By the Gates of the Garden of Eden on Amazon or at CreateSpace

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MacGuffin: The plot device

Objects that serve the plot function of MacGuffins have had long use in storytelling. Such objects in stories continue through to the name-sake of the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon and beyond. The name "MacGuffin" appears to originate in 20th-century filmmaking, and was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s; but the concept pre-dates the term. The World War I–era actress Pearl White used weenie to identify whatever object (a roll of film, a rare coin, expensive diamonds, etc.) impelled the heroes and villains to pursue each other through the convoluted plots of The Perils of Pauline and the other silent film serials in which she starred.

The director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized both the term "MacGuffin" and the technique, with his 1935 film The 39 Steps, an early example of the concept. Hitchcock explained the term "MacGuffin" in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: He used the two men in the train story which follows.

Interviewed in 1966 by Fran├žois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term "MacGuffin" with this story:

It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, "What's that package up there in the baggage rack?" And the other answers, "Oh, that's a MacGuffin". The first one asks, "What's a MacGuffin?" "Well," the other man says, "it's an apparatus for trappinglions in the Scottish Highlands." The first man says, "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands," and the other one answers, "Well then, that's no MacGuffin!" So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment