The Magic Christian: 1969 movie starring Ringo

After the Beatles films, Ringo Starr made his movie debut in 1968’s Candy, which was based on a Terry Southern novel of the same name. The following year, Ringo would star in another movie based on a novel by satirist Terry Southern, The Magic Christian. It was his first high-profile role.

Directed by Joseph McGrath, the 1969 movie differed greatly from Southern’s novel. In fact, Ringo Starr’s character of Youngman Grand did not exist in the novel. The role was written specifically for Ringo to give the film a Beatles aura. It starred Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire who together with his adopted son (Ringo) spend their time playing elaborate practical jokes on people.

Countless famous actors and actress had bit roles in this bizarre comedy. There is even a brief shot of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The film had more Beatles connections than just Ringo Starr in a co-starring role. The song’s theme song was “Come and Get It”, which was written and produced by Paul McCartney, and performed by the band Badfinger. Of course, Badfinger was signed to the Apple label at the time. The lyrics of “Come and Get It” were written to showcase the plot of a billionaire bribing people to do bizarre things.

Ironically, the song “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman was prominently used in the film. Lead guitarist on the song was 16 year-old boy wonder Jimmy McCulloch, who four years later would join Wings as their lead guitarist.

Author Alan Clayson perfectly sums up Ringo’s involvement in The Magic Christian in his 1992 book Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker: “Another lesson logged for future use by Ringo was how a product’s lack of substance could be disguised with a large budget and employment of the famous.”

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