When the BBC’s 1954 live TV adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring Peter Cushing in his breakout role, proved a big success, broadcasters and filmmakers in the US and Australia soon followed suit with their own small and big screen adaptations.
As TV didn’t start in Australia until September 1956, a radio version was aired on 2UE in 1955 as part of the Lux Radio Theatre series, which went out at 8pm each Sunday. To play Orwell’s fatalistic rebel Winston Smith, the producers called on Vincent Price, who flew to Sydney (courtesy of Pan American Airways) to record what was touted as ‘the radio event of the year’. At this time, Vincent was just about to start work on The Ten Commandments, while his latest film, The Mad Magician, was screening in Australian cinemas.
Produced by Sterling MacAvoy and directed by Paul Jacklin, Nineteen Eighty-Four, adapted by Morris West, was hosted by Eric Pearce. The recording took place at 2GZ Orange’s auditorium in Hosking Place, Sydney. The cast included Margo Lee (as Julia), Alexander Archdale (as Charrington), Lionel Stephens (O’Brien), Guy Dulman (as Parsons) and David Netheim (as the narrator). Also featured were Dorothea Dunstain, Gordon Chayter, Rupert Chance, Maurie Powell, Leonard Bullan and Allan Herbert.
This rare recording, which is available via the official Vincent Price channel, also includes the original ads and an interview with Vincent following the drama.