George Orwell on Screen

Adaptations, Documentaries and Docudramas on Film and Television


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About the Book

British author and essayist George Orwell shot to fame with two iconic novels: the anti–Stalinist satire Animal Farm and the dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four.
A few years after his death in 1950, the CIA bankrolled screen adaptations of both novels as Cold War propaganda. Orwell’s depiction of a totalitarian police state captivated the media in the 1980s. Today, mounting anxieties about digital surveillance and globalization have made him a hot property in Hollywood.
Drawing on interviews with actors, writers, directors and producers, this book presents the first comprehensive study of Orwell on film and television. Beginning with CBS’s 1953 live production of Nineteen Eighty-Four that mirrored the McCarthy witch hunts, the author covers 20 wide-ranging adaptations, documentaries and biopics, including two lost BBC dramatizations from 1965.

About the Author(s)

Freelance journalist David Ryan is a former film critic, arts writer and features editor for London’s Ham & High newspaper series. He lives in Hartlepool, United Kingdom.

Bibliographic Details

David Ryan
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 255
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7369-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3313-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by A.L. Kennedy  1
Preface  7
Introduction  11
The 1950s: Bashing the USSR
1. Studio One: 1984 (1953)  13
2. Nineteen ­Eighty-Four (1954)  22
3. Animal Farm (1954)  39
4. 1984 (1956)  53
The 1960s: A Brief Revival
5. The World of George Orwell: Keep the
Aspidistra Flying (1965)  63
6. George Orwell 1903–1950 (1965)  74
7. The World of George Orwell:
Coming Up for Air (1965)  79
8. The World of George Orwell: 1984 (1965)  88
The 1970s: Reclaimed by the Left
9. The Road to the Left (1971)  94
10. The Road to Wigan Pier
(A Musical Documentary) (1973)  100
The 1980s: Man of the Year
11. The Crystal Spirit: Orwell on Jura (1983)  107
12. Arena: George Orwell (1983–84)  117
13. The Road to 1984 (1984)  126
14. Nineteen ­Eighty-Four (1984)  135
The 1990s: Heritage Orwell
15. A Merry War (1997)  157
16. Animal Farm (1999)  171
The 2000s: Centenary
17. George Orwell: A Life in Pictures (2003)  180
18. The South Bank Show (2003)  188
19. Orwell Against the Tide (2003)  193
The 2010s: Identity Politics
20. Peaceforce (2011)  197
21. Shooting an Elephant (2016)  201
22. Assorted Orwell  207
23. ­Not-Quites and ­Near-Misses  219
Chapter Notes  223
Bibliography  239
Index  241

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “An intriguing and magnificently researched book”—George Orwell Studies
  • “Orwell fans will appreciate the deep erudition and passion the author has for his subject… Written in a warm and engaging style, Ryan avoids a merely chronological progression of facts, figures, summaries and detail by sprinkling amusing and insightful anecdotes, gleaned from a wide variety of sources, about each production…shows us what has been lost from the historical, audio-visual record…essential reading for scholars, teachers, students and an ever growing legion of Orwell fans. It is both a good reference tool and enjoyable read.”—The Orwell Society
  • “Punctiliously assembled every adaptation, documentary and ‘docudrama’ brought to film and television alongside a great deal of amusing commentary”—The Times Literary Supplement (England)