Betty Boop, the Bum Bandit, and Missing Chances


Had a couple more comic strips over on my mathematics blog, if you like that sort of thing. I do and don’t see why you wouldn’t.

On to my other amusements. I seem to be back in a Betty Boop sort of mood. So here’s another of the early Betty Boop shorts. It’s a Talkartoon originally released the 4th of April, 1931. It’s from before Betty Boop had her name, at least publicly (I don’t know when she was named internally). It’s even introduced as a Bimbo cartoon. It’s got a couple of odd points. (It’s also got one bit of ethnic humor that could’ve been far worse.)

So the first oddity here: Bimbo’s the villain. In most of his appearances he’s your generic faintly pleasant heroic-coward inkblot; here, he’s just outright robbing a train. It’s not a bad look for him, really. It gives him the chance to mess around for a couple minutes with incompetent shooting practice that’s got a bunch of good nonsense logic to it. The sequence also lets him set up as villainous without being too evil to be the protagonist.

Second oddity is Betty Boop. She’s voiced here by Harriet Lee, I think for the only time. There’s nothing faintly boop-oop-a-doop about her voice. And as with Bimbo, Betty’s suddenly got a infusion of personality. At least, she’s got a personality with initiative, taking deliberate action instead of just trying to shape what’s going on to be not so bad. She’s got a good song, too. It’s not hard to imagine an alternate track for Bimbo-and-Betty cartoons with them as openly antagonist partners. It gives the story an inherent shape, a tension that makes the cartoon feel more modern than its contemporaries.

Which makes the end all disappointing. Things are crackling along as best they can for an early-30s short and then the climax just … evaporates. Not really any action, just she grabs him and off they go. It’s a good cartoon, threatening to be great.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today and then shrank back one for fear of looking “showy”.

194

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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.

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