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Ned Kelly (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ned Kelly is a 1942 radio play by Douglas Stewart about the outlaw Ned Kelly. It was later adapted into a stage play.

Radio play

The play was first produced as a radio play on the ABC, 21 June 1942.

Stage play

It became a stage play presented by the Sydney University Dramatic Society, 14 October 1942.

It was performed in Melbourne in 1944.[1]

The stage version was professionally produced by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1956 with Leo McKern.[2]

1959 television version

Ned Kelly
Based onplay by Douglas Stewart
Written byDouglas Stewart
Directed byWilliam Sterling
Music byRobert Hughes
Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
ProducerWilliam Sterling
CinematographyLes Handy
Running time75 mins
Production companyABC
Original networkGTV-9 (Melbourne)
Original release21 October 1959 (Melbourne)
26 January 1960 (Sydney)

The play was adapted for Australian TV in 1959 by the ABC. It focused on two main events – the robbery at Jerilderie and the siege at the Glenrowan Hotel.[3]

It was different from a later TV play about Ned Kelly, Ballad for One Gun.[4]


Ned Kelly and his gang hold up the hotel at Jerilderie. They retreat to a hideout where they are visited by "The Roo". They realise they have been betrayed by Aaron Sherritt and arrange for him to be shot. They then take over the hotel at Glenrowan.



Syd Conbere and Wynn Roberts had performed the play on radio in March 1959. [5][6] Stewart said one of the play's themes was "the conflict between the over-civilised man and the outlaw and the necessity for a balance between the two attitudes to life. Part of the spirit that was in the celebrated bushranger is still in the Australian character - the deep desire for freedom and impatience with authority."[7]

In July 1959 it was announced the production would be filmed at ABC's Melbourne studios at Ripponlea, with the scene of Kelly's capture shot on location at Glenrowan.[8]

In early August Sterling and a crew did an initial reconnaissance of the Glenrowan area.[9] A unit went out to Glenrowan in late August for three days of filming. A historic building outside the town, the building originally occupied by Constable Bracken, was dressed up to look like the Royal Hotel in Jerilderie. There was also filming at the Strathbogie Ranges and Beaconsfield. William Sterling said this footage could not be duplicated anywhere else in Victoria.[10][11] Cameraman Les Hendy used an 18 foot hydraulic crane to film at Beaconsfield.[12][13] Scenes were also shot at Guy's Hill.[14]

Robert Hughes wrote the music score, which also included bush songs from the Kelly years.[9] Les Hendy was cameraman, Harold Fletcher did props, Brian Faull was location manager and Audrey Rogers script assistant.[15]


The TV critic from the Sydney Morning Herald thought the production "did a disservice to Douglas Stewart's richly poetic and deeply probing play" in the adaptation "which, with the real meat of the play removed, dealt with very little except its bare skeleton." He complained several important speeches were removed and "the play lost its proper perspective" and that William Sterling's direction, "after a promising beginning, failed to bring off a number of all too tricky camera effects."[16]

The critic for The Age felt the program was too influenced by American Western TV shows although adding "there were many praiseworthy features about this production" saying "the outdoor scenes were excellently filmed and the film was blended with the studio presentations more effectively than any 'live' drama I have previously seen... The female characters... were very impressive... it was an interesting and rewarding experiment and I for one would enjoy watching it again."[17] The review prompted a reply from William Sterling where he argued "let's go our own way in television and receive constructive criticism or praise for what we attempt to do for our own history and let us not perpetuate the purely imaginary and stereotyped methods of the average Hollywood television film."[18]


  1. ^ "Douglas Stewart's "Ned Kelly"". The Advocate. LXXVII (4753). Melbourne. 4 October 1944. p. 20. Retrieved 22 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "Home to play a wild colonial boy". The Australian Women's Weekly. 24 ([?]). 19 September 1956. p. 26. Retrieved 22 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "Ned Kelly Story". Sydney Morning Herald. 25 January 1960. p. 12.
  4. ^ Vagg, Stephen (18 February 2019). "60 Australian TV Plays of the 1950s & '60s". Filmink.
  5. ^ "A.B.C. radio plays for the week". ABC Weekly. 11 March 1959. p. 12.
  6. ^ "No title identifier". ABC Weekly. 11 March 1959. p. 13.
  7. ^ "Inspired by Bushranger". The Age. 12 March 1959. p. 26.
  8. ^ "Glenrowan Setting for Ned Kelly". The Age. 23 July 1959. p. 13.
  9. ^ a b "Glenrowan Sets for Ned Kelly TV Verse Play". The Age. 13 August 1959. p. 13.
  10. ^ "Film Backgrounds of Glenrowan for TV Kelly Drama". The Age. 3 September 1959. p. 14.
  11. ^ "'Mocked Up' for Scene in Kelly Play". The Age. 3 September 1959. p. 15.
  12. ^ "TV Shooting Ned Kelly". The Age. 15 October 1959. p. 14.
  13. ^ ""Retreat" from Glenrowan". The Age. 20 August 1959. p. 26.
  14. ^ "TV Guide". The Age. p. 35.
  15. ^ "'Mocked Up' for Scene in Kelly Play". The Age. 3 September 1959. p. 29.
  16. ^ "Ned Kelly Produced on ABN 2". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 January 1960. p. 11.
  17. ^ Janus (29 October 1959). "Ned Kelly Fails to Pass Western Test". The Age. p. 13.
  18. ^ "Aust Approach to Drama". The Age. 5 November 1959. p. 14.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 January 2021, at 00:56
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