She was the queen of the animated screen and her cartoons were filled with great music, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that she made her debut on LP records.
Original Motion Picture Cartoon Soundtracks
Mark 56 Records #639 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1974. Album Producer: George Garabedian. Voices of Betty: Mae Questel, Margie Hines, Bonnie Poe, Little Ann Little, Kate Wright. Musical Direction: Sammy Timberg. Musical Supervision: Lou Fleischer. Running Time: 45 minutes.
• Betty Boop / Sweet Betty (Main Title)
• Dialogue (including “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-Doop Away”) – Mae Questel, Max Fleischer and Reporter (Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame)
• Betty Boop’s Trial excerpt
• The Old Man of the Mountain / Hi-De-Hi – Cab Calloway
• I’m An Indian – Fanny Brice & Mae Questel (Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame)
• Hello Beautiful – Maurice Chevalier & Mae Questel (Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame)
• I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You – Louis Armstrong
• I Know a Gal Named Betty Boop / How’m I Doin’? – Don Redman & His Orchestra
• Little Pal (Betty Boop’s Little Pal)
• Magic Mirror on the Wall (Snow-White)
• I Want to See My Step-Mama (Snow-White)
• Always in the Way (Snow-White)
• St. James Infirmary – Cab Calloway (Snow-White)
• Mother Goose Land (Sing You Sinners) (Mother Goose Land)
• I Like to Go With Mother Goose (Mother Goose Land)
• Sweeping’ the Clouds Away (Mother Goose Land)
• Little Jackie Horner (Mother Goose Land)
• Mother Goose Land Song (Mother Goose Land)
• Dum Dum Diddle Diddle (Mother Goose Land)
• Little Miss Muffet (Mother Goose Land)
• Humpty Dumpty (Mother Goose Land)
• The Woman in the Shoe (Mother Goose Land)
• Hi Diddle Diddle (Mother Goose Land)
• Three Blind Mice (Mother Goose Land)
• Old King Cole (Mother Goose Land)
• Sing A Song of Sixpence (Mother Goose Land)
• Ring Around a Rosy (Mother Goose Land)
• Mulberry Bush (Mother Goose Land)
• Mother Goose Land Song (Mother Goose Land)
• Bye Bye Blackbird (Mother Goose Land)
(NOTE: Many popular songs and public domain tunes were also interpolated)
There is no shortage of 78 rpm records that were either heard in Betty Boop cartoons, came as a result of them, or inspired the character of Betty herself. Indeed, records were integral components of the initial Talkartoons that arrived with the dawn of sound films. According to The Fleischer Story by Leslie Cabarga, one of the many tasks of Fleischer brother Lou was to purchase records for use in Talkartoons. While the music, dialogue and sound effect for the shorts were being performed for the sound recording—in the Fleischer case, after the film was done—they would play the record as part of the session. (When the powers-that-be in the music business halted that practice, it led to live action appearances by the performers, bands and orchestras.)
One singer whose records were not used for the cartoons were those of Helen Kane, who famously sued the Fleischers for appropriating her persona for Betty. The studio had already took the precaution of producing special recordings of the Kane songs by their own voice artists, such as Margie Hines.
The Kane suit—along with far more expert detail than will appear in this article, which focuses primarily on vinyl records—is chronicled in Ray Pointer’s fascinating tome, The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer. Here is a particularly vivid moment of the real-life courtroom drama that leaps from the book’s pages:
The attorneys spent the next several days dissecting each actress’ use of syllables, discerning the difference between “boop-oop-a-doop,” ‘boop-boop-a-doop,” “boop-oopy-doop,” “boo-boo-be-doo,” “poo-poopy-doo,” and even “poop-poopy-do-do.” This silly semantic argument became a source of uproarious laughter for the courtroom, with attorney arguing the differences between a boop-oop-doop” and a “poop-poopy-doop,” as well as the difference between boop-poop” and “poo-poop.” Members of the court, including the stenographer, were confused. After this exhaustive review of the “boop-oop-a-doopery” history, the stenographer threw up his hands in despair and the testimony of meaningless sounds was stricken from the record.
The suit was ruled in the Fleischer’s favor, but the use of famous people as the inspiration of cartoon characters has been a bone of contention throughout animation history, including Bert Lahr’s claim about Snagglepuss and Jackie Gleason’s suit for The Flintstones being like his Honeymooners sketches (which he abandoned at the risk of his image with families), both against Hanna-Barbera (though Bill Hanna seemed to be, at least anecdotally, fairly open about the freewheeling “exchange” of ideas).
Mark 56 Records was an Anaheim-based company that specialized primarily in classic radio shows with album covers sporting especially fine artwork (including that of Leslie Cabarga himself, who did the cover below). Occasionally there were soundtracks for Laurel and Hardy shorts and features, as well as The Little Rascals/Our Gang, but the Betty Boop albums were the only animation titles.
As the program list shows, the album is a treasure trove of great performances. Despite the absence of the fantastical Fleischer animation artistry, the pure audio experience allows the delightful music and dialogue to shine on its own.
Stanley Tager Presents
A Max Fleischer Studios Retrospective
BETTY BOOP’S SCANDALS OF 1974
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Mark 56 Records #658 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1974. Album Producer: George Garabedian, from the Ivy Films Presentation. Voices of Betty: Mae Questel, Margie Hines, Bonnie Poe, Little Ann Little, Kate Wright, Cheryl Chase. Musical Direction: Sammy Timberg. Musical Supervision: Lou Fleischer. Cover Art; Leslie Cabarga. Running Time: 54 minutes.
• They Always Pick On Me – Instrumental (Minnie the Moocher)
• St. James Infirmary – Instrumental (Minnie the Moocher)
• Minnie the Moocher – Instrumental (Minnie the Moocher)
• Opening Dialogue – Mae Questel, Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer (Reporter) (Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame)
• That’s My Weakness (Stopping the Show)
• I’m An Indian – Fanny Brice & Mae Questel (Stopping the Show)
• Hello Beautiful – Maurice Chevalier & Mae Questel (Stopping the Show)
• Lotamuru – The Royal Samoans & Mae Questel (Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle)
• The Old Man of the Mountain / Hi-De-Hi – Cab Calloway (Old Man of the Mountain)
• Concluding Dialogue Mae Questel, Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer (Reporter) (Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame)
• Dialogue Excerpt from Stoopnocracy – Stoopnagle and Budd
• Please – Budd Hulick imitating Bing Crosby (Stoopnocracy)
• Minnie the Moocher – Harold Nicholas imitating Cab Calloway (Stoopnocracy)
• Bimbo’s Initiation (Complete Cartoon)
• Ha! Ha! Ha! (excerpt)
• Please (Gadget Band) (Boilesk)
• Frankie and Johnny (Instrumental) (Boilesk)
• Isn’t it Romantic? (Underscore with Dialogue) (Boilesk)
• I’m Playing with Fire (Boilesk)
• Listen to the Mockingbird (Underscore with Dialogue) (Boilesk)
• When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along (When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)
• Swing You Sinners (Swing You Sinners)
Betty Boop’s Scandals of 1974 was a feature-length compilation of Fleischer shorts aimed at the student and art circuit. It was released one year before Bugs Bunny Superstar (and six years before the unfortunate Betty Boop for President), so it’s somewhat of a forerunner of such package films for the cartoon connoisseur in an age that was just waking up to animation research and appreciation.
Only a few of the elements of the soundtrack are the same as those on the other Mark 56 album, but this one boasts the complete Bimbo’s Initiation and several non-Betty clips as well. Better be sure and seek out both albums. (There were also a few stray Betty Boop soundtrack and “inspired” CD compilations in the ‘80s and ‘90s.)
BETTY BOOP in “PARTY TIME”
Peter Pan Book & Recording #2037 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
Released in 1984. Executive Producer: Donald Kasen. Illustrations: Al Gordon. Voice of Bimbo: Lionel Wilson. Running Time: 11 minutes.
Betty Boop merchandise was popular in her day and continued to be sold for decades, even when her cartoons fell out of the mainstream. Restored to her her pre-code flapper look, Ms. Boop had become a pop culture icon. In 1984, Peter Pan Records surprised Betty Boop fans who happened be shopping in the children’s record department with a brand-new read-along book and record set starring Betty, Bimbo and Pudgy.
Even though Betty has had her tangles with the censors in the ‘30s, she was always marketed to kids, and this recording is no exception. Being a read-along, it is squarely aimed at tots. The story concerns an invitation to a party by Betty’s heretofore unknown friend “Carol,” giving Betty the impulse to have a makeover. As might be expected, the makeover is a disaster and when she arrives, no one recognizes her and she is turned away. After a fortuitous rainstorm, the makeup and hairdo wash away the makeover and everyone welcomes the Betty they know and love.
The recording was clearly made on a shoestring budget. By 1984, new Peter Pan titles (along with most other independently produced records) were starting to get scarce. The music is electronic and many of the voices are speeded up, including Betty’s. One bright spot is the surprise appearance of Peter Pan favorite Lionel Wilson—whom we just talked about in this Spin — as Bimbo.