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Ned Kelly was the subject for the world’s first feature film made in Australia in 1906. The Story of the Kelly Gang has been added to a United Nations heritage register, joining a list of fewer than 200 items on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, including the family archives of Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel and the official trial records of Nelson Mandela.

But it wasn’t until 1980 when the highly acclaimed eight-hour mini-series, The Last Outlaw, told the complete Kelly story, with John Jarratt giving the most physically accurate portrayal of Ned Kelly seen to date. In this section you’ll find everything you’ll need to know about Ned Kelly on film. From the 1906 Story of the Kelly Gang through to the 1970 Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger and the 2003 version Ned Kelly starring Heath Ledger. And don’t forget to also check out our documentary section covering the history of Ned Kelly through the magic of moving pictures.

1906 - The Story Of The Kelly Gang

The Story Of The Kelly GangProducers: John Tait, Nevin Tait, Millard Johnson and William Gibson
Director: Charles Tait
Film Location: Heidelberg, Victoria
Running Time: 60 minutes (approximately)

Cast:

  • Nicholas Brierley
  • Godfrey Cass
  • Bella Cola
  • Vera Linden
  • Frank Mills
  • EJ Tait
  • Elizabeth Tait
  • Frank Tait
  • John Tait
  • Ollie Wilson

The world’s first feature-length movie was directed by Charles Tait and filmed at the Tait family’s Chartersville Estate in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg. Originally there were no intertitles; narration was performed by an onstage lecturer who also provided sound effects including gunfire and hoofbeats. It cost £1000 to make, but that money and more was recovered within its first week of screening. It premiered in Melbourne on Boxing Day 1906, and was later shown across Australia, in New Zealand and in Britain.

Part of an early flowering of film production in Australia The Story Of The Kelly Gang, produced in 1906, is hailed as being the first continuous narrative film of any significant length in the world. Premiered on 26 December 1906 at the Athenaeum Hall in Melbourne, Victoria, the film was about an hour long and presented highlights from the bushranging days of the Kelly gang.

The outlaws were shown as gallant heroes, with no apology for their antisocial behavior. It ran to full houses for five weeks before moving to other Melbourne theatres. It also screened in Sydney and Adelaide, and toured Queensland, and was shown in New Zealand and England, where it toured as ‘the longest film ever made’. The film was produced by John and Nevin Tait and two chemists Millard Johnson and William Gibson and directed by Charles Tait, an older brother of John and Nevin. Admission prices were from three shillings down to a shilling, half price for children. The movie was restored by Monash University’s ANSPAG group lead by research engineer Mr Paul Richardson for the National Film and Sound Archive.

Link: The Story of the Kelly Gang

According to the synopsis given in the surviving programme, the film originally comprised six sequences. These provided a loose narrative based on the Kelly Gang story.

  • Scene 1: Police discuss a warrant for Dan Kelly’s arrest. Later, Kate Kelly rebuffs the attentions of a Trooper.
  • Scene 2: The killings of Kennedy, Scanlon and Lonigan at Stringybark Creek by the gang.
  • Scene 3: The hold-up at Younghusband’s station and a bank hold–up.
  • Scene 4: Various gang members and supporters evade the police and the gang killing of Aaron Sherritt.
  • Scene 5: The attempt to derail a train and scenes at the Glenrowan Inn. The police surround the hotel, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart “die by each other’s hands” after Joe Byrne is shot dead.
  • Scene 6: The closing scenes. Ned Kelly fights hard but is shot in the legs. “He begs the Troopers to spare his life, thus falls the last of the Kelly Gang…”

In 1906, Charles Tait made history by creating and screening the world’s first narrative feature film and launching a global industry. Under controversial circumstances, the film was lost in time. Now, a group of ambitious filmmakers gather to celebrate a legend and save an icon in ‘Saving The Kelly Gang: How an Outlaw made Hollywood’.

1920 - The Kelly Gang

Director: Harry Southwell

Cast:

  • Godfrey Cass … Ned Kelly

Welsh-born filmmaker Charles Southwell had a vision: to present the great drama of the Kelly saga on the Australian screen. He laboured at this task for fifteen years, producing three films of indifferent quality along the way – The Kelly Gang, When the Kellys Were Out, and When The Kellys Rode. Southwell’s endeavours were hampered by political sensitivities, with any pro-Kelly material liable to be banned.

