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HISTORY

The film opens with the following written prologue: “This is a story of the future. Not the future of space ships and men from other planets, but the immediate future.” An offscreen narrator then gives a brief history of how the nuclear wars of 1955 led to the rise of the three great police states that, in 1984, rule the world. Onscreen credits note that the film was "freely adapted" from the novel 1984 .
       According to an Oct 1949 DV news item, Charles K. Feldman acquired the rights to George Orwell’s novel in 1949. In Jul 1951, a DV news item stated that the project was to be produced by Americans Robert Maxwell and Bernard Luber. In Apr 1954, a DV news item noted that producer Frank McCarthy was negotiating with Anthony Mann to direct, but by Dec 1954, DV announced that Peter Rathvon was to co-produce with Associated British Pictures Corp. In a Jul 1955 NYT article, Rathvon stated that he originally intended 1984 to be an all-British production, but feared that the British censorship bureau might issue the picture an X or over-16 rating, thus limiting bookings. Consequently, Rathvon decided to cast American actor Edmond O’Brien to generate greater appeal to American audiences. A Jan LAEx news item adds that Rathvon wanted David Wayne to play "Big Brother." Canadian-born character actor John Vernon (1932--2005) provided one of the off-screen voices on the loudspeakers in the film; 1984 was his first film. Although John Deighton is credited as one of the ... More Less

The film opens with the following written prologue: “This is a story of the future. Not the future of space ships and men from other planets, but the immediate future.” An offscreen narrator then gives a brief history of how the nuclear wars of 1955 led to the rise of the three great police states that, in 1984, rule the world. Onscreen credits note that the film was "freely adapted" from the novel 1984 .
       According to an Oct 1949 DV news item, Charles K. Feldman acquired the rights to George Orwell’s novel in 1949. In Jul 1951, a DV news item stated that the project was to be produced by Americans Robert Maxwell and Bernard Luber. In Apr 1954, a DV news item noted that producer Frank McCarthy was negotiating with Anthony Mann to direct, but by Dec 1954, DV announced that Peter Rathvon was to co-produce with Associated British Pictures Corp. In a Jul 1955 NYT article, Rathvon stated that he originally intended 1984 to be an all-British production, but feared that the British censorship bureau might issue the picture an X or over-16 rating, thus limiting bookings. Consequently, Rathvon decided to cast American actor Edmond O’Brien to generate greater appeal to American audiences. A Jan LAEx news item adds that Rathvon wanted David Wayne to play "Big Brother." Canadian-born character actor John Vernon (1932--2005) provided one of the off-screen voices on the loudspeakers in the film; 1984 was his first film. Although John Deighton is credited as one of the screenwriters i n a Dec 1954 DV news item, Deighton’s contribution to the final script has not been determined.
       On 21 Sep 1953, CBS Studio One broadcast a televised version of Orwell’s novel starring Eddie Albert, Lorne Greene and Norma Crane, directed by Felix Jackson. On 12 Nov 1954, BBC television broadcast another adaptation of Orwell’s novel, starring Peter Cushing, that was controversial in its time. In 1984, director Michael Radford directed John Hurt and Richard Burton in Nineteen Eighty-Four , a British production based on Orwell’s novel.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Jul 1956.
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Daily Variety
27 Oct 1949.
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Daily Variety
19 Jul 1951.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1954.
---
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1954.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jul 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Jul 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1955
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 56
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
27 Jan 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Jul 56
p. 969.
New York Times
24 Jul 1955.
---
New York Times
1 Oct 56
p. 31.
Variety
14 Mar 56
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Asst prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
SOUND
Rec dir
Sd recordist
Dubbing ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair dressing
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Casting
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell (London, 1949).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
September 1956
Premiere Information:
London opening: week of 6 March 1956
Production Date:
early June--8 August 1955 in London
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
27 June 1956
Copyright Number:
LP6643
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90
Length(in reels):
10
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17708
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The nuclear devastation of 1955 gave rise to three police states continually at war with one another: Oceania, ruled by the omnipresent Big Brother; Eurasia and East Asia. By 1984, London, with its bomb-proof ministry, was designated as the capital of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania. In the spring of 1984, as the sound of air raid sirens wail above the London streets, Winston Smith, a member of the elite Outer Party, takes cover in a doorway and there encounters Julia, a woman he suspects may be a member of the Thought Police. After the sirens abate, Winston goes to his apartment, where an electronic surveillance eye examines the contents of his briefcase. Smuggling a small black diary past the eye, Winston begins to write down the subversive thoughts he fears to say aloud. Winston’s reverie is interrupted when Selina Parsons, the little girl who lives next door and is training to become a spy for Big Brother, enters his apartment to practice denouncing him as a traitor. After his daughter heads off for her spy indoctrination, Parsons, Selina’s father, invites Winston to join him at the local café. There, they spot Rutherford and Jones, two traitors who have been rehabilitated by the government’s Ministry of Love. After Big Brother impulsively orders Rutherford and Jones’s re-arrest, Winston, rattled, goes to a junk shop to wonder at the beauteous objects of yesteryear that are now deemed worthless. As the elderly proprietor shows Winston his wares, Julia enters the shop, sending Winston scurrying into the street, where he is stopped by the police and ordered to report to Administration the next ... +


