Again, animation fans are familiar with the rough outline of the story.
Betty Boop emerged in the 1930 short, Dizzy Dishes, where she was portrayed as a dog. Her image became more human-like, and, by the beginning of the calendar year 1932, she had virtually taken over the “Talkartoons” series, pushing Bimbo and veteran character Ko-Ko the Clown into the background.
So, for the 1932-33 season, Fleischer ended the “Talkartoons” series, and it became in toto what it had become in fact–a “Betty Boop Cartoon” series.
The “music people” at the Max Fleischer studio were already onto what was required: a theme song.
In fact, there were two theme songs already in the pipeline when the “Betty Boop” cartoons began.
Fleischer’s in-house music men, lyricist Sammy Lerner and composer Sammy Timberg, already had “Sweet Betty” written, and it first appears under the titles of Boop Oop A Doop, released January 16, 1932. In this cartoon, and in Stopping The Show (the first “official” Boop short), an entire thirty-two bar chorus is sung by a ringing tenor. Later, by early 1933 releases, the song was reduced to an eight-bar stanza. The same tenor is heard on some cartoons, but by Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions (1933), a recording by the popular radio and recording duet of Les Reis and Artie Dunn, was used.
It can’t be said with any certainty, but one wonders if the front office wanted to get Paramount’s own music people involved.
The third theme was “Betty”, a new lyric to the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart song, ‘Mimi”. This song appears under the titles of Betty Boop’s Big Boss.(1933). I suspect that the “Betty” lyric is not by Larry Hart–it is not found in “The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart”.
When it came time to record songs of this ilk, it was “Betty Boop” that got recorded first.
Hit-of-the-Week Records was one of those gimmicks to which I referred in a recent Post. They were, basically, paper records, with one side coated with a resin–which held the grooves. They play rather well when they are found to be flat–but they have a tendency to curl up ad warp. They were also susceptible to the steel needles of the day, and the heavy tone-arms into which said needles were installed.
The discs were sold out of news stands, with a new one coming out every Thursday-and, at fifteen cents, offered value for money. But the “new” wore off quickly, and, only a little more than a year after their entry into the market, the firm went into the hands of a receiver, who arranged that a New York advertising agency–Irwin-Wasey–should take over.
The label was on its proverbial “last legs” when they released their version of “Betty Boop”, as played by Phil Spitalny’s orchestra, with vocal refrain by a male quartet. It’s a lively performance, decorated by accordion and xylophone passages that enhance the novelty appeal. The quartet–which maybe radio’s Eton Boys–gets to sing two fleet choruses, with breaks for some of the musicians in the second vocal chorus.
The record was a better seller than some of the other recent releases. But it wasn’t enough to save the company–not in the Depression year of 1932.
Next: Mae Questel gets into the act.