David Niven        Orwell Official


To Orwell Today,
re: 1949 RADIO PLAY OF 1984


Thanks for posting my link. I'd never heard of this production either, which is surprising as I am an admirer of David Niven as well as George Orwell. I couldn't wait to hear it and wasn't disappointed. The mp3 file is quite highly compressed, so I'm hoping the CD that I've ordered from ebay has improved sound quality.

I haven't noted any references to this broadcast in any of the biographies of Orwell or Niven I've read, so it is either unknown amongst the biographers or considered to be unworthy of a footnote in either men's careers. Niven was, of course, one of the most popular British film stars of the era and one wonders how and why he became involved in quite a low budget production.

Orwell must have been aware of the production, even if he didn't hear it. I wonder how much he earned for the rights to broadcast the play?

-Dave Miller

Greetings Dave,

I listened to the David Niven "1984" radio production again today (linked at bottom of page) and concentrated on a few more details of the script and performances and I think what I heard was perfection.

It really is wonderful that such a great actor played Winston - but then again, it is very fitting. At that time - 1949 - Orwell was already a legend in his own time - as was Niven - and he was probably destined to do the role.

When you look at their heritage, personalities, philosophies and life events they had very much in common above and beyond their physical similarities in height, weight, hair colour and pencil-thin moustache.

Actually, when listening to it this second time I noticed that it was broadcast from Hollywood which must mean that the N.B.C. radio network that produced it is actually the "N B C" as in "National Broadcasting Corporation" of America.

I'd assumed it was a British production (although confused about NBC instead of BBC) and therefore assumed that it aired in England and Orwell would have heard it.

But maybe it was only heard in America. That might explain why no biography talks about Orwell listening to it.

Niven was in the prime of his movie career at that time - living in the United States - and when you look at his schedule, he could have squeazed it in between "A Kiss in the Dark" and "The Illusive Pimpernel". See David Niven Filmography

With the radio broadcast being August 1949, that is actually only two months after the book was published in June 1949. By that time Orwell (lying flat on his back in hospital, dying of TB) had barely finished battling with the Book-of-the-Month Club in the United States who wanted to publish "1984" without the Newspeak appendix and the Goldstein essay. But Orwell refused, even though it meant the loss of thousands upon thousands of dollars in guaranteed sales. In the end Book-of-the-Month relented and Orwell took some satisfaction in having stuck to his principals and come out the winner afterall.

Orwell maybe wouldn't have even known what the rights to the radio play went for, as kept in the dark as he was by his cheating accountant (unbeknownst to him). See ORWELL A WRITER WRONGED and TAXMEN ROBBED ORWELL

And anyway, money was never a motive in Orwell's writing or his life. After the financial success of ANIMAL FARM he never sat back and enjoyed the money (much of which was devoured by taxes). Instead he started moving to "his island in the Hebrides" where he could get away from the demands imposed by fame, and give everything he had (including his health, and thus ultimately his life) to writing his gift to the world - "1984". See ORWELL'S LIFE ON JURA

All the best,
Jackie Jura

listen to 1984 Radio Play Starring David Niven, by NBC University Theatre, OTR.Network Library (originally broadcast on August 27, 1949 at 9 p.m. as a one-hour production)

1.Winston's Diary

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

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
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