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When The Kellys Were Out

When The Kellys Were Out** (Harry Southwell, 1923) aka The True Story of the Kelly Gang; prod. wr. Harry Southwell, dp Tasman Higgins; 8 reels; Godfrey Cass (Ned Kelly), Rose Rooney, Harry Southwell, Charles Villiers, William Ellison, Allan Douglas, Fred Twitcham, Syd Everett, Mervyn Barrington, W. Ryan, Don McAlpine, D. Sweeney, Rita Aslin, Dunstan Webb, Beatrice Hamilton, David Edelsten


Southwell's second adaptation of the Kelly story appeared only two years after the first. The cast was entirely new except for Godfrey Cass, once more in the role of Ned. Southwell himself again appeared, but this time as the traitor Aaron Sherritt. The film was made in Sydney and on location in the Burragoran Valley, and shooting was completed by late September 1922.
Although Southwell's first Kelly film screened unhindered by the New South Wales censors, this new version was promptly banned in October 1922. The first commercial screening was not until 9 July 1923 at a minor Melbourne theatre, the Star. Despite lengthy warnings in the film about the dangers of following the Kellys' example, it had a marked capacity to arouse audience sympathy for the outlaws, a fact of which the censors were doubtless fully aware. In Adelaide, the Advertiser, 18 September 1923, commented that 'there was no doubt as to the popularity of the picture'; the anger of the Kellys at insults given to their sister by the police 'won them the sympathy of the audience', and the Kellys' murder of Aaron Sherritt received 'numerous signs of approval'. Soon after the completion of the film, Southwell departed for England, and in August 1924 it was shown to the British trade. Scathing criticism was received from one reviewer (reported in Everyones, 8 October 1924) for its lack of historical accuracy - the exaggerated claims of the number of police killed by the Kellys, the 'incorrect' police uniforms, the representation of the large Jerilderie Hotel as 'a small shanty', and the reshuffling of the actual chronology of events. Less informed members of the British trade, however, accepted the film more kindly as 'an undoubtedly good showman's proposition... [The] fights are realistic, and the hard riding with which the picture is interspersed is far above the average Western in its genuine horsemanship'. The film was shortened to six reels for the British market, and it seems likely that the fragments held by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia are part of the British version, released as The True Story of the Kelly Gang. Pike & Cooper: 118.

References and Links

Pike & Cooper: 118.

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