And so it begins.
The woman who would provide Betty's voice for most of her existence and create many of the most iconic aspects of her vocal inflections has finally made her appearance by this early cartoon. The inimitable Mae Questel, regardless of what IMDb says, likely made her debut in today's selection, Silly Scandals.
Mae Questel was the culmination of Flesicher's quest for a woman who could do cute and high-pitched, but not sound so squeaky as to be off-putting. Basically, I think he was dancing around many aspects of the character, whereby he wanted someone who embodied the youthful aspects of a flapper, but to be womanly. It's really no wonder he had such a hard time finding the right voice since he basically wanted a voice that was simultaneously a woman and a girl. In the end, I think he erred on the side of youth. This may have had something to do with the previous Boop cartoon, The Bum Bandit, where Betty's voice is very deep and womanly. I suspect that Bandit was an experiment on Fleischer's part. After deciding that the voice and character definitely didn't match in that episode, he moved on to Questel and the Boop we know and love today.
Another thing also began in this cartoon: her name is officially Betty. In previous cartoons, she either goes un-named, or is given random names like Nancy Lee in Barnacle Bill. Even though the name Betty was used in Betty: Co-Ed, and was a similar character, it could only be seen as a proto-Betty and may be the genesis of the name. So nearly a year after the character first appeared, we finally have a name for the face.
Boop is still a supporting character, with Fleischer's current cash cow, Bimbo, as the billed star. We finally see the last step in Betty's transformation before the elimination of the ears, her black, dog-like nose has been replaced with a small, more human-looking button nose. Bimbo is fulfilling his role of catch-all character for Fleischer, whereby he's used in a different capacity in each cartoon. The basic theme is the same, where Bimbo plays a role that must face adversity to reach Betty, and usually does it with song and dance. I think that's the reason why I best like The Bum Bandit of all the early cartoons. It's setup is different and Betty has the meatiest of her supporting roles.
I'm not sure what's up, perhaps production of this cartoon was rushed, but the animation quality is mixed. The animation for Betty and the Magician is pretty poor, but the animation very early in the episode is smooth and expressive. I especially like Bimbo's walk as he goes up towards the stage.
Again, Fleischer's history in silent films comes through with most of the short watchable without the dialogue. The lip-syncing is especially poor, with most of the cartoon not even trying to sync the words. Betty Boop is the only exception.
Finally, the continuing aspects of eroticism in the series manifest themselves with Betty's only partially covered breasts again making a cameo. As she's singing her top keeps falling down... for some unknown reason. I suspect it keeps happening for no other reason than to have some boob-shots in the cartoon.
In regards to Mae Questel's debut, I thought I'd celebrate with some video of her final film appearance, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Her part starts at about 3:10.
And finally, her last turn as Betty Boop in Betty Boop's last theatrical appearance. Mae would die ten years later. Eddie was right. She certainly does.