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The African Dodger 1931
Description: A carnival barker convinces a rube to take part in the baseball pitching game.
Released: 04 May 1931 Director: Mort Blumenstock Writers: Tom Howard (story) Actors: Tom Howard, Joe Lyons, Edward Gargan Genres: Comedy, Short
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The African Dodger Reviews:

I can play racial humour if it's genuinely funny, but "The African Dodger" is racist without raising a snicker. It's an anti-black movie 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 boy 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 quick enough. African Dodgers were so commonplace that some sadistic folks would bring a difficult (wooden or iron) ball into any carnival that came to town, knowing they'd have a possibility 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 boy took unless he was desperate. Allegedly, the African Dodger everytime "had to be" a black boy (or a white boy in blackface), because the bruises wouldn't present vs dark skin.Spencer Tracy (in blackface!) does an African Dodger routine in his early movie "Dante's Inferno", which is a much better film than this one.In "The African Dodger", the annoying squawk-voiced comedian(?) Tom Howard plays a boy on a carnival midway who gets suckered into substituting for the African Dodger. Fortunately, he doesn't place on blackface. That's the only nice thing about this movie. It stinks. Even Amos 'n' Andy are positive role models compared to this film. I don't suggest this film at all, and I rate it an absolute zero. Even if you like racial jokes, this film isn't funny.


I would accept with the another person who described the movie as "unfunny and racist", as there were almost no laughs in the movie and the central concept of hiring a black child to have white people pelt him with soft and iron balls for a nickel is cute sick. In the film, our leading boy tries to convince an old guy to stick his head through the hole at a midway booth named "The African Dodger". Yeah, sure,...stick your head through a hole as sadistic carnival goers can harm you--especially since the black child doing it yesterday is actually in the hospital. What an utterly unfunny idea, apart from the racism. And that is the sum total of the film--no more plot or anything--just a guy trying to convince an older guy to receive his brains knocked out and no mention of getting paid for this was ever mentioned. Ha, ha,...??!!?!


Fortunately, they do not present the young black man who apparently got knocked out before the idiotic Tom Howard was place on scene to replace him as carnival customers throw baseballs at him. One customer shows up with a brick! This racist piece of crap from the pre code era of Hollywood shorts is not just terrible on a racial scale but simply unfunny and unworthy of even being seen.I do not trust in censorship of any kind, and it's just to present how stupid humans in the late 1920s and early 1930s who participated in activities like this were, then this is the excellent example for proving that point. There are times when some racist comedy was intelligent even if you rolled your eyes at the underlying meanings of what was going on, but this was downright rude. There is absolutely no redeeming value in this and I only spent ten mins of my life suffering through it. The fact that this apparently was a true life carnival minigame left me almost as numb as the terrible desperate black boys were who took the job, and I'm glad I was spared that visual. Joe Lyons, as the barker, does ring real in the unfortunate role, having seen burlesque shows with related characters as him who were hawking true products and not exploiting a single race for public humiliation.



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