Dumb Captions # 1: RHODES OF AFRICA – (1936)

If this film does not contain the most captions with avoidable mistakes it is at least in the running for the championship of Dumb Captioning. Here are 4 examples.

Cecil Rhodes (played by Walter Houston) sends a telegram to try to prevent the attack he ordered which will start the Boer War: “On no account whatever must you move.”        The caption reads: “I know can’t whatever must you move.”

Paul Kruger (played by Oscar Homolka) explains himself in terms of his deep Christian faith: “I was one of the first trackers who came north to find that peace that passeth all understanding, to live righteously according to the Book.”                                                   The caption reads: “… to find that peace, that path of all understanding, …”

The journalist Anna Carpenter (played by Peggy Ashcroft) refers to “Matabele Land”.  The caption reads “Matabelia.”

Actors and a narrative title card gives the Matabele Chief’s name as “Lobenqula”.         The captions read “Lobengula.” In fairness the “q” is pronounced as “g”, but there’s that title card that the captioner could easily have read.

But don’t think these kinds of mistakes are limited to older, somewhat obscure titles. In this year’s PBS program celebrating the awarding of the Mark Twain prize to Carol Burnett many clips from her much-loved variety show were screened.  During a clip featuring Carol and Lucille Ball as cleaning ladies they sang the song “Chutzpah”, with these lyrics: “We’ve got charisma, we’ve got pizzazz – the magic thing that in the ring the toreador has.” The caption reads: “the magic thing that in the ring the Dori and Dora have.”  Well, at least they made the subject and verb agree.

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