The Only Known Footage of George Orwell (Circa 1921)


Although he died in 1950, George Orwell seem­ing­ly escaped the reach of mod­ern media. Orwell’s voice was nev­er cap­tured on audio. And his image nev­er appeared on film. His­to­ri­ans and lit­er­a­ture schol­ars lament­ed this for decades.

But then, in 2003, on the hun­dredth anniver­sary of Orwell’s birth, two researchers stum­bled upon a tan­ta­liz­ing piece of footage in the The Pathay Film Library in Lon­don. The very brief footage — watch in full here, or at the 50 sec­ond mark in the video above — shows an 18-year-old Orwell, then named Eric Blair, march­ing across a sports field at Eton Col­lege, where he spent his for­ma­tive years and stud­ied French with Aldous Hux­ley. In the line of march­ing stu­dents, Orwell is the fourth stu­dent from the left.

Note: the video above comes from a British Pathe clip that fea­tures celebri­ties before they became famous. If you’re curi­ous who appears in the film, see the list below the jump.

1) Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger win­ning Mr. Uni­verse in 1969.

2) British broad­cast­ing leg­end David Dim­ble­by doing a spot of mod­ern art as a stu­dent.

3) Audrey Hep­burn mod­el­ling before she was an actress.

4) Ger­maine Greer at a Rolling Stones show in 1969.

5) Melanie Grif­fiths as a lit­tle girl, attend­ing Char­lie Chap­lin’s 77th birth­day par­ty.

6) George Orwell at Eton play­ing “The Wall Game”

7) Grace Kel­ly mod­el­ling “hon­ey­moon fash­ions” in 1949.

8) Julie Andrews singing at the 1948 Roy­al Com­mand Per­for­mance when only 14 years old.

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Comments (8)
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  • margaret watson says:

    I saw the Hyundai in the pho­to. After years of being a hap­py Hyundai own­er, I have had the most unpleas­ant with a Hyundai deal­er. I can hard­ly look at the pic­ture of a Hyundai.

  • Sven says:

    Actu­al­ly, Orwell was cap­tured speak­ing on film:

  • Gail says:

    Actu­al­ly, that was not Orwell speak­ing. This is an actor named Christo­pher Lang­ham, por­tray­ing Orwell in a BBC­Four doc­u­men­tary on the great writer. If only it was him.….

  • Roger Swythell says:

    Actu­al­ly, Orwell asked one of the Eton Wall Game spec­ta­tors to take his place as soon as he spot­ted some­one film­ing them. He then slipped off to smoke his pipe behind a tree in the dis­tance until every­one had gone.

    I know because It was me he asked to take his place. We used to have a great chuck­le about it for years after­wards over a pint.

  • Harsh says:

    And how old will you be?

  • Shane says:

    So then Roger Swythell must be about 115 years old.

  • Momus says:

    It’s quite wrong to say “Orwell’s voice was nev­er cap­tured on audio”. He deliv­ered talks on the BBC’s East­ern Ser­vice, broad­cast to India. There may be no archive of them now, but they exist­ed, as attest­ed by a memo in which a BBC con­troller, JB Clark, express­es con­cern about the unat­trac­tive­ness of Orwell’s voice. You can find it in the Orwell archive on the BBC web­site. Orwell had a some­what stran­gu­lat­ed tone due to a bul­let wound to his throat received dur­ing the Span­ish Civ­il War. The memo had no effect, how­ev­er: Orwell kept deliv­er­ing the broad­casts him­self.

  • Col says:

    Orwell on mak­ing tea, in the trench­es of the Span­ish Civ­il War — in final scene

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