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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