Helen Kane

Actor, Singer
The woman best-known as the inspiration for the cartoon character Betty Boop was also a star in her own right. The tiny, plump Brooklynite was playing vaudeville with the Marx Brothers by the early 1920s, and ... Read more »
Born: 08/03/1903 in Bronx, New York, USA

Filmography

Wardrobe, Hair & Makeup (4)

I Could Read the Sky 1999 (Movie)

(Costume Designer)

Crush Proof 1998 (Movie)

(Costume Supervisor)

The Boy From Mercury 1995 (Movie)

costume assistant (Costumes)

The Sun, the Moon and the Stars 1995 (Movie)

wardrobe mistress (Wardrobe)
Actor (2)

Paramount on Parade (Movie)

Guest Star (Actor)

Three Little Words (Movie)

Singing Voice of Debbie Reynolds (Voice)
Music (1)

Pennies From Heaven 1981 (Movie)

("I Want to Be Bad") (Song Performer)

Biography

The woman best-known as the inspiration for the cartoon character Betty Boop was also a star in her own right. The tiny, plump Brooklynite was playing vaudeville with the Marx Brothers by the early 1920s, and skyrocketed to stardom in 1928 while singing at the Paramount in Times Square. Interpolating the scat lyrics "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" into the song "I Want to Be Loved By You", Kane invented a whole new style of baby-voiced singing which epitomized the endearing silliness of the Roaring 20s.

Kane became an instant phenomenon, headlining at the Palace, earning $8,000 a week, inspiring look-alike contests, dolls and hordes of imitators. "I once got $5,000 at one of those big society parties just to sing four or five choruses of 'Button Up Your Overcoat,'" she later recalled. In 1929, Paramount signed Kane to make a series of musicals, beginning with "Nothing But the Truth" (1929). She was generally the comic second banana rather than the leading lady, but she was also usually the brightest part of such films as "Sweetie" and "Pointed Heels" (both 1929), and "Heads Up!" (1930). She was one of the many stars of "Paramount on Parade" and starred as "Dangerous Nan McGrew" (both 1930).

But abruptly, her vogue had ended by 1931 and she returned to vaudeville. Not helping matters was the Fleischer cartoon Betty Boop, created in 1930 by animator Grim Natwick as an obvious caricature of Kane and using sound-alike voice-overs Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe and Margy Hines, among others. The delightful, bawdy and outrageous cartoons completely put Kane in the shade, and she sued the studio in 1932 for wrongful appropriation of her image. Amazingly, she lost the suit and retired in 1935.

Kane had a brief comeback after providing a voice-over for Debbie Reynolds in the film "Three Little Words" (1950). She had a few happy years of theater and television appearances (including a stint at the Palace in 1956 and on "The Ed Sullivan Show") before her death from cancer in 1966.

Relationships

Louis Schroeder

Brother

Daniel Healy

Husband
married 1939 till her death

Max Hoffman Jr. Actor

Husband

Joseph Kane

Husband

Milestones

1956

Played the Palace again

1950

Made comeback

1935

Retired from show business

1932

Filed suit against Fleischer Studios (lost suit in 1934)

1929

Signed with Paramount, made six films (first was "Nothing But the Truth", last was "Heads Up!")

1928

Became a star singing at the Paramount in Times Square

1921

Played the Palace for the first time

1918

Stage debut in vaudeville

Bonus Trivia

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On the origin of Boop-Boop-a-Doop: "I just put it in at one of the rehearsals. A sort of interlude. It's hard to explain--I haven't explained it to myself yet. It's like vo-de-o-do, Crosby with boo-boo-boo or Durante with cha-cha-cha." --Helen Kane, quoted in 1930s newspaper interview

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On her retirement: "I was tired worn out, and I quit. I could have gone on ... I worked too hard until I knocked myself out. It was crazy ... I was rich but I wasn't having any fun. Before I was famous I always had a good time." --Helen Kane, quoted in 1950s newspaper interview

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