Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's plane runs out of gas and lands in the African jungle. After a short comedy routine between the two, some natives come by and insist that they stay for ... See full summary »
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's plane runs out of gas and lands in the African jungle. After a short comedy routine between the two, some natives come by and insist that they stay for dinner. The question then becomes what (or who) will the dinner be. Written by
David Glagovsky <email@example.com>
One of the most successful documentary/travelogue films of the 1930s was "Africa Speaks", which was eventually parodied by various comedians ... including Wheeler & Woolsey in "So This Is Africa" and Abbott & Costello in "Africa Screams". "Africa Speaks - English" is another parody, this one featuring ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wisecracking dummy Charlie McCarthy.
Bergen (playing Charlie's uncle!) is flying his aeroplane "The Spirit of Ammonia" over Africa, with Charlie as passenger. Thanks to Charlie's meddling, the plane runs out of fuel and has to land in the middle of the jungle. Of course some natives show up, played by African-American actors muttering "unga-bunga" dialogue. Charlie addresses one of the natives as "Congorilla" (which was the title of another recent documentary film about Africa). At this point, I cringed and expected to hear a lot of racist jokes. By the way, who invented the cliché of the cannibal leader who wears a top hat? Yes, the leader of these cannibals is wearing a topper.
Amazingly enough, after setting up the usual racist stereotypes, "Africa Speaks - English" then subverts its own clichés. When the cannibal leader arrives, he speaks perfect English ... in what's meant to be a cultured British accent! He cheerfully explains that he once ate an Oxford professor who was passing through the neighbourhood. (Must be a Balliol man.)
There's some cute dialogue here, when the natives invite Bergen over "for dinner" and he's not quite sure how to take this. There's one bizarre moment when Charlie McCarthy nervously asks the cannibal king if he's a vegetarian ... since Charlie is made out of wood, we can't be sure what sort of answer he's hoping for!
There's more action than usual for a Bergen/McCarthy short, but we also get three separate shots of Charlie spinning his head all the way round on his neck like Linda Blair, with a slide-whistle sound effect. (This isn't funny the first time Charlie does it; it's even less funny the third time.) And of course there's an unfunny gag about black people eating watermelon. But the payoff line (SPOILER COMING) is funny: the cannibal king explains to Edgar and Charlie that they're in no danger of being eaten, because they landed in the jungle on Friday ... and "on Fridays we only eat fish". I'll recommend "Africa Speaks - English" as one of the better examples of vaudeville-style comedy captured on film.
Try not to get too hung up on the racial jokes, which really aren't as vicious here as they are in many other films of this period
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