A Year: Day to Day Men: 9th of August, Solar Year 2018

Sleep Position Number Eight

On August 9, 1930, Betty Boop makes her first appearance in film.

Betty Boop made her first appearance in the cartoon “Dizzy Dishes”, the seventh installment in producer Max Fleischer’s Talkartoon series. Although Clara Bow is often given as being the model for Boop, she actually began as a caricature of singer Helen Kane, who in turn gained fame by imitating the style of black singer Baby Esther Jones. Betty Boop appeared as a supporting character in ten cartoons as a flapper girl with more heart than brains. Betty Boop’s voice was first performed by Margie Hines; but the voice most known was done by Mae Questel who voiced Betty from 1931 until 1938.

Betty Boop is regarded as one of the first and most famous sex symbols on the animated screen; she is a symbol of the depression era, and a reminder of the more carefree days of the Jazz age flappers. Her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences, and the cartoons, while seemingly surreal, contained many sexual and psychological elements, particularly in the 1932 Talkartoon “Minnie the Moocher”, featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra.

Betty Boop was unique among female cartoon characters because she represented a sexual woman. Many other female cartoons were merely clones of their male co-stars, with alterations in costume, the addition of eyelashes, and a female voice. Betty Boop wore short dresses, high heels, a garter, and her breasts were highlighted with a low, contoured bodice that showed cleavage.

Betty Boop’s best appearances are considered to be in her 1930 -1933 years due to her “Jazz Baby” character and innocent sexuality, which was aimed at adults. However, the content of her films was affected by the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code of 1934. This production code imposed guidelines on the Motion Picture Industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos, thus greatly affecting the Betty Boop cartoons. Joseph Breen, the new head film censor, ordered the removal of the suggestive introduction which had started the cartoons because Betty Boop’s winks and shaking hips were deemed “suggestive of immorality”.

While these “restricted” cartoons were tame compared to Betty Boop’s earlier appearances, their self-conscious wholesomeness was aimed at a more juvenile audience, which contributed to the decline of the series. Much of the decline was due to the lessening of Betty’s role in favor of her less suggestive cartoon co-stars. The last Betty Boop cartoons were released in 1939, with Betty making a total of 110 cartoon appearances in her early career.

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