Ned Kelly
Updated May 4, 2003

Ned Kelly Movies Ned Kelly has been the subject of films since the turn of last century. Nearly all have not let truth get in the way of a good story. We have been keeping track of progress on the latest. Please have your say.

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'Ned Kelly' the movie - fact or fiction?

Love it or hate it, the Ned Kelly movie has got people talking, mostly about what parts are true, and which are not. Much of the historically true story, and many of the main characters were left out, too many to list here, but below is a quick rundown of some of the main scenes of the movie that have inspired the question - "did that really happen?"
(please note this is not a review of the movie as such)

  • Scenes from the movie denoted by a dot.

Clarification of whether it is 'fact or fiction' written underneath in small print.

Fact or fiction?

  • Ned arrives home after his stint in gaol and Mrs Kelly has a baby in her arms. She tells Ned she was married, but the father is long gone.

Ellen did not marry George King until after Ned arrived home from gaol (Ned signed as a witness to their wedding). The baby was Ellen King, and George did not leave Ellen for some years after this, they had two more children together (John and Alice). Ned embarked on his horse stealing operation in partnership with George King.

  • Ned works for the husband of Julia Cook, they are attracted to each other and become lovers.

Julia Cook and her husband are both fictional characters.

  • Constable Fitzpatrick is cearly obsessed with Kate Kelly.

We have no evidence that he was.

  • Constable Fitzpatrick visits the Kelly home (wishing to speak with Kate) where he finds Dan, Ellen, Kate and Grace Kelly. Joe Byrne and Steve Hart are also both present, however Ned is not (he is with Julia Cook). He is not welcome but comes in and has a drink anyway. He makes a grab for Kate, who resists. Dan calls out for Ned to distract Fitzpatrick and there is a struggle, in which Joe hits him on the head with a shovel, and Fitzpatrick cuts his hand on broken glass on the table.

We do not know what actually happened during this incident, or if Ned was present or not. Fitzpatrick's version is unreliable, and other versions of the incident differ in many details. Ned denied he was even there. In his official report Fitzpatrick accused Mrs Kelly of hitting him with the shovel, and Ned firing a shot at him injuring his wrist.

  • At Stringybark Creek, the gang attempt to hold up the police camp. Const. Lonigan tries to shoot Ned, who shoots in return and kills him instantly. Later, Const. Scanlon is shot in a 'fair fight', and Const. McIntyre escapes. Ned has a running gun fight with Sgt. Kennedy, who fires repeatedly while being chased by Ned. Kennedy is wounded several times, before critically. Ned sees he cannot live and so shoots him dead (to put him out of his misery).

This scene is quite close to fact. However Lonigan never got the chance to fire his gun at Ned because Ned managed to shoot him first, just as he was about to try. After Ned shot Lonigan he did not die instantly, instead he staggered some distance and cryied out 'Oh Christ I am shot' before he collapsed. The chase with Kennedy was fairly accurate, except in one respect; the movie does not show that Ned actually fired the fatal shot at Kennedy before seeing he was by then unarmed. He was attempting to raise his hand to surrender and not fire, which unfortunately Ned did not realise until too late. It is believed that Ned shooting Kennedy at close range to end his suffering did happen.

  • Ned takes Kennedy's watch as though it was something done absentmindedly from the shock, (stating his reason as 'something to do with' Kennedy not needing it anymore).

In fact, the gang deliberately looted all three bodies and stole the watch and rings, any money, guns and ammunition they could find.

  • When the gang visits Aaron early in the morning, he tells them he is with Mary Hegarty, (a 13 year old girl). In a later scene, Aaron tells Joe and Ned that she is pregnant and now his wife.

Fiction. However Aaron did marry while the gang were on the run, but to a girl named Ellen Barry (who was indeed a teenager and pregnant by him).

  • At Euroa, Mrs Scott is changing and realises Joe is watching her. She pretends to be affronted, but flirts and they become intimate.

Fiction.

  • Francis Hare is the only senior policeman we see throughout the movie. The police chase of the gang appears to become effective after Hare's involvement. In order to get the gang out of hiding, the police set fire to the bush and poison the waterholes. After the fires have gone out, Hare finds Kennedy's watch in the burnt out hut used by the gang.

There were a number of senior police involved in the Kelly chase (such as Nicholson, Sadlier, Steele and O'Connor). The police chase, was at no stage, truly effective. Burning of the bush and poisoning water supplies did not occur. Kennedy's watch was not recovered at this point.

