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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 12, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Stopping the Show © Max Fleischer‘Stopping the Show’ is Betty Boop’s first cartoon under her own name, starting a series that would only end, after 88 entries, in 1939.

In ‘Stopping the Show’, she’s the highlight of a show that is half cinema half theater. The show starts off with a “noose reel”, followed by a screening of a short cartoon (!) starring Bimbo and Koko. Then Betty enters the stage. She starts with singing ‘That’s My Weakness Now’, which in 1928 had been a hit song for her source of inspiration, Helen Kane. Then she does imitations of Fanny Brice and Maurice Chevalier.

By now, Betty is so well animated, that she feels like a real character, who easily steals the hearts of the audience. She’s a real cartoon star, second only to Mickey Mouse. Her performance makes ‘Stopping the Show’ a delightful watch, even though it lacks the surrealism of earlier outings.

Watch ‘Stopping the Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 1
To Betty Boop’s last Talkartoon: The Betty Boop Limited
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop Bizzy Bee

‘Stopping the Show’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 16, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Koko, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Boop-Oop-a-Doop © Max FleischerIn ‘Boop-Oop-a-Doop’ Betty Boop works at the circus as a lion-tamer and as a rope-dancer.

We watch her in a sexy performance on the slack-rope. During this performance we can see the circus-master growing with lust, and back in her dressing room he tries to harass her. Luckily, Koko saves here, so he “couldn’t take her boop-oop-a-doop away“.

This is the first short to co-star Koko and Betty. Koko had returned to the animated screen in ‘The Herring Murder Case’, and he’s clearly comfortable in the circus setting of this short. Interestingly, it’s Koko who is Betty’s lover in this cartoon, not Bimbo. Bimbo’s role is reduced to being a peanut seller in a running gag. Koko’s career in the sound era was short-lived, however, and was to end already two years later with ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!‘ (1934).

‘Boop-oop-a-doop’ is an entertaining short, full of catchy music. For example, on the slack-rope Betty sings ‘Do Something’, a song associated by the singer who inspired her character, Helen Kane, who had recorded it in 1929. The two versions are indeed surprisingly similar, and it is not hard to see why Kane, whose own career had been in a steady decline, sued the Fleischer company on May 4, 1932.

It may very well be that this cartoon alone triggered that event. It at least should have been quite some evidence for Fleischer’s piracy, but after a case of two years, judge McGoldrick saw it otherwise. It’s rather difficult to understand now how the Fleischers could have won. Not only does Betty Boop sound like Kane, her looks are also strikingly similar. Indeed, according to her animator and creator Gram Natwick she was modeled after Helen Kane when conceived for ‘Dizzy Dishes‘ (1930). However, Betty’s grotesque, and rather ugly appearance in her earliest cartoons must hardly have given that fact away. Moreover, in her following films both Betty’s voice and looks were both subject to change. Only by the time of ‘Boop-Oop-a-Doop’ Betty really started to look like her source of inspiration…

Anyway, for a detailed account of the trial, see Trafalz’s excellent blog post on the subject.

Watch ‘Boop-Oop-a-Doop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Boop-Oop-a-Doop’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

This is Talkartoon No. 31
To the previous Talkartoon: Any Rags
To the next Talkartoon: The Robot

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 9, 1930
Stars: Betty Boop (unnamed)
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'Dizzy Dishes' featuring Betty Boop and the waiter

‘Dizzy Dishes’ is a  jazzy cartoon about a waiter in a restaurant who should bring a roast duck to an extremely hungry customer, but who does anything but serving. While the waiter is performing on stage together with the roast duck, the hungry customer eats almost everything in sight.

The cartoon is very typical of Fleischer’s early Talkartoons. The animation is rather crude, and outside the songs there’s no lip synch, but there’s a lot of metamorphosis going on. Apart from that, practically everything can grow hands and feet, creating an urban and surreal world, very different from the merry worlds of nature and farmlands of the rival Walt Disney studio.

‘Dizzy Dishes’ is not too interesting, but it marks the debut of Betty Boop. She’s introduced as an unnamed and rather fat and unappealing dog singer. The animation on her is erratic to say the least, but it already contains some specks of eroticism. She was designed as  a caricature of singer Helen Kane, who was the first to sing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, which contains the Boop-Boop-a-Doop-phrases with which Betty Boop became famous.

Betty Boop’s creation is attributed to animator Grim Natwick (1890-1990), a veteran animator, who, according to his fellow animators, was the only animator able to handle the feminine figure. Interestingly enough, Grim Natwick later worked for Walt Disney, animating Snow White, the first realistically animated heroine, in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937).

Betty Boop was in fact the only successful cartoon star conceived by the Fleischer studio after Koko the Clown. Later they had considerable success with Popeye and Superman, but these characters were owned by King Features and DC Comics, respectively.

Betty Boop would become more and more erotic, and she would soon rise to stardom, changing from dog to human in 1931, and getting her own series in 1932, which lasted until 1939. But by then the Fleischer’s years of surrealism and eroticism were long gone.

Watch ‘Dizzy Dishes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 8
To the previous Talkartoon: Wise Flies
To the next Talkartoon: Barnacle Bill

‘Dizzy Dishes’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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