Orwell BBC

To Orwell Today,

I have never been able to find it, but there was an earlier movie version of "1984" that came out in the 1950's. Do you consider this version any better than the Burton/Hurt travesty? Also, do you know where it can be found? And concerning "1984" in the classroom, what is your opinion of the Cliff Notes study guide?

I know "1984" was once produced as a radio play and I think it was also a TV production once. What would you consider the most faithful to the text presentation?

Thank you for your informative site.
John Gill

Greetings John,

I've never been able to find the 1955 movie of 1984 either, although from the reviews and clips I've seen on the Net it at least looks more interesting than the one that came out in 1984.

I've never read the Cliff Notes study guide but I have read the Coles Notes for 1984 and consider them less damaging than watching the movie. But in comparison to reading the book they're like eating artificial food instead of the real thing. Coles Notes provide about as much sustenance as - to use an Orwell phrase - "a grain of corn passing undigested through the body of a bird".

I am not aware of 1984 having been made into a radio play, although I do know that Animal Farm was. Orwell wrote the script himself in 1946 and it was produced by his friend Raynor Heppenstall for the BBC. Orwell actually listened to the live broadcast and was very pleased with it. It aired in January 1947, just after Orwell got back from a week in Jura where he'd planted fruit trees in prepartion for moving there in the spring. He was living at his flat in Canonbury Square and he invited some friends over to listen to it with him, one of them being his future wife Sonia.

Actually, now that you bring up the subject of radio broadcasts, it reminds me of how much of a travesty it is that no recording of Orwell's voice has been made available for posterity to listen to.

Most people are aware that Orwell worked for the BBC but probably don't know in exactly what capacity. As a matter of fact he was a radio personality producing news commentaries and "high brow" talks. His programs were aired in India and aimed at English speaking intellectuals and students attending Calcutta University. He and his guests did readings of their own and others' writings and discussed a wide variety of topics. He was with the BBC for a little over two years from August 1941 to November 1943. Then he quit to write Animal Farm and take up the job as literary editor for the Tribune newspaper where he also wrote his weekly AS I PLEASE columns.

I have a book entitled THE LOST WRITINGS OF GEORGE ORWELL, edited and introduced by the biographer W.J. West. It contains the correspondence and scripts of all of the programs Orwell wrote and broadcast for BBC, except for his weekly war summaries which are in a different volume. The half-hour programs are fascinating to read because they give Orwell aficionados another opportunity to read his words. Much of what he wrote and learned through his experiences at BBC went into Animal Farm and 1984.

But as I read the scripts and look at the photos of Orwell in front of the microphone I am somewhat angered by the fact that the powers-that-be say they have no recordings of any of his programs. I actually find that hard to believe, seeing as how there are many other voice recordings from that time period. I'm thinking particularly of Winston Churchill whose voice we've heard many times, even though we learned recently that some of his broadcasts were done by an actor impersonating his voice.

Orwell's voice has been described in the biographies as weak and somewhat raspy due to his having been shot through the neck by a bullet in Spain, but his listeners over the airwaves never complained. I can't help but suspect that recordings of Orwell's voice are being suppressed in an attempt to downplay his influence on mankind. It's a form of "dropping him down the memory hole" and making him a "refs unperson" as though "he didn't exist, had never existed", just like what happened to Syme in 1984.

Another thing I wish the world had was a colour photo of Orwell because all the biographies talk about his "steely blue eyes" or his "extraordinary sea-blue eyes" that were his most striking feature. After his wife Eileen died, leaving him with a one-year old son to raise, Orwell hired a nursemaid/housekeeper who found him to be "a kind, considerate employer who, although he looked cadaverous and ill, won her over with his blue eyes, good humour and directness". Another friend described Orwell's eyes as being "piercing" and "the truest colour of all".

Should anyone ever come across an Orwell recording or a colour photo I'd be very interested in hearing and seeing.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Reader says colour photos existed when Orwell was alive


ORWELL INTERVIEWS JONATHAN SWIFT (imaginary interview broadcast over BBC in November 1942)

POETRY AND THE MICROPHONE, by George Orwell, 1945


real life model of Ministry of Truth and 16.Ministry of Truth (Lies) and 17.Falsification of Past and 20.Thought Police and 27.Goodthink

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com