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Tom Howard
Joe Lyons
Edward Gargan
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Comedy | Short

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4 May 1931 (USA)  »

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(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

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1.20 : 1
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Unfunny and racist
28 February 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

I can enjoy racial humour if it's genuinely funny, but "The African Dodger" is racist without raising a snicker. It's an anti-black film with an all-white cast.

In the early twentieth century, many American carnivals and fun fairs featured an "African Dodger". This was a Negro (usually genuine, sometimes a white man in blackface) who would stick his head through a hole and taunt the suckers, who paid a nickel for the privilege of throwing baseballs at the African Dodger. The dodger would (usually) pull his head out of the hole in time to avoid getting hit, but sometimes he wasn't fast enough. African Dodgers were so commonplace that some sadistic people would bring a hard (wooden or iron) ball into any carnival that came to town, knowing they'd have a chance to throw it at a black man's head and cause him serious injury. To be an African Dodger was a nasty job that no man took unless he was desperate. Allegedly, the African Dodger always "had to be" a black man (or a white man in blackface), because the bruises wouldn't show against dark skin.

Spencer Tracy (in blackface!) does an African Dodger routine in his early film "Dante's Inferno", which is a much better movie than this one.

In "The African Dodger", the annoying squawk-voiced comedian(?) Tom Howard plays a man on a carnival midway who gets suckered into substituting for the African Dodger. Fortunately, he doesn't put on blackface. That's the only good thing about this movie. It stinks. Even Amos 'n' Andy are positive role models compared to this film. I don't recommend this movie at all, and I rate it an absolute zero. Even if you like racial jokes, this movie isn't funny.


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