Photo Of The Day

Photo: BBC. On 1 April 1957, the BBC current affairs programme Panorama hoaxed the nation with a report about the annual spaghetti harvest.

Photo: BBC.
On 1 April 1957, the BBC current affairs programme Panorama hoaxed the nation with a report about the annual spaghetti harvest.

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

To this day the Panorama broadcast remains one of the most famous and popular April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time. It is also believed to be the first time the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool’s Day hoax.

Panorama cameraman, Charles de Jaeger, came up with the idea for the spaghetti harvest hoax. De Jaeger had a reputation for being a practical joker. Early in his career at the BBC he was sent to the Vatican to interview the Pope. However, scheduling the interview proved difficult. Finally, he was told by a priest that “His Holiness will see you on Tuesday afternoon.” De Jaeger replied, “Yes, but is he a man of his word?”

Another time de Jaeger had to buy some dungarees to protect his clothes during an assignment. He requested compensation from the BBC but was denied. The administration told him that he should have worn old clothes. A month later de Jaeger submitted an expense report in which he included £6, spent on “entertaining press officer, Mr Dungarees.” De Jaeger noted, “They paid without a murmur.”

The idea for the spaghetti harvest hoax grew out of a remark one of his Viennese school teachers often teasingly said to his class: “Boys, you’re so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees.” As an adult, it occurred to de Jaeger that it would be funny to turn this remark into a visual joke for April Fool’s Day. He became quite obsessed with the idea, trying a number of times to sell the idea to different bosses. But it was only in 1957 while he was working for Panorama that he found some willing accomplices.

Since 1955 Panorama had been anchored by Richard Dimbleby, whose authoritative, commanding presence had made him one of the most revered public figures in Britain. If Dimbleby said it, people trusted that it was true. As one of his colleagues at Panorama put it, “He had enough gravitas to float an aircraft carrier.” Which is one of the reasons why the spaghetti harvest hoax fooled so many viewers. His participation lent the hoax an air of unimpeachable authority.

 

Full Story:
http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_swiss_spaghetti_harvest/
Video
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26723188
 


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  • conwaycaptain

    They did one on a space station on the dark side of the moon. Country calendar did some like Boots for Turkeys, Playing music on a wire fence etc

    • Betty Swallocks

      … and the Labour and Green parties did the same sort of thing last year, but it didn’t fool very many people.

  • Rick H

    That same joke would’ve worked over here, if the likes of Philip Sherry did the narration.

  • GoingRight

    I remember seeing that programme and was quite intrigued for a short while but realised it didn’t add up! I must have been only 7 at the time. Of course in those days the UK was very much a meat and veg diet rather than any of the more exotic meals from the continent which were frowned upon by many. This of course changed once Brits started to travel to Europe which started in earnest when you could go on a package deal around early 1960s I think.

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