Paramount Helen Kane Look & Sound-alike Contests
Helen Kane sponsored imitation contests with Paramount. In some of the earlier contests, each of the voices of Betty Boop won first place. Margie Hines won first place held in a local cinema 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 received an autograph from Helen Kane which read "To Another Me", and won a prize of $100. She was later seen by Max Fleischer, who 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 Kane and several others entered contests, winning first place. According to Jo Miller's granddaughter, her grandmother entered one of the contests to do the voice for Betty Boop but came second. The Helen Kane contests ran from 1928 to 1938. The age range to enter was 6-18.
In 1932 Helen Kane launched a three way lawsuit against the Fleischer Studios & the Paramount-Publix Corporation claiming that they had stolen her style.
Films featuring Kane used in court as evidence were Pointed Heels (1929) - Dizzy Dishes (1930), Nothing But the Truth (1929) - Boop-Oop-a-Doop (1932), Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930) - The Bum Bandit - (1931) parallel to that of the Betty Boop films. $250,000 Infringement Lawsuit for more details.
Helen Kane Comic Strip
Helen Kane depicted in cartoon form.
Another cartoon caricature of Kane by Bernard Schmittke.
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 (Questel) I'll drop the suit. Fleischer, 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 series. In 1932, Betty 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 thought that Max Fleischer should have sued her, but he did not, which allowed her to use Betty Boop's image without permission.
Mistaken for voice of Betty Boop
When Helen Kane made her big comeback in the 1950s, Betty Boop had been long retired and forgotten. 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.
Songs copied from Kane and used for Betty
In the early 30s, it was quite common for many performers to use the same songs, although these were delibrate. The 1980s song "I Wanna Be Loved By You" featured in The Romance of Betty Boop was more influenced by the iconic Marilyn Monroe, but originated with 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 especially written for the character by Sammy Timberg, is "Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away".
(Helen Kane: Film Pointed Heels/Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Dizzy Dishes)
(Helen Kane: Film Nothing But The Truth/Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Boop-Oop-a-Doop)
(Helen Kane: Film Dangerous Nan McGrew) (Betty Boop: The Bum Bandit)
(Helen Kane: Victor Records) (Betty Boop: Stopping the Show)
(Helen Kane: Victor Records) (Betty Boop: The Romance of Betty Boop)
- Kane's original scat lyrics were "Poop Poop Padoop", but everyone including news reporters misunderstood, so she changed her lyrics from Poop to Boop. "Poop" can clearly be heard in many of her original film appearances.
- Kane wanted to show the judge that the defendants had made a studied imitation of her style, eye movements and general mannerisms, and how Betty Boop had simulated her voice and style, but she failed due to lack of evidence and the recording of Baby Esther uttering the scat lyrics. However, everyone knew that Betty was a caricature of Kane, including animator Grim Natwick.
- Since 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.
- Kane also allowed for her impersonation by holding look and sound-a-like contests, held by herself & Paramount Publix. Mae Questel won first prize in one of the contests and was given a signed autograph which stated "To another Kane", which allowed the use to impersonate her. It has also been attested that Kate Wright, Little Ann Little, Margie Hines and Bonnie Poe also entered one of the contests held by Kane and Paramount.
- Kane wanted Betty Boop stopped by injunction.
- Kane's popularity had decreased by 1933. She 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, lost much weight and retired from showbusiness for a period, and even refused to utter any more "baby talk" after losing her lawsuit.
- Kane made a comeback in MGM's Three Little Words as herself, embodied by Debbie Reynolds while dubbing over the singing voice to her 1920s hit "I Wanna Be Loved By You".
- When Helen Kane died in 1966, 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"; there, Monroe performs Kane's hit "I Wanna Be Loved By You" with the latter's actual original scat lyrics, which were "Poop".
- In the 1980s, Betty Boop made a big comeback. Kane was forgotten to time, but then Cyndi Lauper brought her back and was also influnced by Kane's 1929 hit "He's So Unusual" and used it for her album "She's So Unusual".
- When Betty Boop made her 1980s comeback, her signature song and quote became "I Wanna Be Loved By You".