Helen Kane is one of an elite group of performers, the essence of whose entire careers can be captured with a simple, silly, and catchy expression.
"Boop-boop-be-doop!" does it for Kane, just like "I can't get no satisfaction" sums up Mick Jagger. It is a pity that these two careers have little else in common; how nice it would be, for example, if a cartoon character based on some aspect of Jagger's personality had become much more famous than Jagger himself. That's just what happened with Betty Boop and Kane, but it was not the singer who actually worked the voice of the flapper-cartoon heroine. The Boop-scoop, so to speak, was provided by a performer named Mae Questal, first-place winner in a contest to imitate the sound of Kane's voice.
Like many performers burdened with one overwhelming association, Kane's career was actually much more diverse. She was involved with show business for much of her life, not only as a singer but also as an actress in the early-'30s Hollywood films, and a costume designer as well. Kane was a Bronx gal whose real name was Helen Schroeder. Some mildly amusing siblings known as the Marx Brothers were the ones who got her started in show business; she was 17 at the time. She began appearing in Broadway musicals in 1927, and a 1928 show entitled Good Boy was the source of the "boop-boop-be-doop," a musical request entitled "I Wanna Be Loved by You," specifically. An aspect of her approach to the song, delivering it in a toddler's voice, in turn became a stylistic trademark of some of the so-called "flapper" tuneage created by singers such as Kane and Annette Hanshaw.
The character of Betty Boop evolved out of all this while Kane was a contract player at the Paramount studio, also the home of animation genius Max Fleischer. It wasn't he who first drew the character, however. The original animator, the pleasant-sounding Grim Natwick, supposedly created Betty Boop by combining attributes of Kane and a French poodle! In a 1950 film biography of "I Want to Be Loved by You" songwriters Kalmar & Ruby, the part of Kane was played by none other than Debbie Reynolds, but it is actually Kane's voice providing the "boop-boop-be-doop." ~ Eugene Chadbourne