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Helen Kane

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Also Known As: Helen Schroeder Died: September 26, 1966
Born: August 4, 1903 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: actor, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The woman best-known as the inspiration for the cartoon character Betty Boop was also a star in her own right. The tiny, plump Brooklynite was playing vaudeville with the Marx Brothers by the early 1920s, and skyrocketed to stardom in 1928 while singing at the Paramount in Times Square. Interpolating the scat lyrics "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" into the song "I Want to Be Loved By You", Kane invented a whole new style of baby-voiced singing which epitomized the endearing silliness of the Roaring 20s.Kane became an instant phenomenon, headlining at the Palace, earning $8,000 a week, inspiring look-alike contests, dolls and hordes of imitators. "I once got $5,000 at one of those big society parties just to sing four or five choruses of 'Button Up Your Overcoat,'" she later recalled. In 1929, Paramount signed Kane to make a series of musicals, beginning with "Nothing But the Truth" (1929). She was generally the comic second banana rather than the leading lady, but she was also usually the brightest part of such films as "Sweetie" and "Pointed Heels" (both 1929), and "Heads Up!" (1930). She was one of the many stars of "Paramount on Parade" and starred as "Dangerous Nan McGrew" (both 1930).But abruptly, her vogue...

The woman best-known as the inspiration for the cartoon character Betty Boop was also a star in her own right. The tiny, plump Brooklynite was playing vaudeville with the Marx Brothers by the early 1920s, and skyrocketed to stardom in 1928 while singing at the Paramount in Times Square. Interpolating the scat lyrics "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" into the song "I Want to Be Loved By You", Kane invented a whole new style of baby-voiced singing which epitomized the endearing silliness of the Roaring 20s.

Kane became an instant phenomenon, headlining at the Palace, earning $8,000 a week, inspiring look-alike contests, dolls and hordes of imitators. "I once got $5,000 at one of those big society parties just to sing four or five choruses of 'Button Up Your Overcoat,'" she later recalled. In 1929, Paramount signed Kane to make a series of musicals, beginning with "Nothing But the Truth" (1929). She was generally the comic second banana rather than the leading lady, but she was also usually the brightest part of such films as "Sweetie" and "Pointed Heels" (both 1929), and "Heads Up!" (1930). She was one of the many stars of "Paramount on Parade" and starred as "Dangerous Nan McGrew" (both 1930).

But abruptly, her vogue had ended by 1931 and she returned to vaudeville. Not helping matters was the Fleischer cartoon Betty Boop, created in 1930 by animator Grim Natwick as an obvious caricature of Kane and using sound-alike voice-overs Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe and Margy Hines, among others. The delightful, bawdy and outrageous cartoons completely put Kane in the shade, and she sued the studio in 1932 for wrongful appropriation of her image. Amazingly, she lost the suit and retired in 1935.

Kane had a brief comeback after providing a voice-over for Debbie Reynolds in the film "Three Little Words" (1950). She had a few happy years of theater and television appearances (including a stint at the Palace in 1956 and on "The Ed Sullivan Show") before her death from cancer in 1966.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930) Dangerous Nan McGrew
2.
 Heads Up (1930) Betty Trumbull
3.
 Pointed Heels (1929) Dot Nixon
4.
 Sweetie (1929) Helen Fry
5.
 Nothing But the Truth (1929) Mabel Jackson
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1918:
Stage debut in vaudeville
1921:
Played the Palace for the first time
1928:
Became a star singing at the Paramount in Times Square
1929:
Signed with Paramount, made six films (first was "Nothing But the Truth", last was "Heads Up!")
1932:
Filed suit against Fleischer Studios (lost suit in 1934)
1935:
Retired from show business
1950:
Made comeback
1956:
Played the Palace again
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

On the origin of Boop-Boop-a-Doop: "I just put it in at one of the rehearsals. A sort of interlude. It's hard to explain--I haven't explained it to myself yet. It's like vo-de-o-do, Crosby with boo-boo-boo or Durante with cha-cha-cha." --Helen Kane, quoted in 1930s newspaper interview

On her retirement: "I was tired worn out, and I quit. I could have gone on ... I worked too hard until I knocked myself out. It was crazy ... I was rich but I wasn't having any fun. Before I was famous I always had a good time." --Helen Kane, quoted in 1950s newspaper interview

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Joseph Kane. Department store buyer. Briefly married in mid-1920s.
husband:
Max Hoffman Jr. Actor. Son of dancer Gertrude Hoffman; married February 1, 1933.
husband:
Daniel Healy. Restaurateur, singer. Married 1939 till her death.

Family close complete family listing

brother:
Louis Schroeder.

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