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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