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Stardust (1974)


Main image of Stardust (1974)
DirectorMichael Apted
Production CompaniesGoodtimes Enterprises, EMI Film Productions
ProducersDavid Puttnam, Sandy Lieberson
ScriptRay Connolly
PhotographyAnthony B. Richmond
Music produced and arranged byDave Edmunds

Cast: David Essex (Jim Maclaine), Adam Faith (Mike), Larry Hagman (Porter Lee Austin), Ines Des Longchamps (Danielle), Rosalind Ayres (Jeanette) Marty Wilde (Colin Day)

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Jim Maclaine achieves all his rock'n'roll dreams, but at a nightmarish price.

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Following the success of That'll Be The Day (d. Claude Whatham, 1973), producer David Puttnam made a sequel with a much bigger budget and a more experienced director in Michael Apted. Many actors reprised their roles (David Essex, Keith Moon, Rosalind Ayres), but Ringo Starr dropped out because of an uncomfortable resemblance between a key subplot and the real-life story of Pete Best's departure from The Beatles. This benefited the film, as replacement Adam Faith gives the strongest performance by a fair margin.

Adopting the basic premise of Citizen Kane (US, d. Orson Welles, 1941), though not its complex flashback structure, Stardust shows Jim Maclaine (Essex) achieving all the fame and fortune he dreamed of while at the same time cruelly highlighting just how hollow his victories ultimately are. From the moment when manager Mike (Faith) has to sign over publishing rights to Jim's songs, they are exploited by rapacious promoters, agents and lawyers at every turn, with every supposedly creative decision (Jim "discovering" his spirituality) sourced from a ruthless commercial imperative (there's a tax loophole for religious charities). Even a sincere attempt at penning a musical tribute to his recently deceased mother turns into, in his words, "an electronic nightmare", as a worldwide audience of 300 million watches an overblown, over-calculated freakshow.

While most of Jim's decisions in the earlier film turned out to be misguided, there was never any doubt that he had a free hand in making them. In Stardust, virtually everything is planned by others, and it's little wonder Jim ends up a gibbering recluse: everything that truly meant anything to him - girlfriend, wife, son, band - ends up leaving him, while his supposed best friend Mike engineers most of these splits while pretending that he was acting in Jim's best interests.

The film's tagline said "Show me a boy who never wanted to become a rock star and I'll show you a liar" - but Stardust makes it clear that if you really want to make it big in the music business, you'd be much better off as a lawyer, accountant or agent, turning the spotlight firmly on someone else while reaping all the rewards behind the scenes. It's a sour, cynical film, but a brutally honest one, showing in no uncertain terms what really lay behind the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll mirage.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. He's a real problem (3:05)
2. Knock off an album (1:36)
3. Funeral reunion (2:35)
4. The price of fame (2:38)
Production stills
That'll Be The Day (1973)
Apted, Michael (1941-)
Faith, Adam (1940-2003)
Puttnam, Lord David (1941-)