Monday, May 18, 2009

Speaking Of Clara Bow, A Word About Betty Boop

Speaking of Clara Bow, the character she played so famously in It, Betty Lou, inspired the cartoon character Betty Boop.

You remember Betty Boop, don't you? She was one of Max Fleischer's creations, an overtly sexual flapper who along with her dog, Bimbo, got herself into a number of surreal scrapes, often with men who had only one thing on their sex-obsessed minds. Betty Boop first appeared in 1930 and her early adventures were definitely aimed at an adult audience.

The character started out as an anthropomorphic poodle, with a dog's ears and a dog's nose, but with a woman's legs, dress and cleavage, and at first Betty Boop was more of a sidekick to Bimbo than the other way around. Fleischer settled on Boop as fully human around the same time Mae Questel began providing the voice, an impossibly high-pitched girlish squeak with a decidedly Brooklyn accent.

In addition to drinking and fending off the advances of men, Betty Boop sang Jazz Age scat numbers in the style of Helen Kane and made appearances with some of the most famous Jazz stars of the era. Here's the 1932 cartoon short "Minnie The Moocher" pairing Betty Boop and Cab Calloway:

Helen Kane later sued Fleischer and his distributor, Paramount, claiming they had used her image and singing style for Betty Boop without her permission. The suit failed when evidence established that Kane herself had ripped off African-American performer and Cotton Club regular, Baby Esther.

With the enforcement of the Production Code in 1934, Ms. Boop's skirts descended below her knee and she gave up the flapper lifestyle. Nevertheless, as the Depression wore on, she seemed more and more an unwelcome reminder of the excesses of a previous era. In addition, her singing style also became increasingly dated and attempts to change her from a Jazz singer to a Swing artist failed. The last Boop cartoon was produced in 1939. In all, she made over one hundred appearances through the course of a decade.

Mae Questel reprised her role as Betty Boop in the 1988 hit film Who Framed Roger Rabbit where she laments, "Work's been kinda slow since cartoons went to color. But I still got it!"

You might want to stop in at the Official Betty Boop Site to scoop up your Betty Boop collectibles. I myself have no Boop memorabilia, so I can't vouch for the merchandise, but there it is.

Ms. Boop also has a myspace page loaded with cartoon shorts and images. She even blogs occasionally. You know, if you're the kind of person who reads blogs.

Maybe I should arrange an introduction between her and Lon Chaney ...


Husky Navarro said...

if bellotoot can't be bothered to write . . . .

Mythical Monkey said...

You're a good man, Husky.

Uh, you are a man, right ...?

Charley Starkweather said...

the roughest, toughest frail indeed.

I'd fuck her 'til her lips turned blue . . .

actually, as cartoon characters go,

hubba hubba

Juliette said...

Yes I remember Betty...from my childhood (shows my age). Nice review, thanks.

'Fracture' Movie Review

Mythical Monkey said...

By the way, Juliette, I appreciate that you've been going back and reading the older posts. Thanks!

janice below said...

Great review, but from what i know is that Clara Bow wasn't the model for Betty Boop. Betty Boop started out as a caricature of Helen Kane, Grim Natwick used a photo of Helen when creating Betty, also Paramount Publix knew what they were doing in 1930, becuse Helen was very populer then, If Betty were to have been modeled on Ms bow. Clara was the It-Girl, she spoke in a strong bronx voice. Betty used a Baby-Bronx voice, very squecky.

Betty Boop is classed as a sex symbol, like clara bow, in hollywood on parade 8-A. Although Betty is plump, unlike bow.

Clara Bow = The It Girl
Betty = The Boop Oop a Doop Girl