On the morning of March 2, 1964, a 19-year-old Pattie Boyd flagged down a taxi to Paddington Station. She’d been instructed by her modelling agency to meet three other models under the station’s clock at eight o’clock sharp. From there, they’d join a train halfway down platform one and meet the film crew—that’s where the instructions ended.
Pattie had been working non-stop modelling jobs for few years after moving from her parent’s home in Hurlington Court to South Kensington, where she shared a dingy apartment with a friend. Although at the beginning of her career the work was sporadic, she eventually established herself as the fresh-faced, wide-eyed model to be, working three to four jobs in a single day. That left little time for eating or sleeping, but her determination paid off when she landed jobs with iconic designer Ossie Clark and established photographers Brian Duffy and David Bailey, among others. In November of 1963, she was even given the opportunity to say a few lines in a Smiths Crips television commercial directed by the up-and-coming Richard Lester. It was her very first acting job, and she later recalled, “For someone who was as cripplingly shy as I, it was quite an ordeal.”
A few weeks later, when her agent Cherry Marshall called to tell Pattie she was booked for an appointment with a casting agency, Pattie wasn’t expecting much from it. She assumed it would be just another ad casting, one where she’d be modelling clothes or products. However, as she strolled up to the Park Lane Hilton at one o’clock, she was surprised to see director Richard Lester again. He couldn’t disclose any information about the project to her; it was top secret. She only found out later that day when she got a call from her agent congratulating her for landing the part. This wasn’t just any old shoot; she was going to be in A Hard Day’s Night, the first-ever Beatles film.
The movie was to capture a scripted 36-hour day in the boys’ lives as they prepared for a big television appearance. They’d start at Marylebone Station, then hop on the train to escape the hordes of screaming fans that had been chasing them for miles. In the train car, they’d meet a few schoolgirls—that’s where Pattie came in.
“No, I don’t want to do it! I can’t do it!” she told Cherry. Boyd wasn’t an actress and had no aspirations to be one. The idea of having to act and speak in front of a camera terrified her. But Cherry assured her she’d only have one line, and this would be huge for her career. So there she was, arriving at the train station in a schoolgirl uniform—grey pinafore dress, crisp white button-down, striped tie, and white over-the-knee socks.
The train came to a grinding halt at a station ten minutes outside of London. Then, four boys hopped on board, popping in the schoolgirls’ train compartment for a quick introduction. “On first impressions, John seemed more cynical and brash than the others, Ringo the most endearing, Paul was cute, and George, with velvet-brown eyes and dark chestnut hair, was the best-looking man I had ever seen. At a break for lunch, I found myself sitting next to him. Being close to him was electrifying,” she recalled.
Pattie began filming her scene, which involved actor Wilfrid Brambell (playing the role of John McCartney, Paul’s trouble-making grandfather) urging the girls to stay away from “me prisoners,” referring to the four boys.
As filming ended for the day and the train neared London, George turned to Pattie. “Will you marry me?” he asked. She laughed, unsure if he was being serious or not. After all, The Beatles had been joking around with the girls all day. When she didn’t respond, he continued: “Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
Pattie thought back to her boyfriend of the time, the photographer Eric Swayne. He had long, dark hair, a straight, fine nose, and was a decade her senior. She wasn’t really into him. He was controlling and, in truth, quite dull at times. She also felt more at home with boys her own age, boys she could laugh and joke around with like she did with her brothers. As she looked at the 21-year-old Beatle, she still felt an obligation to Eric, and declined his offer, suggesting they could all hang out together sometime. George didn’t think so, so when they got back to Paddington Station, they headed their separate ways.
When Pattie recalled the experience to a few friends the next day, they thought she was insane. “You must be out of your mind! You don’t turn down the chance of going out with George Harrison! It would be such an adventure. You’ve got to go!” After being thoroughly convinced by her friends’ pleas, she now had to solve the Eric problem.
“He might have sensed what was coming,” she recalled. “When I’d told [photographer] David Bailey about the film job, he predicted I would fall in love with Paul McCartney and had told Eric he’d be left on his own. Eric was so upset; he cried and said he’d throw himself under a bus. I felt cruel, and I was worried about him but I couldn’t change the way I felt. In the end, I had to get up and walk away.”
Ten days later, she was set to do a press photocall at Twickenham Studios to finish up her obligations for A Hard Day’s Night. She was doubtful that George would ask her out again, but still held a tiny bit of hope. The task of filming that day was for each of the girls, dressed again in their schoolgirl uniforms, to stand behind a Beatle and pretend to do the boy’s hair. When the instructions were given, Pattie immediately ran to George. He asked how her boyfriend was doing, and she said she’d dumped him. He smiled and asked if she’d like to have dinner with him tonight.
Later that night, they dined at the Garrick Club in Covent Garden, chaperoned by the Beatles manager and father figure, Brian Epstein. “I didn’t resent his [Brian Epstein’s] presence on our first date—he was good company and seemed to know everything about wine, food, and London restaurants,” Boyd remembered. “And perhaps if George and I, two very young, very shy people, had been on our own in such a grown-up restaurant, it would have been too intense.”
After that first date, the two were practically inseparable, and just a few weeks later, on Pattie’s 20th birthday, she brought George to meet her family. They were immediately taken with George, who was so easy and friendly with everyone. Now officially dating, the couple spent most of their time together, travelling to foreign places with the guidance of Epstein. Some of their magnificent destinations included Ireland, Monte Carlo, and Tahiti.
In July of 1964, George bought a home at the insistence of his accountant. It was a large 1950s deluxe bungalow in Esher in the English county of Surrey, and he called it Kinfauns. Pattie was living in Ovington Mews at the time near Kensington but grew lonely while George was away on tour for months at a time. When he returned, she moved into Kinfauns with him, and their relationship entered a new, more serious phase.
On a chilly evening in December of 1965, Pattie and George were driving around London when George suddenly stopped the car. “Let’s get married. I’ll speak to Brian,” he said. The next thing she knew, they were on Chapel Street, parked outside of Brian’s house. George ran in, leaving Pattie in the car, and fifteen minutes later, he came back out breathless. “Brian says it’s okay. Will you marry me? We can get married in January.” “Oh yes!” she replied. “That would be fabulous!”
On January 21, 1966, Pattie Boyd and George Harrison were married in an early morning ceremony at Epsom Registry Office in Surrey. “Not the most glamorous place,” she noted. “It was not the wedding I had dreamt of – I would have loved to be married in a church, but Brian didn’t want a big fuss. They all trusted him so implicitly that when he said it should be a quiet register office wedding George agreed. He also said it had to be secret – if the press found out, it would be chaotic.”
Pattie wore a Mary Quant pinky-red shot-silk dress with creamy stockings, pointy red shoes, and a red fox-fur coat over it all. Her hair was in loose curls with side-swept bangs and was decorated with a girly white bow on top. George wore a simple black suit with a black Mongolian lamb coat. They were glowing as they posed on the front steps of the registry. In attendance that day was Brian Epstein, Paul McCartney (who was George’s best man), both sets of parents, a few siblings, and cousins. John and Ringo were off on vacation to try and distract journalists from the event, which proved to be a failed attempt.
When the ceremony was over, the newlyweds headed over to a press conference that was organised by Epstein. But after the technicalities were over, the newly married couple went back to Kinfauns for their reception. It was a small gathering of close friends and family, and they spent their first hours of marriage laughing and reminiscing about the day that the shy Beatle and the sheepish little school girl locked eyes for the very first time.
“I was so happy I thought I might burst,” she remembered.