“The True Story”

Its been announced that someone is planning to make a movie adaptation of “The True Story of the Kelly Gang” an award winning novel by Australian Peter Carey. I’ve yet to read the book, and might not ever because its an acknowledged work of fiction and I am sick of reading fiction about Ned Kelly. 

Predictably, Kelly sympathisers  are whining about the fact that once again what they regard as the “True” story is not being told, and on the Iron Outlaw Facebook Page they are  conducting a readers Poll, asking which non-fiction book should be considered if they want to film an accurate portrayal of the Kelly Gang?”  They give a list of 7 to choose from.
After a week, only 20 votes had been cast and the clear winner was “A Short Life” by Ian Jones, with 8 votes and the runner up on 4 was“Ned Kelly” by Peter Fitzsimons. Frankly, if there’s to be yet another movie about Ned Kelly, it needs to be one based on something other than any of those books, and Ian Jones’ one in particular, because he has been deeply involved in most of the movies and documentary series already produced, and they have pleased no-one.   Moreover, because those books don’t provide “an accurate portrayal of the  Kelly Gang”  neither would a movie based on them. In fact Kelly sympathisers aren’t the least interested in “the true story” – what they are interested in is a fairy tale, and in pretending that their fantasies about Ned Kelly are true. 

What’s needed, for anyone genuinely interested in the “True” story is not yet another rehash of the tired old mythmaking of Jones, Moloney and Fitzsimons  but a fantastic  new movie based on new scholarship, specifically the new works of MacFarlane and Morrissey.  A new movie would not portray the Police as bumbling corrupt buffoons or the Kellys as depraved maniacs but would hopefully incorporate a balanced understanding of the times into a sympathetic portrayal of the Kellys, insights into the psychology of a psychopath and into the challenges the Police faced, and show Ned Kelly to be colourful,complex raging and passionate, but ultimately tragically flawed. An amazing subject for a movie! 

Ned Kelly wanted to believe that the Police “exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat” and that his own life had been made “mad by bad treatment”.In other words according to Kelly someone else was to blame for his criminal choices, and that view has been the theme of all the movies made about him to date. However, as I have tried to make clear on this Blog, such a view is unsustainable. 

My own view is that Kellys life illustrates the corrosive and destructive effects of inter-generational hate, particularly the hatred of the English and of Authority  that was  taught to him from birth. Ultimately it consumed him. That’s what I think is the truth about Ned Kelly, and its a perspective that could make a new movie an interesting proposition. But please please please lets not have any more sickening syrupy fairy tales about a sad misunderstood and mistreated crusader. Ned Kelly was never such a person. The actually true story of Nd Kelly has still to be told. 

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14 Replies to ““The True Story””

  1. Tony Arnold says: Reply

    Perfectly put, Dee. The last thing we need is more syrupy, romantic claptrap from Mr Carey.The Kelly movies and television shows so far have been misleading rubbish.

    A movie or telemovie based on the Macfarlane/ Morrissey books would still retain the flavour and adventure of the story. But I don't know whether Australia would like the Kelly myths being so comprehensively debunked, though.

    There must be a TV channel or movie maker willing to take the risk of controversy, debate and proiding a truer portrayal of the Kelly legend. I'm not helding my breath.

  2. Dean Warren says: Reply

    A movie based on the MacFarlane/ Morrissey books would be popular in the UK and US whee people think we are weird for celebrating police murderers. Europeans are fascinated by the fall-out, and yearn for the truth too. They won't find THAT is the pro-Kelly books like Peter Carey's novel…

  3. Another of the many embellishments of the Kelly films and TV miniseries is the artistic licence taken by the scripts and producers. Some of these have been annoyingly inaccurate. The Kelly story doesn't need embellishments. It has everything already. Adding rainstorms, bushfires and romantic attachments muddies it.

    I think Channel Nine is planning a miniseries if I remember right. It sounded even worse than the projected Cary-based gibberish. Just another "We all love Ned" exercise in meaninglessness.

  4. Tony Salacz says: Reply

    Dee, you say "The actually true story of Nd Kelly has still to be told". But as you know from your blog and from all the books, this is impossible. The Kelly history has more holes than the Titanic, missing documents and no Joe Byrne diary.

    We're getting closer thanks to the work of MacFarlane and Morrissey, but there are still gaps they couldn't solve .

    MacFarlane says the full story can never be told.

    That's why people can make up weird theories about Lonigan running up the log with his exposed thighs.

  5. Bruce Watson says: Reply

    Peter Carey is a novellist. The film will be a worthless bummer.

  6. Frank Kutner says: Reply

    Dr Russ Scott and Ian Macfarlane demonstrated Ned was a Psychopath in 2014 using the commonly sccepted psychiatric PCL-R review process.

    If this forensic tool had been around in 1878, Ned might have ended up in Beechworth Asylum and not on the gallows.

  7. Nice try Frank. Don't think courts back then were very interested in all the excuses favourably pondered by courts these days.

  8. The Numbers of votes cast on the Iron Outlaw Poll has suddenly and suspiciously leaped to 132! Obviously they’ve been stuffing the Ballot Box to boost the numbers to something less embarrassing, but Ian Jones remains the winner.

  9. That's not the only thing inflated on IO.

  10. Pete Cowper says: Reply

    That guy has never apologised to anyone, let alone for his criminal defamations of Carla, Dr David and the Macfarlane family. The quartered-bullet idea is beyond dumb too. He might have been a great truck driver before he retired, but he is no ballistics expert, qualified psychiatrist or paid book reviewer.

  11. Guess Who says: Reply

    The big question is will he turn up in Beechworth as promised for the imminent Ned Kelly Weekend? I will be looking out for him. I want to have a really in depth talk.

  12. There will be lots of "No Shows" this year.

  13. Negligible few new attractions at this year's NKW at Beechworth. It ran out of steam several years ago.


    It has long been pointed out that the re-enactments are based on differing newspaper reports of the time. This makes the trial re-enactments particularly suspect.

    Visitors will be misled and be bored to tears.

  14. They should have invited Morrissey and MacFarlane which would have made 2015 NKW controversal and memorable!

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