1923 - When The Kellys Were Out

Writer: Harry Southwell
Producer: Harry Southwell
Director: Harry Southwell
Photography: Tasman Higgins

Cast:

  • Godfrey Cass … Ned Kelly
  • Charles Villiers … Dan Kelly
  • William Ellison … Steve Hart
  • Allan Douglas … Joe Byrne
  • Rose Rooney … Kate Kelly
  • Rita Aslin … Ellen Kelly
  • Harry Southwell … Aaron Sherritt
  • Fred Twitcham … Constable McIntyre
  • Syd Everett … Sergeant Steele
  • Mervyn Barrington … Sergeant Kennedy
  • W. Ryan … Constable Fitzpatrick
  • Dunstan Webb … Superintendent Nicholson

Welsh-born filmmaker Charles Southwell had a vision: to present the great drama of the Kelly saga on the Australian screen. He laboured at this task for fifteen years, producing three films of indifferent quality along the way – The Kelly GangWhen the Kellys Were Out, and When The Kellys Rode. Southwell’s endeavours were hampered by political sensitivities, with any pro-Kelly material liable to be banned.

1934 - When The Kellys Rode

When The Kellys RodeProducer: Harry Southwell
Studio: British Empire Films
Production Company: Imperial Feature Films

Cast:

  • Hay Simpson … Ned Kelly
  • Regina Somerville
  • John Appleton
  • Norman Wait

This Kelly film was the third made by Harry Southwell, a footloose, independent filmmaker of the 1920s and 30s. The first, The True Story Of The Kelly Gang, was made in Victoria in 1920. The second, on cameraman Tas Higgins’ advice, was made again from scratch in 1923. It was shot, beautifully, by Higgins in the Burragorang and Kangaroo Valleys in New South Wales, and called When The Kellys Were Out. The third, with the same cameraman but this time a different actor for Kelly, was a sound film. When The Kellys Rode was made in the New South Wales Megalong Valley and nearby in 1934. All these movies ran into trouble with censorship, the second despite its final title:

And such is the inevitable fate of all those who rebel against the righteous and mighty forces of law and order.

When The Kellys Rode was banned in New South Wales (with the result that bushranging films were not favoured by backers for sometime). The Chief Secretary said he felt enough had been heard about bushrangers. The film was made in 1934. In 1934, Dollfuss was assassinated and Hitler was in power. Einstein had just taken up a professorship at Princeton, Benjamin Britten published his fourth major work, Shirley Temple won a Special Academy Award, and Qantas instituted the England-Australia airmail service, It seems a very modern time in which to worry about robbery under arms. The story of overt film censorship in Australia is studded with such lunatic episodes.

1951 - The Glenrowan Affair

Writter: Rupert Kathner
Producer: Rupert Kathner
Director: Rupert Kathner
Running Time: 66 minutes
Associate Producer: Alma Brooks
Photographer (interior): Harry Malcolm
Photographer (exterior): Rupert Kathner
Editor: Alex Ezard
Assistant Director: Bill Crowe
Narrator: Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell

Cast:

  • Bob Chitty … Ned Kelly
  • Ben Crowe … Dan Kelly
  • Larry Crowhurst … Joe Byrne
  • Bill Crowe … Steve Hart
  • Rupert Kathner … Aaron Sherritt
  • Alma King … Kate Kelly
  • John Fernside … Father Gibney
  • Frank Ransome … Sergeant Steele
  • Charles Tasman … Commissioner Nicholson
  • George Webb … Supt. Hare
  • Edward Smith … Mr. Standish
  • Alan Bardsley … Old Man
  • Arthur Hemsley … Barfly

Rest of cast listed alphabetically:

  • Albie Henderson
  • Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell
  • Stan Tolhurst
  • Bill Wright

The Glenrowan Affair features the bushranging exploits of Ned Kelly and his ‘wild colonial boys’ on their journey of treachery, violence, murder and terror. Told from the perspective of an aging Dan Kelly in present day Benalla, Kathner presents the narrative as a factual retelling despite his obvious embellishment of the Kelly myth. The production of the film generated more controversy than the film itself due to creative fallouts between Kathner and the film’s original director, Harry Southwell (The Kelly Gang 1920, When the Kelly’s Were Out 1923, When the Kelly’s Rode 1934) and the casting of local football hero, Bob Chitty as Ned Kelly. Bob Chitty was famed and feared as one of the toughest men ever to play Australian Rules football. The Carlton strongman was cast as Ned Kelly in this movie by Rupert Kathner, which was narrated by popular actor Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell. The project was ambitious, but critics were not kind.

1960 - Stringybark Massacre

Director: Gary Shead

Garry Shead’s avante-guard filmmaking techniques result in a stylish re-creation of the murder of three police officers at Stringybark, Victoria by Australian bush outlaw, Ned Kelly.

1960 - Ned Kelly

Director: Tim Burstall

This superbly crafted short film explores the legend of Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, through the modernist paintings of internationally acclaimed Australian artist Sidney Nolan and an accompanying bush ballad.

1970 - Ned Kelly

ned_kelly_1970Director: Tony Richardson
Writers: Tony Richardson and Ian Jones
Running Time: 103 minutes
Studio: United Artists
Producer: Neil Hartley
Cinematography: Gerry Fisher
Editing: Charles Rees
Composer: Shel Silverstein
Production Design: Jocelyn Herbert
Art Direction: Andrew Sanders
Costume Design: Jocelyn Herbert

Cast:

  • Mick Jagger … Ned Kelly
  • Allen Bickford … Dan Kelly
  • Geoff Gilmour … Steve Hart
  • Mark McManus … Joe Byrne
  • Serge Lazareff … Wild Wright
  • Peter Sumner … Tom Lloyd
  • Ken Shorter … Aaron Sherritt
  • James Elliott … Pat O’Donnell
  • Clarissa Kaye … Ellen Kelly
  • Diane Craig … Maggie Kelly
  • Sue Lloyd … Kate Kelly
  • Alexi Long … Grace Kelly
  • Bruce Barry … George King
  • Janne Wolmsley … Caitlyn
  • Ken Goodlet … Nicholson
  • Nigel Lovell … Standish
  • Martyn Sanderson … Fitzpatrick
  • Robert Bruning … Sgt Steele
  • John Laws … Kennedy
  • Liam Reynolds … Lonigan
  • Lindsay Smith … McIntyre
  • John Gray … Stratton
  • Reg Gormam … Bracken
  • John Hopkins … O’Connor
  • Peter Whittle … Devine
  • Anne Harvey … Mrs.Devine
  • Bill Charlton … Richards
    Graham Keating … Trooper
  • Ben Blakeney … Tracker
  • Bill Hunter … Officer
  • Frank Thring … Judge Redmond Barry
  • Alexander Cann … McInnes
  • Gerry Duggan … Father O’Hea
  • John Dease … Whitty
  • Andrew Sanders … Farrell
  • Patsy Dance … Mrs Whitty
  • Erika Crowne … Mrs Farrell
  • Tony Bazell … Mr. Scott
  • Jessica Noad … Mrs. Scott
  • Colin Tilley … Bank Clerk
  • Tim Van Rellim … Sportsman
  • Patrick McCarville … Sportsman
  • Kamahl … Gloster
  • Ronald Golding … Casement
  • Gordon McDougall … Tarleton
  • Clifford Neate … Living
  • Bryan Niland … Mackie
  • Doreen Warburton … Mrs Ann Jones
  • Gary Fisher … Jack Jones
  • Karin Altman … Jane Jones
  • David Copping … Mr Curnow
  • Penny Stehli … Mrs Curnow
  • Francis Yin … Sympathizer
  • Shirley May Donald … Mrs Byrne
  • Mary Marshall … Mrs Barry
  • Claire Balmford … Nell Sherritt
  • Kurt Beimel … Anton Wicks
  • Moshe Kedem … Baumgarten
  • Keith Peterson … Referee
  • Terry Erwin … Chinese
  • Harry Kelly … Aborigine
  • Jack Allen … Melbourne

‘Such is Life’, the infamous final words of legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, set the tone for Richardson’s folkloric bushranger tale starring the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. Ned Kelly is a retelling of the ill-fated story of Australia’s most notorious band of bushrangers. Set in the broader political context of British colonialism in late nineteenth century Australia, Richardson’s Kelly is a downtrodden Irish Catholic forced into thievery and violence by corrupt British authorities. Gerry Fishers’ superb cinematography captures the menacing threat of the Australian bush country and reinforces the tragic fate that awaits this national hero. This movie is one of the best-known versions of the Kelly story, due to the casting of British rock star Mick Jagger as the Irish-Australian bushranger Ned Kelly. Jagger’s then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull was also supposed to star, but was hospitalised after an overdose and replaced by Diane Craig. The soundtrack included songs by American country singers Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Frank Thring delivered a great performance as Judge Redmond Barry. The film was directed by Tony Richardson, father of Natasha and Joely.

