Cult Movie: David Essex double-bill That'll Be The Day and Stardust nails the highs and lows of the music biz
That'll Be The Day and Stardust
NOTHING has captured the rise and fall of a rock and roll star quite like the double whammy of That'll Be The Day and Stardust. Both films starred David Essex, both films have just been reissued by Studiocanal on DVD and Blu-ray and both films should be required viewing for young bands starting out on the road today.
That'll Be The Day is the rise and has an earthy, almost kitchen sink drama type vibe. Essex is excellent as teenage rocker Jim MacLaine, a good looking kid who flees his dead-end job as a deck chair attendant to make it in the music business in the 1950s. He's got no great love of the music but he has an unquenchable thirst for the ladies and the good looks to make it in an industry still in its earliest days.
Released in 1973 and directed by Claude Whatham, it's a rich if hugely downbeat coming of age drama peppered with an array of classic rock and roll tracks (very popular at the time as the first nostalgic pang for "better times" swept through the country in '73) and it's imbued with a rich seam of sadness and post-war miserablism that makes it feel like something of a minor key classic.
Ringo Starr, no less, turns up early on as a mate Jim meets when his journey takes him to the funfairs and holiday camps of 50s Britain and the former Beatle just about steals the show as the randy ride attendant who shows his young charge how to score with the ladies.
Laconic, lewd and boasting the kind of full blown rocker quiff he sported as a young tub thumper with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes before Beatlemania came calling, he's a natural – and his performance leaves you wondering just how good a career the drummer could have had as an actor had he laid off the bottle and chosen his roles with a little more thought.
Ringo's not the only rock cameo to grace the film either: Billy Fury and Keith Moon also appear to add a little rock and roll glamour to the first outing, while Marty Wilde and Dave Edmunds turn up in the second offering – but the best role in the whole thing is taken by Adam Faith who plays Jim's adoring but ruthless manager Mike. All the morality free cynicism of the music business is embodied in that one highly believable character.
If the first film charts the grimy rise to fame then Stardust, released the following year and directed by Michael Apted, is a fully blown essay on the dangers of global fame that pulls no punches as it traces the singer's decline into wild drug addiction and detached delusion.
A puffed up, God-like figure to his fans, Jim fritters away his lonely life in a private castle as those around him try to milk his career for all its worth. As a knowing sketch of the rock and world it's powerful, if often depressing, stuff.