(Mae Questel Wiki)
|The Many Voices of Mae Questel|
Mae Questel was a voice actress best known for voicing Olive Oyl and Betty Boop. At the age of 17, she won a competition in order to select a young lady who could most successfully imitate Helen Kane's baby talk act, singing "He's So Unusual" in a "Helen Kane Impersonation Contest". 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 Vallee 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 and had the longest run for any actress doing so. During the 1930s, she released a recording of "On the Good Ship Lollipop", which sold more than two million copies. Mae also used to portray Betty in person and after a Betty Boop cartoon had been shown to a live audience, she would jump through a paper heart dressed as Betty, and also appeared on radio as Betty. most prominent was her appearance on The Shell Show, January 16, 1937. Instead of saying "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" Mae would often say Boop-Boop-"e"-Doop (to make it her own) and sometimes Boop-Boop-"Be"-Doop. The "e" can be heard clearly in some of her Boop routines. Betty's actual scat lyrics are supposed to be Boop-Oop-"a"-Doop. In the 1962 college comedy episode Gentlemen Caller, Mae plays a character called Jenny and states her fave song is "Button Up Your Overcoat." During the 1980s, Mae Questel became ill and retired, but still had a contract with King Features for Olive Oyl from the Popeye the Sailor series. In 1980, Questel was replaced by Victoria D'orazi because it was felt by New Line Cinema that Questel's voice was inappropriate for the new songs that were included. Questel was also replaced by Desirée Goyette in 1985 as the voice of Betty Boop. The 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 longtime voice. According to Desirée Goyette, Questel was contacted first but she was elderly at the time and her voice had dropped; "quite a lot actually." Mae Questel reprised her role as Betty in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, yet in 1989 she would be replaced again by Melissa Fahn. George Evelyn, the director of Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery, told a writer of a production company that he 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 she 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 sought. During the 70s and 80s, Questel used her Betty Boop voice in interviews and conventions and would occasionally perform a song made popular by Helen Kane in the "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" style. "Button Up Your Overcoat," is a song that was never performed by Betty Boop in the cartoon series, but was a popular song in the 1920s, and has been covered by a galaxy of performers, Ruth Etting was one of the latter. Mae's rendition of "Ain'tcha", from the 1932 cartoon The Betty Boop Limited in which has been heard by over 14,223,329 people is Mae's most popular "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" song to date, even surpassing Helen Kane's original version of the song. A song in which was lip-synced and went viral by a YouTuber by the name of Jbunzie, who in turn lip-synced the audio directly from an old Betty Boop Wikia YouTube channel titled Betty Boop Sings, before JBunzie lip-synced to the channel, the channel itself has already had thousands of views, but JBunzie lip-syncing to the song, made the channel blow up even more and also made her a famous YouTuber in the process and also brought attention to Mae Questel's vocal ability.
- Mae Questel: "Betty Boop'll live forever, I hope." (Motion Picture Herald, 1932)
- Mae Questel: "Max re-vamped the character, using a caricature of my own face to create Betty Boop." (The Register, 1975)
- Mae Questel: "You know, Betty Boop was always thought of as sexy but Max (her creator) would always say - She's my little girl." (The Register, 1975)
- Mae Questel: "The man who introduced us seemed to dwell longer on my likeness to Miss Kane than he did on the others, and the audience resented what it felt was partiality to me. The contest was to be decided on the cheers of the audience, and when I went on I thought that the announcer had killed my chances to win. I guess I was the most surprised person in the theater when I was selected." (The Buffalo Evening News, 1931)
- Mae Questel: "It was such fun I loved everything I did. And I loved Max, he was wonderful to me. He called me my little Betty Boop. Boopy-Doopy-Doopy-Doop-Boop-Boopy-Doop, Bop!"
- Mae Questel: "Grim Natwick was one of the head animators with Max Fleischer, and he was doing a little dog and he decidedlet's make a little girl out of her and he spoke to Max about it and before you know it, they made a face and they had me walking and doing little things and that's how she became Betty Boop."
Mae Questel: "She was different, cute and almost for real, you know? Like a little girl, or a grown up girl with a sexy look about her."
- Mae Questel: "I always acted like her, and 'I still can do her voice if I want to, you know way up,' haha! 'Boop! Boop-Oopy-Doop!' Hahaha!"
- Mae Questel: "I think it's wonderful. Everybody loves Betty Boop. In fact a producer from the coast is trying to put together some brand new Boop cartoons. She's still doing commercials in Japan. I think it's wonderful." (Boston Globe, 1980)
- Mae Questel: "I mostly did Olive Oyl and that was a lot of fun. But everywhere I went people wanted to know about Betty Boop. They have Betty Boop T-shirts and fanclubs now. People are rediscovering her and I think it's marvelous." (Boston Globe, 1980)
- Mae Questel: "If I showed you what I looked like years ago - I was cute as hell!" (NYT, 1989)
- Mae Questel: "Right after they showed a Betty Boop cartoon, I'd break through a sheet of paper and I'd be in the black dress with the garter and a big red heart." (NYT, 1989)
- Mae Questel: "Mae West never minded that I imitated her. She told me 'yer pretty good.' In fact I used to tour with her in Florida and don't ask me about the backstage goings-ons because I won't tell you." (NYT, 1989)
- Mae Questel: "In World War II when Jack Mercer the actor was in the service, someone dressed as Popeye was hired to fill in for Popeye and was brought into the RCA studio, but he got mic fright so I stepped in and did the voice for Popeye." (NYT, 1989)
- Mae Questel: "I was in a porn movie (Hot Resorts, 1985) and I didn't know it until afterwards." (NYT, 1989)
Characters voiced by Mae Questel in the Betty Boop Series
- Baby Boop (Is My Palm Read)
- Junior (The Foxy Hunter)
- Aloysius/Billy Boop (Stopping the Show and Let Me Call You Sweetheart)
- Mrs. Boop in Minnie the Moocher
- Pudgy (Panting, sound effects)
- Evil Queen in Snow White
Four Betty Boop Girls (1934)
Betty Boop (1935)
Mae Questel the Betty Boop "voice" in the popular comedy cartoon series. She is appearing this week in person at the Fox.