1993 - Reckless Kelly

reckless kelly movie poster 1993Director: Yahoo Serious
Producer: Warwick Ross
Executive Producer: Graham Burke
Co-Producer: Lulu Serious
Running Time: 81 minutes
Screenwriters: Yahoo Serious, Warwick Ross, Lulu Serious, David Roach
Production Company: Larrikin Films, Serious Entertainment, Warner Brothers

Cast:

  • Ned Kelly … Yahoo Serious
  • Robin Banks … Melora Hardin
  • Major Wib … Alexei Sayle
  • Sir John … Hugo Weaving
  • Mrs Delance … Kathleen Freeman
  • Mr Delance … John Pinette
  • Dan Kelly … Bob Maza
  • Ernie The Fan … Martin Ferrero

Yahoo Serious’ satirical take on the Australian bushranger myth places Ned Kelly (Yahoo Serious) in a contemporary setting as a new-age outlaw on a mission to save his homeland from international bank executive and cunning arch-nemesis, Sir John (Hugo Weaving). Subverting the stereotype of the gun-totting, cattle duffing and violent bushranger, Serious’ Kelly is an anti capitalist, environmentalist Republican. Reckless Kelly’s political undertones and historical references make this a ‘must for all students of Australian culture.’

Adrian Martin, Film Critic.

2003 - Ned Kelly

ned kelly 2003 posterProduction Companies: WTA / Working Title Films, The Woss Group, Endymion Films
Release date: 27 March 2003

Cast:

  • Ned Kelly … Heath Ledger
  • Joe Byrne … Orlando Bloom
  • Francis Hare … Geoffrey Rush
  • Julia Cook … Naomi Watts
  • Dan Kelly … Laurence Kinlan
  • Steve Hart … Philip Barantini
  • Aaron Sherritt … Joel Edgerton
  • Alex Fitzpatrick … Kiri Paramore
  • Kate Kelly … Kerry Condon
  • Grace Kelly … Emily Browning
  • Ellen Kelly … Kris McQuade
  • Jane Jones … Saskia Burmeister
  • The Great Orlando … Jonathon Hardy
  • Thomas Lonigan … Peter Phelps
  • Mr Reardon … Peter O’Shea
  • Martin Cherry … Nick Bourke
  • Anne Jones … Karen Davitt
  • Johnny Jones … Declan Simpson
  • Stanistreet … Andrew Gilbert
  • Mr Scott … Geoff Morrell
  • Mrs Scott … Rachel Griffiths
  • Maggie … Brooke Harman

Crew

  • Tim Bevan … Executive Producer
  • Eric Fellner … Executive Producer
  • Tim White … Executive Producer
  • Nelson Woss … Producer
  • Lynda House … Producer
  • Debra Hayward … Co-Producer
  • Liza Chasin … Co-Producer
  • Robert Drewe … Associate Producer
  • Gregor Jordan … Director
  • John McDonagh … Writer
  • Christine King … Australian Casting
  • Jina Jay … UK Casting
  • Oliver Stapleton … Director of Photography
  • Steven-Jones Evans … Production Designer
  • Anna Borghesi … Costume Designer
  • Jenny Shircore … Make-up and Hair Designer
  • Jon Gregory … Film Editor
  • Catherine Bishop … Line Producer

Very loosely based on the story of Australian bushranger and icon, Ned Kelly, who had a brutal childhood and at sixteen years of age was imprisoned for stealing a horse. Upon release four years later, Ned’s sister is assaulted and it’s Ned and his mother who are charged with attempted murder. Forced to go on the run, Ned is determined to avenge his family and strike back at the system that wrongs them all. He forms the notorious Kelly gang with his brother Dan and two other men. Making use of homemade steel helmets and chest plates to protect themselves, the four men rob a bank, hijack an entire town for three days and they kill three policemen who were hunting them. They then take over a pub in Glenrowan, where they gather, waiting for a train full of police to derail at a part of the track that they had pulled up. However, it doesn’t go according to plan and results in a shootout.

2003 - Ned

Ned Abe ForsytheDirector: Abe Forsythe

Cast:

  • Abe Forsythe … Ned Kelly
  • Nick Flint … Dan Hughes
  • Damon Herriman … Steve Hart
  • Josef Ber … Joe Byrne
  • Felix Williamson
  • Michala Banas

The history of parodies in Australian cinema is littered with the celluloid carcasses of many well intentioned flicks. In that respect you must award full marks to writer, director and lead actor Abe Forsythe who put in a mammoth effort to get his idea off the ground. While the film’s concept was reported by some critics to fall short in certain areas, the good old Aussie fart joke does help push the story along at a cracking pace (and I’m still keen to discover the maximum load capacity of a miniature Shetland pony). Despite the level of toilet humour (or because of it), kids in particular should enjoy this film. There are many moments that will have to be viewed twice as the jokes are better the second time around. Ultimately I would say hire the movie and make up your own mind. After-all it couldn’t be any worse than Gregor Jordan’s Ned Kelly. Gregor wasn’t after any laughs but he got plenty.