Betty Boop: Mysterious Mose


Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:

So for this week’s entry in the list of First Betty Boop cartoons I wondered: what’s the first one in which she’s the protagonist? Betty Boop appeared in a good number of Talkartoons in 1930 and 1931, although initially just as an attractive female presence. It would take time for her to take over from Bimbo, Koko the Clown, and a host of nonentities. But what about the first one where she’s the protagonist?

Well, that’s hard to pin down, not least because Fleischer Studios cartoons of the era were not excessively burdened with plots. Boop-Oop-A-Doop seems like a strong candidate for the first cartoon in which she’s the protagonist, what with it being set at the Betty Boop Circus, but she’s really only important for a couple of scenes as a lion-tamer and performer, and then ends up in the damsel-in-distress role, waiting off-screen to be rescued by Koko this time.

But I’m drawn to an earlier cartoon, released the 27th of December, 1930 — Betty’s inaugural year — even though it’s mostly a showcase for what Wikipedia claims is Harry Reser and his orchestra of many names’s performance of the title song. It’s also a showcase for the famed Fleischer Studios surreal, dream-logic, borderline-nightmare world of mutation and transmogrification: after a charmingly spooky opening scene Mysterious Mose himself appears on screen, leaving Betty with not much to do but watch, baffled, as everything changes into everything else, and back again, at least until the music runs out. Admittedly, Betty doesn’t get much to do, but it’s all stuff she does because it makes sense for her at the time, and she doesn’t spend time sitting around waiting for someone else to rescue her. That’s something.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

7 thoughts on “Betty Boop: Mysterious Mose”

  1. MYSTERIOUS MOSE (the song) achieved jazz immortality in April 1930 when it was recorded by (among others) a group well known to classic jazz lovers: Rube Bloom and His Bayou Boys, which included Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey & others who went on to lead their own bands in the swing era. Coincidentally, this band also recorded ST. JAMES INFIRMARY (the other song heard during the cartoon).

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    1. Ah, thank you. I didn’t know anything important about the history of Mysterious Mose the song.

      St James Infirmary also appears in another Betty Boop cartoon, and one of the best-regarded for beauty and strangeness and surrealistic nightmare imagery.

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