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40 years ago, NPR had to apologize for airing 'Return of the Jedi' spoilers

ERIC DEGGANS, HOST:

Forty years ago today, the third hugely anticipated "Star Wars" movie hit the big screen. It was called "Return Of The Jedi."

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS: MAIN TITLE")

DEGGANS: Back then, in 1983, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED host Susan Stamberg asked a young boy to give us a sneak preview of the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ZENO BACCHUS: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are about to go in the pit. And just as he was about to walk the plank, R2D2 fired a laser gun from his head.

DEGGANS: At the time, though, all of those plot details really rankled our listeners, so much so that the next day, Susan Stamberg issued an on-air apology. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SUSAN STAMBERG: Well, the comic book was a goof, but we certainly goofed last night. We goofed so badly that we changed our program before rebroadcasting it to the West Coast, which means that you West Coast listeners won't know what I'm talking about. But enough of you on the East Coast called to complain that we want to apologize publicly to everybody. Calls - there were more phone calls on this one than we ever got in the middle of the hottest Middle East disputes. Calls - there were more phone calls than Richard Gere would get if he listed his number. And all because last night on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, we permitted a 6 1/2-year-old boy to tell us everything - and I mean everything - about "Return Of The Jedi." You gave the plot away, you said. I've been waiting for that movie for three years, and now you have ruined it for me. How could you do a thing like that?

Well, we are sorry. We're contrite, and we're fascinated. Usually you get angry when we get our facts wrong. This time we got them right, and you got angry. It's the difference between fact and fiction, of course, and the power of fantasy in our lives - the need for mystery, for wonderful stories that spill themselves out for us. Of course, if they are wonderful enough - this may be an excuse, but I doubt it - if they're wonderful enough, they will come to us new, even though we've seen them a hundred times. That's why people keep going back to see "Romeo And Juliet" over and over again or "The Wizard Of Oz." We know how they end but find great pleasure and nourishment watching them proceed to that ending. Two years from now, that's how we'll feel about the "Return Of The Jedi." For now, though, our apologies - we will not do that again.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "SUPERMAN: MAIN TITLE MARCH")

DEGGANS: Forty years later, turns out Susan was right. We are still watching "Return Of The Jedi" and we're still loving it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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