Bonnie Poe, born Clara Rothbart was a New Yorker who voiced the animated character Betty Boop in the animated cartoons starting in 1933 at the age of 18. By 1935, she was 20 and had finished with the Betty Boop series and had moved back to radio. Poe had originally started out doing Betty's voice on the Betty Boop Frolics radio show on the NBC network in 1933. Her Betty Boop voice was a impersonation of 1920s singer and actress Helen Kane, before she got the role of Betty Boop she had entered a "Helen Kane Impersonation Contest" and often impersonated Helen Kane on the stage. Poe's first role in the Fleischer cartoons can be heard in the 1933 Screen Song, Boilesk as a flapper using the same voice she used for Betty Boop, alongside Billy Costello. Poe did the inital voice for Olive Oyl, but was later replaced by Mae Questel. Poe continued to do the voice for Betty Boop from 1934 to 1935. She later provided Betty's voice in two 1938 shorts when Questel was unavailable, and was subsequently replaced by Kate Wright and Margie Hines. Bonnie Poe can also be heard in a majority of the Fleischer Studios cartoons from 1933-1938, including the Color Classics releases. Apart from being a radio voice-over, Poe was also a nightclub singer and hostess with her age being given as 10.
- Bonnie Poe: “The trouble with modern marriage is that too many couples think a pair beats a full house.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1933)
- Bonnie Poe: “There’s a new feud raging in Hollywood. Mickey Mouse insists that the 'Three Little Pigs' are hogging the spotlight.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1933)
- Bonnie Poe: “An efficiency expert is a man hired to fire old employes by an executive who is to tender hearted to do it himself.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1933)
The Billboard (1931)
Eddie Stanley got as many chuckles as possible out of the extremely cold audience with his wisecracks and funny action. He is assisted in his turn by Bonnie Poe.
The Billboard (1932)
Helen Kane, Booper of the first Boop, Booped her way to an unmistakable show-stop. Totes a swell song rep, and how she sells the ditties. Was forced out for two encores, and her get away hand ran into Eddie Stanley's act in the next stands, forcing him to quit. Helen's piano accompanist knows his business. Eddie Stanley experienced little trouble in getting over in number four. Eddie tells stories, toots occasionally on the clarinet and indulges in crossfire with a looker, Bonnie Poe. Latter also does a Helen Kane in fair style. Comedy material, for the most part, is the high altho Stanley resorts frequently to a Joe Miller, but as he explains it, they are inserted only to test the memory. Stanley crammed in plenty of laughs and ankled off to a sock hand.
According to a Buffalo Evening News article dated the 8th of March 1934, Bonnie Poe's real name was Clara Rothbart. The reason given was to allow time for program. The article stated the stars adapted in the cause of billing, appropriateness and euphony. The Quad-City Times also reported on the 15th of April 1934, that a song performed by Bonnie Poe (Betty Boop) would not seem the same if an announcer introduced her correctly as Clara Rothbart. In some old newspapers her second name is misspelled Rothbert, instead of Rothbart.
Radio's Betty Boop (1933)
Just in case you're curious about the identity of radio's Betty Boop we tell you that in private life she is Bonnie Poe and she has saucer-eyes similar the eyes of the screen Betty Boop. If you like the Betty Boop pictures you'll like her radio programs that come over NBCs Red network. (Beacon Journal)
Before Radio (1933)
Bonnie Poe, the Betty Boop Girl, who is only 18 sang in 13 different Broadway night clubs.
Betty Boop (1933)
Poe's portrait was featured in a 1933 article which stated; Betty Boop, whose antics on the NBC network bring to mind the character of the animated cartoon, as seen by The Times-Union Staff Artist.
Bonnie Poe served as defense in the Helen Kane lawsuit against Betty Boop. It was stated that Margie Hines, Mae Questel and Poe were as much Boop-Oop-a-Doop girls as Kane.The latter however avered that they got their start "Booping" through contests which were sponsored by Helen Kane.
Mistaken for Helen Kane
In April 1934, A summons obtained by a judgement against Miss Kane obtained by a Fifth avenue clothing store to collect a bill of $40.65 was served mistakenly on Miss Bonnie Poe, a motion picture singer, who took part in the animated films dispute. Miss Poe's resemblance to Miss Kane was so startling that the process server refused to believe she was not Miss Kane and touched her with the summons. It fell to the floor and was picked up by a reporter.
Hollywood on Parade No. A-8
At the age of 18 (1933) Bonnie Poe appeared in a live-action short called Hollywood on Parade No. A-8 as Betty Boop, alongside Bela Lugosi as Dracula. She performed a song called "'My Silent Love". The controversy is that Betty is portrayed by Poe, such controversy coming from Helen Kane, the “Original Boop-Oop-a-Doop Girl,” a popular singer who capitalized on her novel coquettish voice to become an on-stage hit in the late 1920s through early 1930s. Kane sued over the impersonation of her as Betty Boop. Any such appearance as Betty Boop would have negated her claim. Above is an image of Mae Questel, who has to hide one of her 'withered arms', while dressed up as Betty Boop. Various books mistake Bonnie Poe for Mae Questel, who had previously played the character in the live-action short entitled Musical Justice.
