Tuesday, March 14, 2017


 by Connie Cortright

For the last couple weeks, this blog has been researching a couple cartoon characters in the 1930s, but the one with the most sex appeal was without question Betty Boop. She was created by Max Fleischer in the late 1920s, originally drawn as a human-looking French poodle for a cartoon full of animal characters. She appeared  in "Dizzy Dishes" as an unnamed girlfriend of Bimbo the Dog. I don't think she looked much like a dog at all.

Bimbo the Dog wasn't a big hit in that cartoon, but his newly introduced girlfriend was. Shortly after her debut, Fleischer turned her into a human character by changing the long dangling earlobes into gold earrings. In her next cartoon she was given the name Betty Boop and became an instant star.

Popular among adults ( I wonder why), Betty Boop was known for her risque actions in her cartoons. Dressed in typical "flapper" fashions, Betty wore strapless dresses with a short skirt, high heels, and a garter on her leg. This was a first for cartoonists since any previously drawn females were drawn with the same features as their male counterparts, but dressed in a skirt, example Minnie Mouse. Somehow, it's not hard to see why Betty Boop appealed to adults (men?) much more than Minnie Mouse.

With the new-found success of this cartoon character, the animators made Betty even more sexualized in the films shown during 1932 and 1933. In "Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle" she was seen dancing the hula with nothing but a lei, strategically placed to cover her breasts, and a grass skirt. I wonder who the biggest fans of that cartoon were.

By July 1, 1934, the federal government stepped in and issued the National Legion of Decency to cover all movies shown in theaters. These standards applied to Betty Boop also, even though she was a cartoon character. The animators were required to make her more mature looking and dress in longer skirts and blouses that had sleeves. She could no longer give the audience her sexy winks and wiggle her hips. She was given a boyfriend named Freddie to tame her down. With the addition of these more grown up films, Betty Boop lost her appeal. By 1939 she was no longer seen in any new features. I'm not surprised.

It is thought that Betty Boop was drawn as a caricature of a popular stage star named Helen Kane who used the same 'baby" technique of singing that was often seen during the Jazz Age. Helen Kane was known as the "Boop-Oop-a-Doop Girl" of the late 1920s. After Betty Boop became known for her famous saying "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" in 1932, Helen Kane sued Max Fleischer for infringement. The court decided that Helen Kane wasn't the first to use "baby" technique of singing, so she lost her lawsuit.

Betty Boop's character was voiced by several women over the years, but the most famous woman to do her voice was Mae Questel, who voiced Betty Boop from 1931-1938. The interesting thing is that Mae Questel also did the voice of Betty Boop in her cameo appearance on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in 1988. I was astonished to find out a woman could do that same high-pitched voice after so many years.

If you've never seen a Betty Boop cartoon you should check it out You Tube Betty Boop cartoon

Information taken from Wikepedia and Boop-Oop-A-Doop-the-Story-of-Betty-Boop

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