The original BBC telecast that made Peter Cushing a sensation
The Dec 12 1954 live BBC telecast of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" changed the career for star Peter Cushing forever after. His depiction of Winston Smith brought him to the attention of Hammer Films, who spent two years trying to sign him to a film, while a prolific string of teleplays kept him busier than ever. He deservedly won the Guild of Television Award for Best Actor for his performance here (the British equivalent of the American Emmy), yet was passed over for the feature version for Edmond O'Brien (only Donald Pleasence was retained from the BBC version, in a different part). In a repressed future society where 'War is Peace,' 'Freedom is Weakness,' and 'Ignorance is Strength,' thoughts and feelings are outlawed by the totalitarian government. Daring to love Julia Dixon (Yvonne Mitchell), Smith knows that there is no escape for them, only that 'some kinds of failure are better than others' (forbidden fruit is the best of all). Some critics rightly complained that Yvonne Mitchell's Julia lacked 'warmth,' but there was nothing but praise for Andre Morell's chilling O'Brien (replaced in the movie by Michael Redgrave), overseeing final punishment, using their own fears against them to completely wear down all defenses (no trace of humanity). As grueling as it is to watch now, one cannot imagine how shocking it must have been for viewers 60 years ago.
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