Mae Questel also provided the voice of Cute Kitty and Louise the Mouse in Famous Studios Herman & Katnip, Little Audrey and background voices in Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Lulu in their respective animated shorts; the Woman in the Shoe and 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 was also featured as Buzz the Bee scout in Mr. Bug Goes to Town. She continued to provide the voice for Olive Oyl in television specials and elsewhere until her death.
Songs Performed by Mae Questel as Betty Boop
- "You're Driving Me Crazy"
- "That's My Weakness Now"
- "Wanna Be A Member?"
- "I'm An Indian"
- "Hello Beautiful"
- "Keep a Little Song Handy"
- "I've Got a Cold In My Nose"
- "Foolish Facts"
- "Mean To Me"
- "Crazy Town"
- "Change Come Get Your Penny"
- "Home! Sweet Home!"
- "I Want To See My Step-Mama"
- "When I'm The President"
- "Is That the Human Thing to Do?"
- "I'm Here In My Penthouse"
- "Ha! Ha! Ha! "
- "Crazy Jingle"
- "All By Myself"
- "There's Something About A Soldier"
- "Little Pal"
- "Keep In Style"
- "Noise Noise Noise"
- "Not Now"
- "Be Human"
- "Everybody Oughta Have A Pet"
- "No! No! A Thousand Times No!!"
- "Language All My Own"
- "Over at Grampy's House"
- "It's Good For Ya"
- "New Deal for Pets"
- "Go Out & Make Friends with the World"
- "You're Not Built That Way"
- "Ya Gotta Have Pep"
- Ching Ling Choy"
- "Down In Our Alley"
- "Vote For Grampy"
- "House Cleaning Blues"
- "Be Up To Date"
Mae Questel on her Decca Recordings (1970s): Mae Questel: "You know, I'm a collector's item now. Some of the old records I made for the Decca people are now buying as collectors items.".
Recordings as The Betty Boop Girl
Shirley Temple Song Covers:
- "On the Good Ship Lollipop"
- "At The Codfish Ball"
- "The Right Somebody To Love"
- "Oh, My Goodness!"
- "Polly Wolly Doodle"
- "When I Grow Up"
- "You Gotta Eat Your Spinach Baby"
- "Animal Crackers In My Soup"
- "In Our Little Wooden Shoes"
- "On Account-A I Love You"
- "Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away"
- "The Girl In The Little Green Hat"
- "I Want You For Christmas"
- "The Wedding Of Jack and Jill"
- "Practicing The Piano"
- "Choc'late Soldier Man"
- "The Broken Record"
- "You'd Be Surprised"
- "Oh, Gee, Oh Gosh, Oh Golly I'm In Love"
- "The Music Goes Round And Around"
- "I'm a Little Teapot" & "Polly Put the Kettle On"
- Musical Justice (as Betty Boop in live-action)
- Mae Questel died in 1998 from complications related to Alzheimer'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.
- 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 have been the only voice of Betty Boop, when Betty was revived in the 1980s. She was also once credited for every cartoon released, that had been ported to VHS and DVD. She would be credited as doing over 100 cartoons as Betty.
- Questel 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.
- Questel'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 perhaps best known as "Aunt Bluebell" in the 1970s Scott Towels paper towel commercials, and as Aunt Bethany in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
- Mae Questel is often mistaken for Bonnie Poe in Hollywood on Parade No. A-8.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, her voice was pitched higher as her natural voice had dropped.
- The Attractive Prize Winning Boop Boop a Doop Girl (1929)
- Diminutive Bronx Elocution Teacher (1929)
- Contest Gave Chance to Star (1931)
- Betty Boop Visits Store Here and Entertains Crowd (1932)
- Betty Boop and Her Gang Have Bright Radio Future (1933)
- Five Betty Boops Silent In Court (1934)
- Boopers To Boop (1934)
- Boop Vs Boop May the Best Boop Win (1934)
- Featured Screen and In Person (1934)
- Are Helen Kane and Mae Questel One and the Same? (1935)
- Betty Boop of the Cartoons Tells Tales on Mae Questel (1935)
- TV's Voice of Experience (1957)
- Mae Questel, Actress, Voice Of Betty Boop, Olive Oyl (1998)
- Voice of Betty Boop Dies (1998)
- Mae Questel Wiki
- Mae Questel Gallery