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.