Today in History: Oct. 3

Alfred Hitchcock is credited with coining the term “MacGuffin,” but not the thing itself, which has been around since people started telling stories to each other. In spy movies and thrillers, a MacGuffin is the object that sets the plot of the movie in motion; it’s usually a something people desire that the hero and his nemeses pursue, and that pursuit provides the film’s plot. The specific nature and form of the MacGuffin is usually unimportant to the overall plot. In plot terms, but not theological ones, the apple in Genesis is a MacGuffin.

In The Maltese Falcon, which made its debut in American movie theaters 75 years ago today, Mary Astor’s character Brigid O’Shaughnessy asks Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) if he would (be doing what he is about to do) if (money had possibly been acquired). (How’s that for avoiding a spoiler?)

The Maltese falcon, a jewel-encrusted treasure of centuries past, or not, is an innocent bystander for the entire movie. It sure looks valuable, looks like it is worth multiple lives, double- and triple-cheating, the sacrifice of love both real and pretend. As Det. Polhaus says as he lifts it, in the second-to-last line, it sure is, “heavy. What is it?” Sam Spade replies, and this is no spoiler even though it is the final line, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

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Today is German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit), the day that the former German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany and formed one united nation. Today is the 26th anniversary of unification.

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“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hit a game- and playoff-winning three-run home run off Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers to send the Giants to the World Series 65 years ago today.

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A jury in the trial of the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson found the former football star not guilty of murder in the deaths of two people, his former wife, Nicole Brown, and a waiter, Ronald Goldman, on this date in 1995.

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Captain Kangaroo, created by and starring Bob Keeshan, debuted on CBS on this date in 1955. The children’s show ran on the network through 1984.

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Woody Guthrie died on this date in 1967.

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Thomas Wolfe was born in 1900 on this date. Sir Michael Hordern was born on this date in 1911. James Herriot was born 100 years ago today. Harvey Kurtzman was born in 1924 on this date. Gore Vidal was born on this date in 1925. Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in 1954 on this date. “Little Wing”:

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Steve Reich is 80 today. Representative Dave Obey is 78. Chubby Checker is 75. Roy Horn is 72. Biff Henderson is 70. Lindsey Buckingham is 67. Dave Winfield is 65. Dennis Eckersley is 62. Reverend Al Sharpton is 62. Greg Proops is 57. Fred Couples is 57. Tommy Lee is 54. Clive Owen is 52. Gwen Stefani is 47. Neve Campbell is 43.

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Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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