By Antoinette Rahn
Did you know Betty Boop turns 87 on Aug. 9, 2017? I can only hope (on a wing and a prayer) that I look a quarter as fantastic as Ms. Boop does at the age of 87. Ok, she may be a cartoon icon, with tremendous staying power — the studio who produced the character put out a promo stating that Ms. Boop was 16 years old during her debut — and would remain 16 in perpetuity. Regardless, she’s seen quite a lot in her eight-plus decades.
In honor of the 87th anniversary of Ms. Boop’s debut in Fleischer Studios’ Talkartoon series “Dizzy Dishes,” here are ten facts, some fun, some fascinating, and some scandalous, surrounding the beloved Ms. Boop.
Betty Boop: Ageless, Iconic, Relevant
1 Word on the Hollywood beat is Ms. Boop may be coming to a screen near you in 2018. Note, I say ‘may’ because details surrounding previous Boop-centered programming have come and gone without nary a ‘boop-oop-a-doop’ uttered. In any event, according to a few sources including Deadline Hollywood, French company Normaal Animation, is partnering with Fleischer Studios and King Features to develop a 26-episode series.
2 It’s often reported, the caricature of Ms. Boop is inspired by the 1930s actress and singer, Helen Kane. Ms. Boop appeared a the Fleischer Studio’s cartoon on Aug. 9, 1930, and sparked controversy of serious proportion for the time. After Ms. Boop uttered her signature song phrase “boop-oop-a-doop” in the cartoon, Ms. Kane filed suit against Max Fleischer of Fleischer Studios and the parent company. Her argument was the company ‘exploited her persona’ as she had invented the phrase, “boop-oop-a-doop,” according to an article by Anita M. Samuels that appeared in the New York Daily News in February of 2016.
Lawsuit Over Boop Stings Plaintiff’s Career
As my sweet little Irish grandmother used to say, ‘be careful when pointing out the flaws of others, as finger pointing goes both ways,’ and clearly, Ms. Kane may have needed to heed that advice. Because shortly into the court hearings surrounding the lawsuit she filed, Lou Walton took the stand to testify. Mr. Walton said he actually helped African American singer Esther Jones with her scatting abilities, which led to her creating the lyrics at the center of the lawsuit. Ms. Esther was a regular performer at the touted Cotton Club, entertaining audiences as Baby Esther.
Walton went on to tell the court that he accompanied Kane during visits to the Club to catch performances by Baby Esther – the originator of the “boop-oop-a-doop” phrase sung by Ms. Boop, according to the New York Daily News article. This testimony was part of what led to a courtroom victory for Fleischer and company, and the demise of Kane, who was deemed a fraud.
Enjoy a View of Ms. Boop
3 What’s more fascinating than viewing Ms. Boop’s debut performance (as a supporting character – a nightclub performer)? Enjoy the beginning of Ms. Boop’s appearance at the 2:39 mark…
4 An original 1935 Betty Boop Sunday comic strip by Max Fleisher, featuring Mr. Van, realized $4,720 during Hess Fine Auctions’ Aug. 2012 sale. This strip was part of The Charles L. Howard Collection of Early Comic Art & Original Political Illustration. Mr. Howard was the chief officer for the Santa Fe Railroad. His collection exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1939, and the original strips were the focus of multiple education institutions in the early 1940s.
5 A number of vocal performers have provided the voice for Ms. Boop over the years. Marjorie Louise Hines was the first person to provide Ms. Boop with her voice. She earned the gig after a Fleischer Studios’ staffer saw and heard her winning performance during a Helen Kane imitation contest. Also taking a turn at the microphone as Ms. Boop was Ann Rothschild, Kate Wright, Bonnie Poe, Melissa Fahn, Desiree Goyette, Cindy Robinson and Sandy Fox.
Mae Questel Lives The Part of Boop
The most recognizable actress to serve as the voice of Boop is actress, comedienne, and singer Mae Questel. She also won a contest focused on imitating Helen Kane, and in 1931, at the age of 17, she began a seven-year run as the voice of Betty Boop. She also had an uncanny resemblance to the character and during her time of service, she would do in-personal promotional events as well, according to www.notable biographies.com.
6 Ms. Boop’s fame and familiarity is far from limited to North America. She receives significant attention from fans around the world. Manufacturers of toys and merchandise saw the writing on the wall early on, when it came to Ms. Boop. A scarce Japanese tin tambourine toy, circa 1935, featuring the imagery of Ms. Boop, sold for $607 during a May 2010 auction presented by RSL Auction Co.
Fleischer’s Big Plans for Betty Boop
7 The creation of Ms. Boop is said to have been an attempt at garnering a slice of
attention being enjoyed by Walt Disney courtesy of his main mouse, Mickey. In an April 2012 auction presented by Mosby & Co. Auctions, a 1930s tin stroller made in Spain, featuring colorful lithographs of Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, and Felix the Cat on the seat and back, sold for $1,180.
8 Ms. Boop is a marketing maven. One of her latest endeavors is appearing in campaigns for J-esthetic salons throughout Japan. This campaign got underway in July of 2017. In February of 2017 fashion designer extraordinaire Zac Posen, every graphic designer’s friend Pantone, and M.A.C Cosmetics teamed up with Fleischer Studios and King Features to unveil a Betty Boop dress collection (Posen), in “Betty Boop Red” (Pantone), with matching “Betty Boop Red” Lipstick (M.A.C. Cosmetics). There is a long line of Betty Boop merchandise to come forth since her image was licensed in 1934. It’s reported that at one time more than 250 companies manufactured Betty Boop licensed items in the U.S. alone.
Boop Lives On in Merchandising, Hearts of Fans
9 Although there are a few different sites devoted to Betty Boop, it appears King Features operate the “Official Betty Boop” site: www.bettyboop.com.
10 With so many different items of Betty Boop merchandise available, the more uncommon and unique an item, the more appealing. For example, a wooden and bisque patent model Betty Boop game accompanied by documentation dating to 1936, realized $2,500 during a February 2015 auction presented by Morphy Auctions. The game was never manufactured. Atop the wooden board sits a spinner, a bisque figure baby alongside a cat, and around this central figure are four pre-war Japanese Betty Boop characters. The game measures 15 inches in diameter.