  • Aaron is beaten and locked in a cell. Hare visits him there and offers Joe's safety in exchange for him becoming a police informer.

The police never beat or imprisoned Aaron to get his assistance. There is truth to a possible deal to attempt to spare Joe. however there is no evidence that Aaron was coerced into the deal.

  • At Jerilderie, after the bank robbery, Ned on impulse dictates the 'Jerilderie letter' to Joe in front of the hostages. During this process many of them humorously offer suggestions about what to write.

The Jerilderie letter was a lengthy document, planned and written prior to the robbery. Ned took it to Jerilderie with the intention of having it published.

  • On the run from the fires and police and dying from hunger and thirst, Ned, in desperation, slits the throat of a horse and the gang members all drink its blood.

Fiction.

  • They gang test Aaron's loyalty by telling him they intend to rob the bank in Beechworth. The next day they watch from a distance and see a large number of police reinforcements stream into Beechworth to be ready for the robbery. From this, they determine that Aaron is a traitor and decide he must die.

This set-up did not occur, although it is possible that something similar did. (It took a long time for Joe to believe that Aaron was betraying the gang. They carefully considered and planned Aarons' assassination, making it part of the Glenrowan plan.)

  • Aaron is playing poker with 3 policemen, he gets up and goes to bed, when they all hear a voice calling for Aaron. They see what looks like a woman outside waiting. Aaron goes out to her to find that it is in fact Joe, wearing a dress. Joe shoots Aaron dead in one shot. Ned is with Joe when he rides on to Glenrowan.

Joe did not wear a dress when he killed Aaron. He did not call out to him, instead he forced Aaron's neighbour, Anton Wicks, to lure Aaron to his door. Joe then shot Aaron twice. Dan was with him - not Ned, (who was in Glenrowan with Steve). The police were hiding in the bedroom.

  • Martin Cherry is portrayed as an alcoholic.

There is no evidence of this.

  • Schoolteacher Thomas Curnow is clearly resentful of the Gang. Joe later realises he is missing, and that he has escaped and alerted the police train.

In fact Curnow deliberately solicited Ned's trust. He did not escape, but asked if he could take his wife home, assuring Ned that he would not betray them. Ned trusted him at his word and released him.

  • A very large number of police arrive in the train, perhaps 100.

There was nowhere near this number initially. Later, reinforcements arrived.

  • The hostages are released and sent out by the gang, the police then fire the first gunshot. A number of hostages are shot as they ran back inside the inn. The gang walks out and is fired upon. The gang then return fire and many police are hit. Gunfire continues, and during the siege many police and hostages are seemingly killed, and injured, by gunfire. Hare is eventually injured in the chest/shoulder. Joe Byrne is shot in the groin and dies.

The Gang members were standing on, or just in front, of the veranda, the first gun volley was fired as Hare and a small number of fellow policemen arrived. It was then, and not later, that Hare was wounded. Ned was also badly wounded in the foot and arm in the first bout of gunfire. The positions of the police were quite well protected and thus they were not killed and injured as portrayed. A black-tracker was injured, but not severely. Six of the hostages received severe injuries or died. It was accurate that Joe is killed as depicted.

  • Ned leaves the building during the siege, passing a lion. He goes a little into the bush and collapses. He wakes in the morning to see the Inn is on fire.

Ned did leave the building during the siege and collapse. There was no lion near the inn. Ned woke in the morning and returned. Ned's famous 'last stand' gunfight against the police did then occur, at the end of which, he was captured. It was some time after that that the building was set alight by police.

  • While Ned is lying wounded, a doctor removes Ned's sash (given as reward for saving young Shelton). Hare walks in, takes the sash and says to Ned, "Do you mind if I have this?" Ned makes a small motion of acquiescence and Hare takes the sash.

Hare had left Glenrowan by that stage due to loss of blood. The Dr (Nicholson) who removed the sash kept it for himself. It was held in his family for many years, but is now on display at the Benalla Costume and folk museum.

  • At the end of the credits, the filmmakers denote that while the people depicted in the film are based on real life, many scenes and characters are fictionalized.

That claim is completely true!


For a review of the movie screenplay - click HERE
For Movie News - click HERE

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Compiled and written by N. Cowie and D. White.

 

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