Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Betty Boop

Now here’s a real curio – a live action appearance by famous 1930s cartoon star Betty Boop! And she’s meeting Bela Lugosi as “Dracula,” no less. He’s not officially called such, but everyone knows it is (especially as this short was made within a year of the legendary vampire flick's release)… so that means Bela actually played the Count three times instead of the usually reported two (those two being the original “Dracula” of course as well as in “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” - although you could argue that his Count Tesla from “Return of the Vampire” is also Dracula… and we’ll leave it at that because if I start to talk about “Mark of the Vampire” and “Mother Riley Meets the Vampire” I’ll have to include spoiler warnings).

Hollywood on Parade” was a short-subject series produced by Paramount Pictures in the early 1930s. It was one of several “behind the scenes” newsreels produced during Hollywood’s heyday. These short subject series ranged from being literal “behind-the-scenes” looks at movies (or cartoons) being made to interviews with stars to exclusive skits and performances. The great “Movie Fanfare” site from online classic film store Movies Unlimited recently ran a wonderful piece on these “behind-the-scenes” reels that also originally appeared on the "Matinee at the Bijou" site. They were kind of the “Entertainment Tonight” and “Extra” of their day with all the same Hollywood fluff, but none of the scandal.

Except… there is a touch of scandal behind the scenes of the short excerpt we’re looking at today. That’s because live-action Betty is portrayed by singer-actress Bonnie Poe in this film, one of several actresses who voiced the star in the animated Boop cartoons. The most famous of Betty’s voices is probably Mae Questal, but the controversy comes via Helen Kane, the “original boop-a-doop girl,” a popular singer who capitalized on her novel coquettish voice to become an on-stage hit in the late 1920s through early 1930s.

In 1930 animator Grim Natwick, working for the Fleischer Brothers cartoon studio featured a female flapper dog character in a cartoon called “Dizzy Dishes” and modeled the character after Kane. For all intents and purposes, this character was Betty Boop but with a dog’s button nose and ears. The ears and nose were soon modified to reflect human features and Betty was born proper. As Betty’s notoriety grew, Kane filed a suit claiming infringement but the judge in turn noted that Kane’s own singing style drew a strong resemblance to that of “Baby Esther,” an African-American singer who was known to boop-oop-e-doop too. You can read more about the trial by clicking here… and you can read a nice little piece (and play a nice little video) about the various Betty voices when you click here. And over here on the Betty Boop message board you can even access a handy list of which voice artists performed Betty in each of the original cartoon shorts.

The Betty Boop cartoons are wonderful on many levels. The Fleischer Brothers Studio was in New York City so all the Betty cartoons (as well as the original black & white Popeye cartoons the Studio produced) reflect the fast-pace of the city and take place in cityscapes where the lampposts, mailboxes, firehoses, etc. all bounce around with a life of their own. They also reflected some of the more avante garde tastes in art and music that were happening in the big city, often with a surreal feel. Jazz played a big role and its practitioners (such as Louis Armstrong, Don Redman and Cab Calloway) often made it into the cartoons cavorting with the characters. The idea of mixing laughs with spookiness ran rampant in Betty cartoons, not just in obvious entries like “Betty’s Hallowe’en Party” but also in such unexpected entries as “Snow White” and the sublime “Bimbo’s Initiation.”

So here’s the clip from this short. The setup (as is usually the case with these Hollywood hype shorts) is simple: wax figures at the “Hollywood Hall of Fame” come to life as the piano player plays, and sing and act out the song he’s playing. You’ll note that some usually reliable sources on the internet are confused about who’s Booping here and invariably (and erroneously) sometimes cite Kane and Questal as the actress here, but here at Scared Silly we’re sticking with the notion that it’s Poe (and how cool is it that an actress named Poe gets to meet Dracula?)…


  1. well even earlier than betty boop other stars that used to Imitate helen kane were also majories babe kane and also ginger rogers.

    also to mention helen kane was friends with ginger rogers as seen in a photograph together with fred astaire.

    i think its finally great everyone or people are starting to realise that bonnie poe played the part of betty boop in hollywood on parade, becuse not much is known about her.

    although her voice can be noticed becuse while doing her voice roles of the animated character Betty Boop the vocals she provided when speaking was too much babytalk and sometimes used the scat lyrics Poop oop a Doo! which was also Helen kanes first scat lyrics before Boop Oop a Doop.

    In a 1959 interview Helen kane claims she was the Boop Oop a Doop Girl. she speaks nothing of Betty Boop. it is also stated Helen kane did a Parody of what happend in the trial.

    also to note all the other voices of Betty Boop could not the squeak like Mae Questel.

    and Helen Kane had launched the lawsuit around 1933-1934 more or less 1934
    so she would have been helping.

