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Classic TV: George Orwell’s 1984 – BBC TV Play 1954 –


This posted to draw attention to the dangers we face in NZ and elsewhere with the threats posed to freedom of thought and speech in today’s politically correct world of alt right and progressive politics.


All reference text is from Wikipedia

The novel

Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English writer George Orwell published in June 1949. The novel is set in the year 1984 when most of the world population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda.

In the novel, Great Britain (“Airstrip One”) has become a province of a superstate named Oceania. Oceania is ruled by the “Party”, who employ the “Thought Police” to persecute individualism and independent thinking. The Party’s leader is Big Brother, who enjoys an intense cult of personality but may not even exist. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a rank-and-file Party member. Smith is an outwardly diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. Smith rebels by entering a forbidden relationship with fellow employee Julia.

As literary political fiction and dystopian science fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common usage since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which connotes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005] It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editors’ list, and 6 on the readers’ list.[6] In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC‘s survey The Big Read

This version

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a British television adaptation of the novel of the same name by George Orwell, originally broadcast on BBC Television in December 1954. The production proved to be hugely controversial, with questions asked in Parliament and many viewer complaints over its supposed subversive nature and horrific content. In a 2000 poll of industry experts conducted by the British Film Institute to determine the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four was ranked in seventy-third position.

Orwell’s novel was adapted for television by Nigel Kneale, one of the most prolific television scriptwriters of the time. The previous year he had created the character of Professor Bernard Quatermass for the popular science-fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment. The adaptation was produced and directed by the equally respected Rudolph Cartier, perhaps the BBC‘s best producer-director of the 1950s who was always adventurous artistically and technically.[4] Cartier, a veteran of the UFA film studios in 1930s Germany who had fled the Nazi regime for Britain in 1936, had worked with Kneale the previous year on The Quatermass Experiment and was a veteran of many television drama productions.

It was his work on Quatermass that had prompted the BBC’s Head of Drama, Michael Barry, to ask Cartier to work on an adaptation of the novel, having shown his abilities with literary sources in a version of Wuthering Heights, again with Kneale handling the scripting. The BBC had purchased the rights to a television version of Nineteen Eighty-Four soon after its publication in 1949, with Kenneth Tynan having apparently originally been keen on adapting the work. The first version of the script, produced in late 1953, was written by Hugh Faulks, in consultation with Orwell’s widow Sonia Brownell, but when Cartier joined in January 1954 he demanded that Kneale be allowed to handle the adaptation. This and other complexities of production meant that the April airdate – which would have been about 30 years before the novel was set – had to be postponed.

The role of Winston Smith was taken by Peter Cushing, one of his first major roles.Cartier cast him after having been impressed with his performance in a BBC production of Anastasia the previous year. Cushing went on to become a film star, as would his co-star Donald Pleasence, who played Syme. Pleasence was the only member of the cast present in the 1956 feature film adaptation of the story, playing an amalgamation of Syme and Parsons with the latter’s name.

Other cast members included Yvonne Mitchell, who had starred in the Kneale/Cartier Wuthering Heights, as Julia, and André Morell as O’Brien. Wilfrid Brambell, later known for his roles in Steptoe and Son and as Paul McCartney‘s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night, appeared in two roles, as the old man Winston speaks with in the pub and as a prisoner later on when Winston is incarcerated. Nigel Kneale who had briefly acted in the 1940s before turning to scriptwriting, had a small voice-over role as an announcer. The face of Big Brother was Roy Oxley, a member of the BBC design department whose inclusion was something of an in-joke on the part of the production team.

The composer of the incidental music for the programme was John Hotchkis, who insisted on a larger than usual orchestra to perform the piece. Kneale hated music off disc so the score was conducted live to the performance by Hotchkis from Lime Grove Studio E, next door to where the play was being staged, with Hotchkis and his orchestra following the action on a closed-circuit screen to synchronise their performance.

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