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Hartlepool film buff’s first book published in America

Orwell's NUJ card
Orwell's NUJ card

A new book by a Hartlepool film buff on the famous author behind Nineteen Eighty-Four has gone on sale in America.

David Ryan has published his first book, George Orwell on Screen, which looks at movies and TV shows inspired by the legendary author.

George Orwell on Screen book cover

George Orwell on Screen book cover

The Old Etonian socialist, whose real name was Eric Blair, died aged 46 in 1950 but didn’t achieve fame until the mid-fifties, when producers dramatised his novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

Mr Ryan, who moved back to his home town of Hartlepool in 2016 after many years in London, combined his interests in Orwell and the entertainment industry by interviewing actors, writers, directors and producers with Orwell-related tales to tell.

“Originally I planned to self-publish the book but when I tried to crowdfund it on the website Kickstarter, not many people seemed interested,” said Mr Ryan, a freelance journalist.

“The American academic publisher McFarland asked if I’d like to take a more traditional route, and I’m very glad they did, because they persuaded a highly acclaimed novelist to write the foreword.”

American actors Eddie Albert and Norma Crane publicise the first Orwell screen adaptation, CBS TV's

American actors Eddie Albert and Norma Crane publicise the first Orwell screen adaptation, CBS TV's

He added: “I’d have been too shy to ask Alison Kennedy – that’s AL Kennedy, the Scottish writer and comedian – to read my book. But my editors had no such qualms.

“As an Orwell fan herself, she really enjoyed my manuscript and was happy to endorse me.”

The 255-page book concentrates on 21 adaptations, documentaries and docudramas, dating back to 1953.

Highlights include the BBC’s controversial 1954 play of Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring Peter Cushing, and the film version shot 30 years later with John Hurt and Richard Burton.

David Ryan with his book.

David Ryan with his book.

Mr Ryan added: “The research I did in the British Library and elsewhere was hard work but in all sorts of ways, the project has been a lot of fun.

“I’ll never forget visiting the Scottish island of Jura, where Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in the forties, with his son Richard and other members of the Orwell Society.

“The actor Ronald Pickup, who played prime minister Neville Chamberlain in the film Darkest Hour recently, was another huge help.

“He bought me lunch in London and reminisced about his lead role in Orwell on Jura, a BBC drama from 1983 that earned him a Bafta nomination.

“Best of all, it was a massive thrill to get a box of paperbacks from the States.

“With my first book out of the way, I’m planning to write a few more.”