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Helen Kane

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Helen Kane
MissKaneBoopBetty

Name

Helen Kane

Helen Kane was a actress and singer who became popular in the 1920s. In May 1932, Helen Kane filed a $250,000 infringement lawsuit against Max Fleischer and Paramount Publix Corporation for the "deliberate caricature" that produced "unfair competition. While Kane had risen to fame in the late 1920s as "The Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl" a star of stage, recordings and films for Paramount, her career was nearing its end by 1931 with her last Paramount feature being A Lesson In Love. Paramount promoted the development of Betty Boop following Kane's decline. The case was brought in New York in 1934. Although Kane's claims seemed to be valid on the surface, it was proven that her appearance was not unique. Both Kane and the Betty Boop character bore resemblance to Paramount top-star Clara Bow On April 19, Fleischer testified that Betty Boop purely was a product of the imaginations of himself and detailed by members of his staff. Little Ann Little, Bonnie Poe, Kate Wright, Margie Hines, and most notably Mae Questel were all summoned to testify. The case dragged on for more than two years before the judge ruled against Kane, claiming her testimony did not prove that her singing style was unique and not an imitation itself, Helen was asked if she had taken her "scat" lyric idea from Felix Mayol's recording entitled Bou Dou Ba Boum (1913) to which she denied. Another witness claimed that Edith Griffith had "Booped" earlier than Kane in a early recording. A little-known African American singer known as "Baby Esther" had been cited by the defense as "'Booping" in song, Kane had saw Esther's cabaret show in the 1920s and had swiped her act and became popular overnight, is what the defense explained when they showed an early test sound film which featured Baby Esther. Helen Kane later told the press that she was shocked and dissapointed, adding that both she and her friends felt the Betty Boop cartoons were a deliberate caricature of her.
Helen Kane The Original Boop Boop a Doop Girl28:53

Helen Kane The Original Boop Boop a Doop Girl

Paramount Helen Kane Look & Sound-a-Like Contests

Helen Kane sponsored imitation contests with Paramount. In some of the earlier contests that had taken place, each of the voices of Betty Boop had won first place. Margie Hines won first place held in a local cindema cathedral in Freeport, and was later seen by a Fleischer Studios staff member who thought she was perfect for the role as Betty Boop.  Most prominently Mae Questel who had also entered a contest won first place at the RKO Fordham Theatre, there she was given an autograph from Helen Kane which stated "To Another Me" and had won a prize of $100 and was later seen by Max Fleischer who had asked her to sign a contract to do the voice for his cartoon character Betty Boop. Several of the other voices of Betty also started out impersonating Helen Kane and several others had entered contests and had won first place. According to Jo Miller's granddaughter, her grandmother had entered one of the contests to do the voice for Betty Boop but came second place. The  Helen Kane contests ran from 1928-1938.  The age range to enter was 6-18.

$250,000 Lawsuit

Helen Kane Comic Strip

In 1933 when Helen Kane heard that Betty Boop was going to star in a comic strip, she contacted King Features.

Helen Kane & Max Fleischer

According to Leslie Cabarga (Who had met Mae Questel in person), Helen Kane went to Max Fleischer and said if you use me in the cartoons instead of the other girl (Mae Questel) I'll drop the suit.  Max who knew Mae Questel said I won't use anyone but my Mae.

Helen Kane (Information)

Kane's height (only 5 feet tall) and slightly plump figure attracted attention and fans. Her round face with big brown eyes was topped by black, curly hair; her voice was a baby squeak with a distinct Bronx dialect.Oscar Hammerstein's 1928 show Good Boy, was where she first introduced the hit "I Wanna Be Loved By You". In 1930 Grim Natwick introduced a caricature of Helen Kane, with droopy dog ears and a squeaky singing voice, in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes "Betty Boop" as the character was later dubbed, soon became popular and the star of her own cartoons. In 1932, Betty Boop was changed into a human with the long dog ears becoming hoop earrings.

Using Betty Boop's Image Without Permission

During Helen Kane's 1935 Brooklyn Fox appearances on stage, she used Betty Boop's image for her posters, and her appearance also featured a Betty Boop cartoon.  It was stated that Max Fleischer should have sued her, but he didn't, which allowed her to use Betty Boop's image without permission. 


Mistaken for voice of Betty Boop

When Helen made her big comeback in the 1950s Betty Boop had been long retired and forgotten. Helen Kane was mistaken for the voice of Betty Boop, she also used to sign photos of the cartoon character and hand them out to people.  Betty Boop the cartoon character was later rediscovered in the 1980s, 30 years later.

Song's copied from Kane and used for Betty

In the early 30s it was quite common for performers to use the same songs although these were delibrate. The 1980s song I Wanna Be Loved By You was more influenced by the iconic Marilyn Monroe but originated with Helen Kane in 1928 and was her signature song. Today I Wanna Be Loved By You is Betty Boop's signature song even though Betty's original theme song which was specially written for the character by Sammy Timberg is Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away.


I Have To Have You

(Helen Kane: Film Pointed Heels/Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Dizzy Dishes)

Do Something

(Helen Kane: Film Nothing But The Truth/Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Boop-Oop-a-Doop)

Dangerous Nan McGrew

(Helen Kane: Film Dangerous Nan McGrew) (Betty Boop: The Bum Bandit)

That's My Weakness Now

(Helen Kane: Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Stopping the Show)

I Wanna Be Loved By You

(Helen Kane: Victor Records) (Betty Boop: The Romance of Betty Boop (1985))

Gallery

Trivia

  • Helen's original scat lyrics was "Poop Poop Padoop" but everyone including news reporters misunderstood, so she changed her scat lyrics from Poop to Boop. Poop can clearly be heard in many of her original film appearances. 
  • Helen Kane wanted to show the judge that the defendants had made a studied imitation of her style, & her movements of the eyes and her general mannerisms and show how Betty Boop had simulated her voice and her style, but she failed with lack of evidence, and due to the recording of Baby Esther utter the scat lyrics, Although everyone knew that Betty was a caricature of Kane, including animator Grim Natwick.
  • Helen Kane was very popular in 1928-1931 she had many impersonators, including Annette Hanshaw who mimicked her on a few anonymous songs. Kate Wright who later voiced Betty Boop also imitated Kane as "The Mystery Girl" in 1929 for Columbia Records.
  • Helen also allowed the use of Impersonation by holding look and sound-a-like contests, held by herself & Paramount Publix, Mae Questel won first prize in one of Helens contests and was given a signed autograph which stated to another Kane, which allowed the use to impersonate her. It has also been stated that Kate Wright and Little Ann Little, Margie Hines and Bonnie Poe had also entered one of the contests held by Kane and Paramount.
  • Helen wanted Betty Boop stopped by injunction.
  • Helen's popularity decreased around 1933, Helen claimed other people (meaning Helen Kane impersonators, were stealing all the jobs that would have originally have gone to her.) By 1934-1935 Kane was performing back on stage and lost all her weight and retired from show business for a while and even refused to utter anymore baby talk after losing her lawsuit.
  • Helen made a comeback in MGM's Three Little Words as herself, played by Debbie Reynolds, Helen dubbed over the singing voice to her popular 1920s hit "I Wanna Be Loved By You".
  • When Helen had died in the 60s she was confused in the newspapers for being the voice of Betty Boop.
  • Helen Kane was also known as "Helen Sugar Kane" in the 1950 film "Some Like It Hot" Marilyn Monroe plays a character that was influenced by Kane, called "Sugar Kane", Marilyn then performs Helen's hit "I Wanna Be Loved By You" with Helen's actual original scat lyrics which were "Poop". 
  • In the 1980's Betty Boop made a big comeback, Helen was forgotten in time but then Cyndi Lauper brought her back and was also influnced by Helen's 1929 hit "He's So Unusual" and used it for her album "She's So Unusual".
  • When Betty Boop made a comeback in the 80s with her signature song and quote became I Wanna Be Loved By You.

External Links

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