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Mae Questel

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Mae Questel
Mae questel

Name

Mae Kwestel, Mae Questel

Mae Questel was a voice actress best known for voicing Olive Oyl & Betty Boop. At the age of 17 by winning a competition that was held in the RKO Fordham Theater in order to select a young lady who could most successfully imitate Helen Kane's baby talk act, Cartoon filmmaker Max Fleischer saw Questel's impersonation of Helen Kane in 1931 and asked her to use it for his cartoon creation Betty Boop. The character, which began life as a cartoon dog with Kane-like affectations, had already been voiced by various actresses, most notably Margie Hines, Little Ann Little, Bonnie Poe, and Kate Wright. Each of these actresses utilized Kane's flirty, babydoll voice and catchphrase "boop-oop-a-doop," but it was Questel who made Betty Boop a media phenomenon. A better singer and improviser than her predecessors, she also modeled for Fleischer's animators who based many of the character's emerging physical quirks on Questel's own mannerisms. Indeed, Questel told Leslie Cabarga, author of The Fleischer Story , "I actually lived the part of Betty Boop; walked, talked, everything! It took me a long time to sort of lower my voice and get away from the character." She began in vaudeville, and played occasional small roles in films and television later in her career, most notably the role of Aunt Bethany in 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . Over the years she played a number of small parts, including appearing with Rudy Valle as Betty Boop in the 1931 short Musical Justice and as a nurse in The Musical Doctor in 1932. From 1931 until 1938, Questel provided the voice of Betty Boop and was the longest run for any actress doing the voice of Betty. During the 1930's she released a recording of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" which sold more than two million copies.

RetirementEdit

During the 80's Mae Questel became ill and retired but still had a contract with King Features for Olive Oyl from the Popeye the Sailorman series. 

  • In 1980 Mae was replaced by Victoria D'orazi because it was felt by New Line Cinema that Mae Questel’s voice was inappropriate for the new songs that were included.
  • Mae was replaced by Desirée Goyette in 1985 as the voice of Betty Boop. Reason for this was that Bill Melendez commented that he had planned to animate the character better than the Fleischer artists ever had. He stated that he had no plans to hire any of the original animators who had worked on the original shorts, nor would he consider using Mae Questel, Betty's long time voice.
  • According to Desiree Goyette, Questel was contacted first but she was elderly at the time and her voice had dropped "quite alot actually".
  • Mae reprised her role as Betty in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit'  but in 1989 Mae was replaced by Melissa Fahn in 1989. George Evelyn the show's director told a writer of a production company that she wanted to re-create the Fleischer look and did so in part with the help of Richard Fleischer who supplied materials from the family archives.  Everlyn had wanted to use Mae Questel for Betty's voice but Mae was busy filming Woody Allen's segment of "New York Stories". Evelyn launched a series of auditions, and in true "Hollywood" fashion the secretary (Melissa Fahn) at the recording studio that was producing copies of the audition tapes had the voice Evelyn wanted.
  •  During the 70's & 80's Mae used her Betty Boop voice in interviews and conventions and would occasionally perform a song made popular by Helen Kane "Button Up Your Overcoat", a song which was never performed by Betty Boop in the cartoon series.

Characters voiced by Mae Questel in the Betty Boop SeriesEdit

Other WorkEdit

Mae Questel also provided the voice of Felix the Cat in three shorts produced by Van Beuren Studios, and Cute Kitty & Louise the Mouse in Famous Studio's "Herman & Katnip". Little Audrey and Casper the friendly ghost in their respective animated shorts. The Woman in the Shoe & Little Bo Peep in color classics. In the 1950s, she was the voice for the title character of the pioneering interactive Saturday-morning cartoon series Winky Dink and You. Questel's final film was a voice cameo appearance in Felix the Cat: The Movie. She continued to provide the voice for Olive Oyl in television specials and elsewhere until her death.

DeathEdit

  • Mae Questel died in 1998 from complications related to Alzhimer's disease at the age of 89 in New York City. She was buried in West Babylon, New York's New Montefiore Cemetery. She had two sons, Robert Balkin, who pre-deceased her, and Richard, who survived her.

FilmographyEdit

1931

1932

1933

Snow White

1934

Betty Boop's Rise to Fame

1935

1936

1937

1938

1989

TriviaEdit

  • Questel had a withered arm; in her on-camera film appearances, she was usually photographed with elbows bent and both hands at her waist or holding an object in the crook of her elbow to make it less obvious that one arm was shorter and smaller than the other.
  • Mae Questel was once thought to be the only voice of Betty Boop, when Betty was revived in the 80's.
  • Mae had embarked upon a career in teaching when some of her friends, knowing her to be a natural mimic, entered her in a Helen Kane impersonation contest at the RKO Fordham Theater where Miss Helen Kane was appearing.
  • Mae's dead-on mimicry earned her a contract with the RKO vaudeville circuit which finally kicked off her professional career of voice-acting.
  • Mae Questel is probably best known as "Aunt Blue Bell" in the 70's paper towel commercials and as the Aunt Bethany in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
  • Mae Questel was often mistaken for Bonnie Poe in Hollywood On Parade A8.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit her voice had been pitched up as her voice had dropped.

GalleryEdit

See AlsoEdit

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