the host of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast about the Beatles distributed by Salon. He is also the author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," published in 2019 in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life" and the authorized biography "Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans" (November 2023).  Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University.

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Commentary Documentary Get Back Michael Lindsay-hogg Peter Jackson The Beatles