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Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly(1970)

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teaser Ned Kelly (1970)

Rock 'n roll stars have always been viewed as outlaws and rebels by their fans so what better casting than have Mick Jagger play one of Australia's most renown criminals in Ned Kelly (1970), a film by Tony Richardson. Based on historical accounts, the film depicts Ned's first arrest for a crime he didn't commit, his eventual career as a horse thief and police murderer, and his final capture and execution by hanging. In his memoir, Long Distance Runner, director Tony Richardson describes the genesis for the film: "Sidney Nolan, the Australian painter, had made a series of paintings of the famous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly which were widely exhibited in London in the early 1960's, and perhaps it's due to him that this enigmatic mythic personality started to haunt our imaginations. I say 'our' because Karel Reisz also toyed for a while with doing a movie about Ned Kelly. After Karel dropped it, I took up the idea. Ned Kelly was a natural anti-authority hero - a bank robber and thief to some; a kind of Robin Hood of the bush to others. His story - with its strange image of the homemade suit of armor he fashioned for his final shoot-out with the combined forces of constabulary and army - was a natural for a movie. The more I worked on it, the more I thought I could make it by adopting a ballad, almost country-and-western, formula."

Strangely enough, Mick Jagger was not Richardson's first choice for the title role. It was actually Albert Finney but the actor was unavailable. So, when Richardson got word that a certain member of The Rolling Stone was interested in developing a serious acting career, he was intrigued. After preliminary discussions, Jagger agreed to take the role, convinced he could adequately handle the horse riding and the required firearms. It was also agreed that Marianne Faithful, Jagger's girlfriend at the time, would play his girlfriend in the film. Easier said than done.

Ned Kelly turned into an extremely difficult shoot for numerous reasons. Only a day after she arrived on the set, Faithful took a massive overdose of sleeping pills and was rushed to the hospital where she lapsed into a coma. Miraculously, she survived but Richardson had to replace her with another actress. Meanwhile, the Australian press had a field day with the incident, hounding Jagger for comments and, in one incident, a reporter disguised as a hospital intern gained access to Faithful's hospital room and captured her comatose form with his camera. Other delays occurred while the crew was filming in Melbourne near Canberra College. It just happened to coincide with an annual weeklong collegiate party that resulted in widespread property damage and out-of-control crowd rampages, all of which threatened the safety of the cast and crew. Another potentially dangerous situation arose during a shootout scene when a piece of jagged metal pierced Jagger's hand, barely missing his eye. Luckily, his forefinger, which was crucial for his guitar playing, was unaffected and he recovered quickly. Finally, Richardson's first choices for the soundtrack musicians - The Band, Van Morrison, or Johnny Cash - all fell through and he eventually settled on a score by Shel Silverstein with vocal contributions by Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Tom Ghent, and Jagger performing "The Wild Colonial Boy." Needless to say, the final cut of Ned Kelly was not the film Richardson originally envisioned but it remains a genuine curiosity and is a must-see for Mick Jagger fans.

Director: Tony Richardson
Producer: Neil Hartley
Screenplay: Ian Jones, Tony Richardson
Cinematography: Gerry Fisher
Editor: Charles Rees
Art Direction: Andrew Sanders
Music: Shel Silverstein
Cast: Mick Jagger (Ned Kelly), Clarissa Kaye (Mrs. Kelly), Mark McManus (Joe Byrne), Ken Goodlet (Superintendent Nicholson), Frank Thring (Judge Barry), Bruce Barry (George King).
C-103m.

by Jeff Stafford

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