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Famous Like Me > Singer > K > Helen Kane

Profile of Helen Kane on Famous Like Me

Name: Helen Kane  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 26th September 1903
Place of Birth:
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Helen Kane (August 4, 1903 - September 26, 1966) was an American popular singer, best known for her "boop-boop-a-doop" trademark and her signature song, "I Wanna Be Loved By You". Fleischer Studios animator Grim Natwick used Kane as the model for his studio's most famous creation, Betty Boop.


Early Life

During her childhood, a young Helen Schroder attended St. Auselin’s in the Bronx. Her German father's employment was questionable at times and her Irish mother was into laundry. By the time she was 15, Helen was onstage professionally, touring the Orpheum Circuit with the Marx brothers. Helen spent the early 1920's trouping in vaudeville as a singer, playing the New York Palace for the first time in 1921. In the mid-1920’s Helen married department store buyer Joseph Kane and took his last name professionally. By 1928 the marriage had ended in divorce.



Helen Kane's first performance at the Paramount Theater in Times Square proved to be her defining moment and career's launching point. Kane was singing the popular song “That’s My Weakness Now,” when she interpolated the scat lyrics “boop-boop-be-doop.” The rather odd gamble paid off, and four days later, Helen Kane’s name went up in lights. Overnight, the world changed for Helen. Kane’s agent Harry Besney got her $5,500 a week in Oscar Hammerstein’s show “Good Boy” (where she introduced her hit, “I Want to Be Loved By You”). From there it was back to the Palace, but this time as a headliner for $5000 a week.

Cult Following & Betty Boop

As she took on the status of a singing sensation, there were Helen Kane dolls and Helen Kane look-alike contests, appearances on radio and in nightclubs. In late 1928 and early 1929 this cult following had reached its peak. Helen Kane's height (about 5 feet tall) and slightly plump figure attracted attention and fans. Her round face with its huge brown eyes was topped by black, curly hair; her voice was a baby squeak with a distinct Bronx accent. Audiences found Helen adorable.

In 1930, Fleischer Studios decided to cash in on Helen’s popularity. They assigned staff animator Grim Natwick to come up with a girlfriend for Bimbo the Dog; the result was a caricature of Helen Kane, with droopy dog ears and a squeaky singing voice. “Betty Boop,” as the character was dubbed, became an instant smash hit and the star of her own cartoons. By 1932, she became human, her long ears turning into loop earrings.

The Betty Boop cartoons of the early 1930’s (before censorship set in) were brilliant, exhibiting a sexuality and dark surrealism missing from Disney’s films. Kane took notice, viewing Betty Boop as competition.


In mid-1929, Paramount Pictures signed Helen to make a series of musicals. Her first of three 1929 films was "Nothing But the Truth", a comedy starring Richard Dix. From there Kane went into a college musical, "Sweetie", which starred Nancy Carroll and Stanley Smith. "Paramount on Parade", "Dangerous Nan McGrew", and "Heads Up!" were her last films.

Fleischer v. Kane

In 1932, she filed a $250,000 suit against Max Fleischer, charging unfair competition and wrongful appropriation in the Betty Boop cartoons. The trial dragged on for two years, Helen Kane and Betty Boop films being screened by Judge McGoldrick (no jury was called). Betty Boop voice-overs Mae Questel, Margy Hines and Bonnie Poe were brought in to testify. McGoldrick ruled against Helen in 1934, claiming that Kane's testimony could not prove that her singing style was unique or not an imitation itself. After the case, she faded into obscurity.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Helen Kane