Four of the World's Greatest Hoaxes - introduced by Maurice Kemm

The definition of hoax (Merriam-Webster dictionary) is:
'to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous'.
'Accidental hoaxes' are not strictly hoaxes at all, but rather satirical articles or fictional presentations that ended up being taken seriously by some.
Which of these hoaxes do you think fooled the most people for the longest?

The Hitler Diaries The Spaghetti Tree The War of
the Worlds
Dr. No
(and other films)
In April 1983, the West German news magazine Stern published excerpts from what purported to be the diaries of Adolf Hitler, known as the Hitler Diaries (Hitler-Tagebucher), which were subsequently revealed to be forgeries. The magazine had paid nearly 9 million German marks for the sixty small books (plus a "special volume" about Rudolf Hess' flight to the United Kingdom) covering the period from 1932 to 1945. Two historians, Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper and Gerhard Weinberg, were retained by Times Newspapers and Newsweek, respectively, to authenticate the diaries prior to bidding for the serialisation rights. The diaries were later shown to be forgeries written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. The spaghetti tree hoax is a famous 3-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools' Day 1957 by the BBC current affairs programme Panorama. It told a tale of a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree, broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some Britons were unaware that spaghetti is a pasta made from wheat flour and water. Hundreds of viewers phoned into the BBC, either to say the story was not true, or wondering about it, with some even asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees. Decades later CNN called this broadcast 'the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled'. On 30th. October 1938 (Halloween eve), The Mercury Theatre on the Air, a show featuring the acclaimed New York drama company founded by Orson Welles and John Houseman, broadcast a dramatisation of The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells. It has been called the 'single greatest media hoax of all time', although it was not - Welles said - intended to be a hoax. The broadcast was heard on CBS radio stations throughout the United States. Despite repeated announcements within the program that it was a work of fiction, many listeners tuning in during the program believed that the world was being attacked by invaders from Mars. Rumours claim some even committed suicide.

Hear it on YouTube

(continued)
The screen illusion was perpetuated and the subterfuge was so successful that - amazingly - Andress was awarded a Golden Globe as Best Promising Newcomer (Female). The Award is an accolade bestowed for excellence in film and television, and the formal ceremony and dinner at which the awards are presented is a major part of the film industry's annual awards season. We can legitimately ask how many people were involved in maintaining the pretence that she was an accomplished actress with a full range of performing talents. Was this all part of the hoax? Wouldn't her 'thank you' speech have let the cat out of the bag?

The IMDb website says: 'It's probably unsurprising that one of the most famous sequences in movie history features a woman who spent most of her time faking being an actress.'

But the use of actresses who could not speak their lines because of poor diction or unsuitable accents continued throughout the making of the Bond movies. It meant that many of the small part actresses had their lines spoken for them. You couldn't call the females 'stars' although they - and the hangers-on who make a living from the detritus of the film world - managed to persuade lots of gullible fans they should be revered. When even gaffers and tea-boys are given screen credits it is a deliberate omission to exclude those back-room people who contributed to the polished screen performances.

So who was the actress with the golden tones whose contribution made the films so successful? Step up Nikki van der Zyl. Because of her naivety in simply acknowledging what she was hired to do behind the closed doors of the sound studios, she has been punished by being ostracised by the film industry. That's show business!

In September 2012, Ben Whishaw, who plays Q in Skyfall, speaking to the Mail on Sunday, admitted that there was massive secrecy around making a Bond film and he, like all the other actors, had to sign confidentiality agreements. (Nikki never did.) So just sit back and believe what you want when watching a film - but, be warned, you'll rarely know who's got the real talent.

(go back)



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