Betty Boop: Stopping The Show

Since last Friday I shared the Betty Boop cartoon which inaugurated the Color Classics line of cartoons, I thought, why not this week show the cartoon that inaugurated the Betty Boop line of cartoons? And the answer is that it’s a little tricky to say what exactly started the line of Betty Boop cartoons. Her first appearances were in the Talkartoons line, with the character growing out of an unnamed female character playing against an unnamed male character that would grow into Bimbo and then go away. The Talkartoons are just what the name suggests, full-sound cartoons not tied to the Screen Song follow-the-bouncing-ball format. They began as a string of one-shot cartoons, but discovered Betty Boop and to a lesser extent Bimbo, and within two years were basically a Betty Boop series.

In 1932, the Talkartoon series was ended, and the Betty Boop series, as identified by the proscenium on the title screen, began. This one, Stopping The Show, is the first in that string of cartoons, which ran from 1932 to 1939. Stopping the Show was released the 12th of August, with Betty Boop’s Bizzy Bee released the 19th, and Betty Boop M.D. released the 2nd of September, in case you worried the Fleischers didn’t know what a character they had in her. The pace would eventually slacken to a mere twelve Betty Boop cartoons a year.

This is a basically plotless cartoon, structured around an idea done several times in the 30s: reproducing a mixed vaudeville/movie-theater’s evening program in the space of one reel, producing a fine act of recursive merriment. Betty Boop doesn’t even appear until the short is halfway through, and that to do a couple of impersonations. But you do get a newsreel (remember newsreels? Of course not, because everybody forgot they existed somewhere around 1955, although they staggered on in production until 1967, when they were completely forgotten), a cartoon extremely-short, and then the impersonations.

The first impersonation goes unannounced, which I think is the result of some post-release editing of the cartoon: Betty Boop’s impersonating Helen Kane. This impersonation was cheeky at least: Kane’s “boop-boop-a-doop” in singing “That’s My Weakness Now” was ripped off to give Betty Boop a singing voice (and name). Wikipedia says the Kane impersonation scene was removed after Kane complained; she was suing Paramount (unsuccessfully) for appropriating her singing style at the time. The title card stand, as it is in this print, certainly removes something before naming Fannie [sic] Brice. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had explicitly named Helen Kane.

The Fanny Brice impersonation is of Betty singing a song a song about being an Indian, and, well, as ethnic jokes from 1930s cartoons go it could be worse. I don’t know whether this is a song the actual Fanny Brice was known for at the time.