Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mae Questel - Voice of Betty Boop, Olive Oyl, and Popeye too!

Mae Questel began her career in the 1920s as a stage actress. But it was her voice artistry for which she is much better known.

Ms. Questel was the voice of the 'Betty Boop' cartoon character, created by animator Max Fleischer. 'Betty Boop' was modeled after Helen Kane, a popular vaudeville singer, who'd coyly sing a little "boop-boop-a-doop" in some of her songs.

Ms. Questel did so well with that voice, Fleischer also used her talents in voicing the 'Olive Oyl' character in the 'Popeye' cartoons. She claimed to have based that voice on character actress ZaSu Pitts. As for doing the voice of 'Popeye', when the voice actor, Jack Mercer, was called into military service, she was able to do that voice, too!

I also remember her for the 'Winky Dink' cartoons she did in the 1950s. I vaguely recall watching the shows, but as I was a child then, I had no interest in who did any voices. It was years later that I became familiar with Ms. Questel's voice talent.

She also was a popular character, 'Aunt Bluebell', in a series of tv commercials for Scott Paper Towels.

Some time in the late 1960s, Ms. Questel was a guest on a local NYC tv morning show. I don't know what emboldened me at the time, but I called the tv station right after the show ended, and asked if I could speak to her. In a few minutes, she came to the phone. I think she was disappointed to hear a teen boy's voice; she was probably hoping it was a producer with a job offer. Anyway, I told her I'd always liked her voice characters, and would like to have a photo. She took down my name and address, and in a few days, I received this postcard-size photo, which she signed on the back,
"Best Boops!".

1 comment:

catsafterme said...

I met Mae Questel and talked to her quite a bit in 1986 when she was a guest at the Sons of the Desert convention that year. She came to know my name and would strike up a conversation with me every time she saw me around during the week.

It was cool to see her a few years later in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." It was like seeing one of my old friends there up on the big screen!