Sunday, April 1, 2007

The great spaghetti harvest of '57

I'm not a big fan of the whole "April Fool" tradition, but this classic still makes me giggle.

The Panorama programme was shown on 1 April 1957, when television was still in its relative infancy, and has gone down in broadcasting folklore.

It exploited the fact that pasta was also still in its relative infancy in the UK - with most people only having eaten tinned spaghetti and not necessarily knowing how it was produced.

The spoof documentary showed spaghetti growers harvesting their supposed crop from trees in Switzerland and was watched by an audience of eight million.

Mr Wheeler said it was made after a suggestion by a Austrian cameraman who worked on the programme.

Mr Wheeler said: "He went off to a hotel in Switzerland, a very pretty hotel with trees sloping down to the lake and he got various girls there to dress up in local costume.

"They cooked some spaghetti and draped it over the trees and then showed them gathering the harvest and putting it in wicker baskets."

The report was voiced by Richard Dimbleby, the famous presenter of the programme.

Mr Wheeler said: "He had enough gravitas to float an aircraft carrier.

"He spoke the script in his mellifluous tones - it looked convincing in the pictures and I tried to make it equally convincing in the script.
From the Museum of Hoaxes site:
Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."