    Most people claim Baby Esthers Video was false, but it should be classed as unknown
    becuse nobody knows the real truths.
    becuse if you listen to helens first to recordings. Thats my weakness now & get out and under the moon she hadnt quite got the booping correct

    not until she released the song ( I Wanna be loved by you)

    the long list of actresses that provided the voice is correct although some might be wrong.

    Little ann little & margie hines sounded somewhat alike. but ann leaving before 1933 proves she could not have dont the roles in 1933 which means kate wright & bonnie poe provided the roles from 1933.

    the betty boop cartoons were great full of surrealism and jazz but when betty was toned down the show lost its appeal.

    Betty Boop is to be seen around 2010 - 2011 in a broadway musical by david foster.

  2. Thank you for the great additional information, Starlight Honeymoon! Interesting about Baby Esther - would love to see if anything ever turns up (film footage, performance poster or flyer, sheet music) beyond her mention in the Kane lawsuit, which was all I could find online.

  3. The funny thing is yet everyone knows Betty Boop was originally created as a caricature of Helen Kane. Clara Bow is also mentioned in this short film feature. stating that Clara Bow & Betty boop are alike which is actually true they are both sex symbols. which also helped the fleischer studios when Ms Kane launched her lawsuit not long after the feature of this short. Clara bow was also a Red Head so to also cause confusion in (1934) the feature Poor cinderella featured The Cartoon character Betty Boop with Red Hair. to also cause confusion. becuse originally Betty Boops Official hair colour is Black.

  4. Helen Kane allowed the use of impersonation around 1928 - 1929 when she held the contests held by paramount and Mae Questel won first place and was signed a autograph by Helen kane at the time, which allowed anyone to Imitate Ms Kane, and around 1930 a caricature started making frequent apperences in the fleischer studios cartoons who later became the character Betty Boop. Helen Kane ignored Betty Boop when she was a canine, until Betty started to become human then Helen cared and finally had enough by 1934 when she proberly saw Bonnie Poe Portray Betty Boop in Hollywood on Parade with Bela Lugosi.
    Helen Did say others were stealing her fame, also it was alot Cheaper to see a Betty Boop Cartoon than see the real person perform live.

  5. Helens style could be easy imitated and can be seen imitated quite alot in many movies around 1929. and that is also another reason why her fame started to decrease.

    Singer Annette Hanshaw even imitated Helen Kane under names such as Dot Dare & Patsy Young. which was to be resulted into a lawsuit thinking Helen was recording for other recording companys.

    another Artist around (1929) Billed as (THE MYSTERY GIRL), also made a Few Helen Kane Recordings with a rival recording company Hoping to Confuse buyers with the Original artist Helen Kane.

    Do i know what im doin? (1929)
    Ive Got a feeling im falling (1929)!v=Xsh-2VUVhiI&feature=related
    ID Do anything for you (1929)

    The Mystery Girl is to be known as Kate Wright who also provided the vocals for some of the Betty Boop Cartoons. Catherine Wright/ Kathryn Wright. also it is mentioned that Kate Wright had also entered the Helen Kane Contest and came in 3rd place.

  6. Baby Esther?
    Little known african american singer is have said to have Booped Before Kane in a Cabaret Act in which Helen Kane attended.

    paramount had located a film of the black entertainer. the film was made in the early days of sound, which had a soundtrack on a disk and when the two were played togetherthey became unsynchronized at a certian point. paramount feared the court might decide the film was a poorly-dubbed fake. the night before the trial, max fleischer got together with paramount lab technicians and asked if they could edit the sound and image together in synchrony before the next morning. They told him, its impossible to do for the next day and it cannot be done. Lou fleischer called max fleischer and he said have the studios film cutter work with meand have a boy waiting with a cab in the morning i think i can do it, The next day the film was shown in the courtroom,Paramount had baby esthers manager, Lou walton, testify that Helen Kane and her manager had heard his client sing in a cabaret in 1928.

    Others State That Baby Esther uttered the Words Boo Boo Boo and Doo Doo Doo While others state it Was Boopy Oopy Doop! which adds alot of confusion.

    Little ann little aka ann rothschild told the court how Boop Oop a Doop had started out as Ba-da inde-do which had been developed into Bo do-de-o-do and finally to Boop Oop a Doop, the court stenographers glowered as Ann little gave her account, Helen kanes counsel, Sam Weltz, asked Ann, who spoke thought the trial in her High pitch Betty Boop voice, Oh do you speak like that at home? the crowd burst into guffaws above which could be heard in Anns, Yes indeedy! Another witness Alfred Evans who was an employee of Rudy Vallee testifed saying that he had head a Edith Griffith sing a Boop Boop a Doop song in nebraska in 1927, so basically the fleischer studios had powerful defence.

