That’ll Be the Day (1973)

That’ll Be the Day (1973)

“It’s no good telling me he’s changed; he’ll never change!”

A young man (David Essex) whose single mother (Rosemary Leach) runs a small grocery store runs away to work at a carnival, where he meets an orphan (Ringo Starr) who introduces him to a world of petty crime and sex — but when Essex eventually reconnects with his old schoolmate (Robert Lindsay) and starts dating Lindsay’s sister (Rosalind Ayres), he seems to be heading towards a more stable lifestyle.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Carnivals and Circuses
  • Coming of Age
  • Ringo Starr Films
  • Womanizers

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “somber drama” about a “working class youth in 1959-60” who “feels little attachment to anyone… and avoids commitment” is “the type of kitchen-sink drama Alan Sillitoe or John Osborne might have come up with if they’d been writing for the younger 1974 British audience.”

Peary points out that real-life rock star David “Essex doesn’t sing, as he [would] in the better, more flamboyant sequel, Stardust,” but “there’s a great rock sound track” and he personally relates to a scene in which Essex “has a friend bringing over a Ritchie Valens album that Essex has been dying to hear.”

He notes that Starr (in one of his best film roles) “does a good job as Essex’s pal” (not to mention having “an interesting haircut”):

… and adds that “Essex turns in a strong performance, playing someone audiences will feel ambivalent about” given that “he looks for one-night stands” and “he won’t put himself on the line for a friend [Starr] who’s getting beaten up.”

Indeed, Essex’s character — someone who “girls flock around” given “he’s cute and shy” — is surprisingly complex: the opening scenes show him as a young child running to meet his long-gone dad (James Booth), and spending only a short time with him before he disappears once again (for good).

This abandonment inevitably influences Essex himself once he comes of age — and while we sympathize with his beleaguered mother, who assumes her bright son will go to college and find security:

… it’s also entirely believable that he would rebel and seek out new adventures (including losing his virginity).

The problem is how badly Essex acts during key decision-making moments of his life, such as whether to force himself on a teenage girl at the carnival; whether to help Starr during a potentially fatal fight; whether to pursue a “final fling” before his marriage night; etc. His worst decision comes near the very end — and given that this film ends on a freeze-frame, it inevitably leaves one feeling like the story is unfinished (which it is); I’ll return with my assessment of Stardust shortly.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • David Essex as Jim
  • Ringo Starr as Mike
  • Rosemary Leach as Mrs. MacLaine
  • Fine use of location shooting

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one time look.


One thought on “That’ll Be the Day (1973)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see – and rather in agreement with the points brought out here.

    To me, it’s watchable – although, at the same time, I can’t say I felt terribly engaged.

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