w/RINGO STARR & DAVID ESSEX
By Alan L. Chrisman
That’ll be the Day is a 1973 British film starring Ringo Starr and actor/singer David Essex (“Rock On”). It takes place in England in the late 50’s and early 60’s and captures what it must have like growing up there, right before The Beatles were to take over. Ringo almost steals the movie, although Essex does strong acting too.
In fact, it’s partly based on the times of the early Liverpool days of the pre-Beatles and their teenage band, The Quarrymen. Essex’s Jim MacLaine, the main character, is a cross between Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Like Lennon, he comes from a fatherless home, but he manages to land a job at a sea-side Holiday camp, where British working-class families would escape to for their summer holidays. There, Essex, meets Ringo’s character, Mike, an old hand at working the carnival circuit, and takes the handsome, but innocent at first, Jim, under his wing and shows him the ropes, the scams, and how to pick up “birds”, in dealing with the crowds.
The whole movie just looks and feels authentic (it was shot partly on the Isle of Wight.) Ringo especially, just fits the role, playing someone he could have actually been. Before The Beatles, Ringo was in a band called Rory Storm & the Hurricanes and until The Beatles, they were the most popular band in Liverpool. In fact, one of the characters, Stormy Tempest, is a play on the name Rory Storm and is played by British singer Billy Fury and The Who’s Keith Moon is also in the film. Ringo actually played similar holiday camps when he was with Rory Storm.
The film was written by Ray Connolly, originally from Liverpool and later a London journalist, who knew The Beatles well and their story. He would later write the respected book, John Lennon 1940-80. As I said, his screenplay and the movie evokes the era and characters perfectly. And Ringo especially, dressed up in his stove-pipe “drainies” and slicked back hair-do, looks and acts the part. Essex expresses the growing ambition to become a rocker by the end of the picture. The soundtrack is made up of some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs of the 50’s and early 60’s.
That’ll be The Day did so well in England, especially, that it led to a follow-up film in ’74 called Stardust. Essex’s character, carries on to become the rock star he yearned to be in the first film, but he also gets caught up in its trappings. Stardust, the sequel, also has more British rock musicians playing roles in it, like Adam Faith and Dave Edmunds (but not Ringo). David Essex, besides his big worldwide hit, “Rock On” in 1973 would go on to remain popular in the U.K., both as a singer and actor.
That’ll be the Day and Stardust are considered by some to be among the best films about the dream to become a rocker and especially that fertile time in pop music, when The Beatles were about to shake up the world.
I recommend you seeing these films, if you haven’t.
Above Poster for “That’ll Be the Day” film, & David Essex hit, “Rock On”, 1973
Watch excerpt: Ringo & David Essex in That’ll Be the Day film, 1973: