Betty Boop, oh, what a doll - 2012.  Photo by: Susan Marg

Betty Boop, oh, what a doll – 2012. Photo by: Susan Marg

Betty Boop had her comeback twenty-five years ago in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Oscar-winning live-action and animation comedy in which humans and toons mix it up.

Betty’s role was small, but effective.  She runs into Eddie Valiant, a private eye she knows, played by Bob Hoskins, in a Cotton Club-like nightclub where she’s working as a cigarette girl.

“Long time no see,” she says to him.

“What are you doing here?” he wants to know.

“Works been kinda slow since cartoons went to color,” she replies with a wiggle, “But I still got it, Eddie, boop-boop-e-doop.”

“Yeah. You still got it,” he says with a wistful smile.

Yeah, she’s still got it.  She’s in black and white, just “pen and ink / she can win you with a wink,” as in her cartoons from the thirties.

She’s wearing a strapless, backless dress that exaggerates her hourglass figure.  It’s two inches shorter than her garter belt that sits high on her thigh. Her long eyelashes frame her large expressive eyes, which she uses to great effect.

Everyone loved Betty, sometimes a little too much.  But no worries. The “Poleece” rescued her when her boss made unwarranted advances. The Seven Dwarfs saved her when the Evil Queen tried to destroy her. The animals circled around to protect her when the old man in the mountain chased her up a tree.

Regardless of the situation there was always humor.  One late night her friend Bimbo came calling.

I can’t open the door now,” Betty informed him.  “I’m in my nightie.”

All right,” he replied, “I’ll wait ’til you take it off.”

In 1934 the Production Code Administration was established with authority to enforce the “Don’ts and Be Careful” guidelines prohibiting licentious or suggestive behavior.  This was a game-changer, and Betty was forced to dress as a conservative housewife.  But the music played on.

Such greats as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Don Redman, and Rubinoff and their orchestras recorded the sound tracks for the cartoons, making an appearance with their orchestras during the opening credits.  No matter where Betty was – at home, down the block, or around the world  – or whom she was with, she sang and danced.

Betty Boop’s popularity declined through the decade, and she retired in 1939.  Jessica Rabbit, voiced by Kathleen Turner, became the sexiest animated film star on the big screen. As for her character, she proclaimed, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

The same could be said of Betty.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved