Mick Jagger Acts in The Nightingale, a Televised Play from 1983

Pity the man who has every­thing. Sat­is­fac­tion is but fleet­ing.

One won­ders if rock god Mick Jag­ger might know a thing or two about the con­di­tion. He does­n’t seem to know all that much about act­ing, as evi­denced by his turn in The Nightin­gale episode of Shel­ley Duvall’s Faerie Tale The­atre series.

No mat­ter. His art­less­ness is part of the charm. As the spoiled emper­or of Cathay, he makes no effort to alter his Mock­ney accent. He also keeps his famous strut under wraps, weight­ed down by his roy­al robes (and top knot!).

The 1983 episode cleaves close­ly to the Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen orig­i­nal that inspired it. To sum­ma­rize the plot:

The emper­or demands an audi­ence with a nightin­gale, after hear­ing tell of its song, but the toad­ies who com­prise his court are too rar­i­fied to locate one in the for­est.

A low­ly kitchen maid (Bar­bara Her­shey, on the brink of star­dom) is the only one with the know how to deliv­er.

But the emper­or is fick­le — it isn’t long before his head is turned by a jew­el encrust­ed, mechan­ics facsimile…a com­mon enough rock n’ roll pit­fall.

A large part of Faerie Tale The­ater’s mag­ic was the jux­ta­po­si­tion of high wattage stars and extreme­ly low pro­duc­tion bud­gets. There’s an ele­ment of stu­dent film to the pro­ceed­ings. The video­tape on which it was shot flat­tens rather than flat­ters. This is not a crit­i­cism. It makes me awful­ly fond of the big shots who agreed to par­tic­i­pate.

In addi­tion to Jag­ger and Her­shey, look for Angel­i­ca Hus­ton, Edward James Olmos, and Jagger’s then girl­friend, Jer­ry Hall, in small­er roles. There’s also Bud Cort of Harold and Maude, flap­ping around the sparse­ly dec­o­rat­ed for­est like a vis­i­tor from an entire­ly dif­fer­ent sto­ry, nay, plan­et.

A curi­ous enter­prise indeed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Fry Reads Oscar Wilde’s Children’s Sto­ry “The Hap­py Prince”

Mr. Rogers Intro­duces Kids to Exper­i­men­tal Elec­tron­ic Music by Bruce Haack & Esther Nel­son (1968)

Andy Warhol’s 85 Polaroid Por­traits: Mick Jag­ger, Yoko Ono, O.J. Simp­son & Many Oth­ers (1970–1987)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day will be appear­ing at the Brook­lyn Book Fes­ti­val in New York City this week­end.. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.