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Starr, Ringo (1940-)

Musician, Actor

Main image of Starr, Ringo (1940-)

Ringo Starr will always owe his reputation to being the drummer with the phenomentally successful rock group The Beatles. Since their 1970 split, he has dabbled in film and television as well as music, though generations of children know him best for narrating Thomas the Tank Engine (ITV, 1984-86) in his inimitable flat Liverpudlian tones.

Born Richard Starkey in Toxteth on 7 July 1940, he spent much of his childhood in hospital, which badly affected his education. In his teens, he was caught up in the skiffle craze, performing with various bands before meeting the then fledgling Beatles in 1960 while touring in Hamburg. After deputising for original drummer Pete Best, he was invited to replace him in August 1962.

Even before the Beatles' break-up, Starr had made solo acting appearances in several films, including the Terry Southern satires Candy (US/Italy/France, 1968) and The Magic Christian (d. Joe McGrath, 1969) and a bizarre cameo as Frank Zappa lookalike Larry the Dwarf in Zappa's folly 200 Motels (co-d. Tony Palmer, 1971). His strongest performance was in That'll Be The Day (d. Claude Whatham, 1973), as the itinerant fairground worker who takes young tearaway David Essex under his wing. Invited to appear in the sequel Stardust (d. Michael Apted, 1974), he declined after recognising similarities between its plot and the real-life story of his replacing Pete Best.

Amongst later, mostly cameo roles, he made a memorably ludicrous Pope in Ken Russell's garish Lisztomania (1975), and played the title role of the slapstick comedy Caveman (US, 1981) to more jibes than plaudits. Since the mid-1980s, he has virtually abandoned acting, though makes regular small-screen appearances on chat shows, in documentaries (notably The Beatles Anthology, US, 1995) and as the host of Classic Albums (US, 1997). But his immortality had long since been assured.

Michael Brooke

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From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Hard Day's Night, A (1964)Hard Day's Night, A (1964)

The Beatles star in one of the defining films of the Swinging Sixties

Thumbnail image of That'll Be The Day (1973)That'll Be The Day (1973)

David Essex is teen rebel Jim Maclaine in this 1950s rock'n'roll fable

Thumbnail image of This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)

Interviews with John, Paul, George and Ringo in the back of a car

Related collections

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Beatles, TheBeatles, The


Thumbnail image of Harrison, George (1943-2001)Harrison, George (1943-2001)

Musician, Producer, Actor