  7. The Betty Boop Story has a big hidden past
    taking someone elses fame and making it into a animated character who later becomes a unpopuler housewife but then around the 80s becomes refound and is made into a Icon.

    Everyone Involved in the Creation & Sound of Betty Boop.

    Helen Kane
    The original Boop Oop a Doop Girl who had risen to fame from 1928 and her fame decreased by 1930 becuse she was easy to impersonate she also allowed the use of impersonation.

    Grim Natwick
    The Original Creator Of Betty Boop,The Fleischers were looking for a Girlfriend for Bimbo the dog so Grim natwick used a photo of Celebrity Helen kane to create a pretty girl like caricature and added big floppy dog ears and a button nose.

    Max Fleischer
    Creator of Betty Boop, Although Grim natwick first frew Betty, Max changed her style and designed her outfit and added the garter. although Betty Boop still sang in the Helen Kane style.

    Dave Fleischer
    Max fleischers brother who also worked on the animated Character Betty Boop.

    Vocals that brought Betty to life.

    Margie Hines aka Majories Hines Real name Maraget L Hines. also known as Margie Hientz
    First person to Voice Betty Boop in (1930) she was the Helen Kane soundalike the fleischer studios had found to record a song Called ( I Have To Have You) which was a song that was Previously recorded & performed by Helen Kane. later finished the cartoon series from 1938-1939.

    Little ann Little aka Ann Rothschild, later known as Ann werner.
    started voicing Betty Boop from 1931 - 1933 and then went to play Betty Boop live. she is sometimes mistaken for Ann Little another paramount star.

    Bonnie Poe
    Mysterious Ms Poe made vocal apperences from the fleischer studios cartoons from 1933. not much is known about her but she can be seen last in person in (1934) in Rambling round Radio where she performs a song called Puddin Head Jones, she last can be heard as Betty boop in 1938 in 2 cartoons when mae questel had refused to move with the fleischer studios.

    Kate Wright
    Provided her voice for a few Betty Boop Cartoons. around 1933 and then again in 1938 in a few cartoons when mae questel was unavailable.

    Mae Questel
    Best Known Voice of Betty Boop, also known as the Betty Boop Girl. most of the Credits go to her even if she had not done the role in a certian cartoon.She was Best loved and was max fleischers faviourite. although she Quit voicing Betty Boop in 1938. She finally got to voice Betty for one Last time in the Film Who framed roger rabbit (1988).

  8. Bela Lugosi as “Dracula,” with Betty Boop was a Really amazing Feature Becuse Betty Boops theme title is ( Made Of Pen & Ink) so Betty Could Really Vamp up the Short film sequence performing a song about sorrow Called My silent Love.

    The First Person to do the vocals For the animated Character Betty Boop was Margie Hines. Hines also finished the series from 1938-1939 when Questel Refused to move with the studios. hines also provided the vocals for olive oyl when mae questel was away around that time but when mae returned Hines was replaced again and never seen again in any animated voice overs. Must have been something between her divorce with her husband Jack mercer.

    According to a Transcript Margie Hines was suppost to Have Played Betty Boop In musical Justice (1931) and performed Dont Take My Boop oop a Doop Away, But for some unknown Reason was replaced by Mae Questel.instead margie hines can be heard singing Dont take My Boop Oop a Doop away in Boop Oop a Doop (1932), although the person performing in that cartoon could be Little ann little.

    Margie hines can be seen with some famous Celebritys in (1933) where she sings in her Betty Boop Voice most likley with Harry Warren? peraphs?

    The Actress who is playing Betty Boop in this short is in fact Bonnie poe, who started making an apperence from (1933). she can be heard as additional voices in the Fleischer studios Cartoon Boilesk. She also did the debut voice for olive oyl aswell as voicing Betty Boop in the feature Popeye the Sailorman (1933). she most likley quit show buisness to continue with life, it is said Bonnie poe was a really nice woman and gave to charitys.

    Mae Questel takes most of the other Voices Credits and was the Best known person for acting as the 1930s Flappers voice Betty Boop, not to mention that mae Questel also gets great Credit For the vocals of Olive oyl even though Bonnie Poe & margie hines also provided the vocals. Bonnie poes version of olive oyl was hated alot, people just didnt like her style it just wasnt the ZaSu pitts style that mae and margie had imiated.