The nuclear devastation of 1955 gave rise to three police states continually at war with one another: Oceania, ruled by the omnipresent Big Brother; Eurasia and East Asia. By 1984, London, with its bomb-proof ministry, was designated as the capital of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania. In the spring of 1984, as the sound of air raid sirens wail above the London streets, Winston Smith, a member of the elite Outer Party, takes cover in a doorway and there encounters Julia, a woman he suspects may be a member of the Thought Police. After the sirens abate, Winston goes to his apartment, where an electronic surveillance eye examines the contents of his briefcase. Smuggling a small black diary past the eye, Winston begins to write down the subversive thoughts he fears to say aloud. Winston’s reverie is interrupted when Selina Parsons, the little girl who lives next door and is training to become a spy for Big Brother, enters his apartment to practice denouncing him as a traitor. After his daughter heads off for her spy indoctrination, Parsons, Selina’s father, invites Winston to join him at the local café. There, they spot Rutherford and Jones, two traitors who have been rehabilitated by the government’s Ministry of Love. After Big Brother impulsively orders Rutherford and Jones’s re-arrest, Winston, rattled, goes to a junk shop to wonder at the beauteous objects of yesteryear that are now deemed worthless. As the elderly proprietor shows Winston his wares, Julia enters the shop, sending Winston scurrying into the street, where he is stopped by the police and ordered to report to Administration the next morning. There, a party officer reprimands Winston for mixing with the common masses. Winston then proceeds to his job at the Records Department, where he revises history to vindicate Big Brother’s pronouncements. When Winston discovers a photo that would prove Jones and Rutherford innocent, O’Connor, Winston’s superior and a minister of the exclusive Inner Party, instructs him to destroy it. That evening, at a rally to foment hate against Eurasia, Julia passes Winston a note professing her love. Later, they arrange to meet Sunday in a meadow, far from the prying microphones and monitors of Big Brother. There, they touch each other, an act prohibited by the Anti-Sex League. Two weeks later they meet clandestinely at a bell tower, and Winston proposes renting a room at the junk store, one of the few places free of the omnipresent monitors. The elderly proprietor honors their request and sets up a cozy bedroom and kitchen for them. In the sanctity of their quarters, after Julia removes her austere party uniform and dons a frilly blouse, Winston confides that he believes O’Connor may be a member of the Underground. One night, while leafing through his diary, Winston finds a note written in O’Connor’s hand that reads “down with Big Brother.” The next day at work, O’Connor tells Winston to come by his apartment that evening to pick up some documents. Convinced that O’Connor represents their only hope to break free of the tyranny of Big Brother, Julia and Winston go to his apartment and declare that they want to join the Underground. After drinking a toast to the demise of Big Brother, O’Connor asks if there is anything they would not do for the Underground and Julia replies that she would not be separated from Winston. O’Connor then instructs Winston to carry an empty briefcase with him at all times. During a rally to launch Hate Week, a man in the crowd switches briefcases with Winston, and when Winston opens the case, he finds a copy of a treatise by Calidor, the alleged leader of the Underground. Back in their secret room, Julia muses that only love can defeat Big Brother and thus provide hope for the future. At that moment, a telescreen hidden behind a mirror breaks its silence to condemn Julia’s sentiments, after which, the police, accompanied by the elderly proprietor, burst in to arrest them. At the Ministry of Love, Winston is confined in a pit-like room. Soon after, Parsons is thrown into the pit, his daughter having denounced him for muttering in his sleep “Down with Big Brother.” Under O’Connor’s direction, Winston is subjected to a brainwashing campaign. Still resistant after a series of electroshock treatments, Winston declares that the party will never eradicate his love for Julia. O’Connor then ushers Winston into the dreaded room 101, where each prisoner must confront their own personal terror. Having ascertained that Winston’s worst fear is being eaten by rats, O’Connor confines him in a room filled with the squealing rodents, after which he breaks down and begs them to feed Julia to the rodents instead. His will broken, the door opens and Winston falls sobbing into O’Connor’s arms. After O’Connor authorizes his release, Winston mindlessly wanders through the streets, where he spots Julia, her eyes vacant, seated on a bench. After they confess their mutual betrayal, Big Brother broadcasts that the Eurasian army has been routed. Winston and Julia then fervently join the crowd cheering “Long live Big Brother.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.