Helen Kane and Betty Boop: On Stage and on Trial

Helen Kane and Betty Boop: On Stage and on Trial

Helen Kane and Betty Boop: On Stage and on Trial

Helen Kane and Betty Boop: On Stage and on Trial

Synopsis

Betty Boop has been a beloved character since the 1930s. The quintessential flapper, her character was based on a handful of popular performers, and fans are still arguing who was the principal model. Helen Kane was a major inspiration for the unmistakable image of Betty Boop.Here, historian James D. Taylor has painstakingly accumulated all the facts that can be found about her life and her performing career - and these details make for an interesting story in themselves. In addition, he gained access to the official transcript of the trial that was a pivotal event in Kane's life. Too many short, inaccurate biographies have been published that incorrectly quote from that trial. Through documentary evidence, James Taylor provides a look into the life of a wonderful woman who was a primary inspiration in giving us the image of Betty Boop and the contributions she made to American pop culture.Helen Kane was a talented performer, dedicated to her work, and she remained active until the last ten years of her life. While Mae Questel was the vocal artist whose distinctive voice helped make Betty Boop a favorite character remembered by millions, it's the image of Betty Boop that is most recognizable. She would not look the way she does if it had not been for the performances of Helen Kane. Many know of Betty Boop, but not the story behind the sexy little icon of a by-gone era. This book aims to fill that gap in our knowledge.Those who do know of Helen Kane are aware of the controversy that broke out and became a major court case. Many performers contributed to the creation of the composite character we know as Betty Boop; Helen Kane most assiduously sought to be, and to be recognized as, the most important of them all.

Excerpt

While accumulating information for my biography about Mae Questel, I encountered too many inconsistent bits of information about Helen Kane. These include her marriage to Max Fleischer and their children. (That is perhaps the most far-fetched example I can share). As with all the biographies that I have written, I attempt to embody all known facts in one reference source. For someone to tell the story of Helen Schroeder (later she retained her first husband’s name, Kane) is long overdue. Betty Boop is known worldwide, but how many have heard of Helen Kane and of her influence on Betty Boop’s creators and this book will set out to change that.

As I attempt to show in this book, Helen’s very fast rise to fame (within only a couple of years, 1928 to 1930), put her in the “spotlight” for everyone to see, read, and hear about at a point in time when “talkies,” or talking motion pictures, were new, and competition was fierce for roles. This also occurred during the “Black Tuesday” stock market crash, the Great Depression, and Prohibition era when so many lives were filled with despair. As her popularity grew, so, too, did her salary. One example mentions that she was earning $1,800 a week for single performance, another alludes to $25,000 for a movie performance, and another discusses a $2,000 payment for a ten-minute radio appearance. By 1930, it was estimated that she had earned $210,000, and this does not include royalties from phonograph record sales.

Intoxicated by her new fame, Helen made a few impetuous decisions; nevertheless, her popularity skyrocketed. Helen would have been no exception to being captured in a caricature (the comic or satiric portrait of a person based on exaggerated physical traits), which was extremely popular after World War I, and I hope to show that Fleischer Studios would have wanted to monopolize on her . . .

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