The person playing Betty Boop in Hollywood on Parade No. A-8 could not have been Mae Questel, due to the fact that Mae had one withered arm and always had to hide it behind her back or have her hands on her hips, as seen when she portrayed Betty Boop in Musical Justice. Before being given the role of Betty Boop, Bonnie Poe was referenced in a 1933 newspaper stating that she would soon make her way to Hollywood.
Hotel Roosevelt Grill (1933)
Among those spotted this week in the Hotel Roosevelt grill where genial Reggie Childs and his WZJ-WOR orchestra play: Conrad Thi-bault, Lulu McConnell, Sisters of Skillet (very sad looking, by the way), the Harmonians, Frank Novak, Harriet Lee, Gladys Rice, Helene Daniels, Lanny Ross, Bonnie Poe and Ben Alley.
Secrecy Results In Suit
George is a tight-lipped fellow where his private affairs are concerned. That's a lesson he undoubtedly learned playing in the Tenth av. of 20 years ago, when chance acquaintances might be Gophers - the powerful "mob" which ruled the neighborhood. When fortune plopped him down in Hollywood, he kept his marriage secret. He kept it so secret, in fact that a pretty little thing named Bonnie Poe (no relation of Edgar Allan) was embolden to sue him for $25,000 charging breach-of-promise. She's a Los Angeles nightclub hostess and her demands are still legally pending. Along Broadway they speak of George as a naive young man at heart, for all the exotic Latinveneer of his screen characterizations and for all his crimp, hard-boiled Tenth av. accent and knowing swagger. Broadway is sympathetic.
Four Betty Boop Girls (1934)
At the Anchorage (1934)
For this season, the management, of the Anchorage announces a policy of small, intimate floor shows, featuring Broadway celebrities, presented nightly at 7.30 and midnight. Jerry Blancherd remains as mistress of ceremonies: others acts include Bonny Poe, recently awarded a Paramount Picture contact as result of a "Helen Kane" contest, and Myra Lott dancer. During intermissions, Manny L Porte entertains with "piano meditations." Orchestral music is directed by Milton Kellem.
In 1934, Bonnie Poe appeared in Rambling Round Radio Row as a Betty Boop performer. She performed a song called "Puddin' Head Jones". Bonnie Poe could last be seen in person with the other voices of Betty Boop in 1934, in the Fleischer Victory Newsreel. She helped Mae Questel, "Booping" to the song "Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away", after winning the Helen Kane $250,000 Lawsuit. Poe then went to perform her "Boop" routine with Little Ann Little, Mae Questel and Margie Hines on the Paramount Stage in New York City. Poe also voiced Betty in 1938, two times before the role was taken over by Kate Wright and Margie Hines. Poe also provided the voice for Olive Oyl one last time in the Popeye the Sailor short entitled I Yam Lovesick, in which she did an impression of ZaSu Pitts, differing to her earlier portrayal of the character with the deep souding voice. Poe also did a radio interview with Billy Costello, the original voice of Popeye. In 1935, Bonnie Poe had a role on radio station NBC-W1OD, in a program called House of Glass, which was created by Gertrude Berg. Poe played the role of Dottie Martin, an out-of-work entertainer who temporarily juggled trays in a hotel.
In 1937 Bonnie Poe made public appearances at nightclubs, where she was dubbed "The Original Betty Boop". In her routine she would sing, and do a bit of comedy.
Betty Boop's Double Shift
Songs Performed as Betty Boop
- "Mother Goose Land Medley"
- "Strike Up the Band for Popeye the Sailor"
- "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing"
- "I'm Glad I'm Here"
- "Where's Freddy?"
- "Let's Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep"
- "Hell's Bells"
- "How Do You Do?"
- "Poor Cinderella"
- "My Silent Love"
- "Lalala Song"
- "Puddin Head Jones"
- Betty Boop's Double Shift (Archived)
- Bonnie Poe died from complications connected to pneumonia in 1993.
- Before she became the voice of Betty Boop she would impersonate Helen Kane and played the same bill with Kane in Chicago for three weeks somewhere between 1931-1932.
- Her mother was called Mary Rothbart.
- Margie Hines Van Beuren credits were erroneously attributed to Bonnie Poe.
- Bonnie Poe can be heard in a majority of Betty Boop cartoons from 1933-1934 and lastly in 1938.
- Sometimes she would utter "Poop-Poop-Pe-Doop" instead of "Boop-Oop-a-Doop".
- In 1934, Bonnie Poe filed a $25,000 heart balm action against George Raft.
- According to a 1933 news article, Poe took over the full-time role of Betty in the cartoons and on various radio events for a short time, while Mae Questel was busy preparing for a baby.