Is It True Alfred Hitchcock Was Known For Using The MacGuffin?

In one of the Jerry Seinfeld series, numerous episodes were written about he, Jason Alexander and the Character Kramer, trying to promote screenplays of their real everyday life exploits to New York City's TV networks. In one of the episodes one of the network execs asks Seinfeld what the scripts are actually all about, only for Seinfeld to casually respond to this potentially career threatening question by saying it was all about nothing, nothing at all! This is not unlike the time when the famous legendary film maker Alfred Hitchcock when on the Dick Cavett show in 1972 was asked what was meant by his expression the "MacGuffin". It would seem Jerry's series summation meant the same thing.

The "Macguffin" was a term coined by one of his screenwriters by the name of Angus MacPhail, so writes Donald Spoto in his book, "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures." There seemed to be a sense of fascination about it with interviewers. This was not the first time he had been asked to expand on the meaning of this term. Indeed going back further still to an interview he gave in 1962 with Francois Truffaut, he would explain it away by saying that over the years he had learned that the MacGuffin was nothing, nothing at all.

He would go on to say that the MacGuffin was an object of mystery that sets into effect a series of following events. However despite this, although it was central to the plot, it was actually meaningless to the outcome as the actual story was about something else. One could almost see it as a red herring to distract the viewer in some of his movies.

Looking at the Alfred Hitchcock movie 'The 39 Steps,' the MacGuffin is represented as 'secretive sought after plans' to do with a special airplane engine which are held in the mind of a stage performer called "Mr. Memory". In reality the movie's about a guy who's been wrongfully accused and his desperate struggle to clear his name by solving a mystery.

As Spoto wrote in his book if the viewer focuses on the McGuffin, they'll be led down the garden path. Let's face it, if it encompasses the word guff in it, its evident right there that it's a load of nonsense. Agreed Messrs. Seinfeld & Hitchcock?