The Last Man Hanged: Pedigree for a hanging

The Last Man Hanged: Pedigree for a hanging
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Ronald Ryan was the last man hanged in Australia. Narration and black-and-white stills tell the story of his upbringing and early life. He came from an impoverished family, brought up by his widowed mother. His wife, Dorothy Pirois recalls their first meeting and Ronald’s heavy gambling after they were married. Peter Walker, fellow escapee, recalls Ryan as an ordinary bloke. Ryan’s lawyer, Dr. Philip Opas QC says he liked his client.

Summary by Damien Parer

Interviews with Ryan’s real wife and Peter Walker, Ryan’s fellow escapee are interestingly intercut with their voices overlapping each other in an effective story telling technique. There is also an intriguing interview with Ryan’s lawyer, Dr. Philip Opas QC admitting that, despite trying to maintain a professional distance, he couldn’t help but like Ryan.


Last Man Hanged synopsis

The dramatised documentary traces the events leading up to the hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967. Ryan escaped from Pentridge prison and a warder was shot dead in the break-out. Ryan was found guilty of the warder’s death and was sentenced to be hanged, as prescribed by Victorian Law. Ryan was the last man hanged in Australia, amidst much public outcry.

The documentary features some of Australia’s best-known actors playing the roles of the principals involved, interwoven with interviews with the real-life people involved. Still photographs from the time are also shown.


Curator's notes

The dramatised story is effectively intercut with documentary interviews with the real life people involved. The writer and director Lewis Fitz-Gerald provides the narration and plays Keith Willey, a newspaper reporter. His acting career has included roles in Out There, Blue Heelers, Farscape, Pitch Black And Stingers.

Notes by Damien Parer

Production company:
Bill Bennett
Director and writer:
Lewis Fitz-Gerald