Sunday, July 23, 2017

Betty Boop Meets Ethel Merman

Yes, while it wasn't meant for two megastars as big as Betty Boop and Ethel Merman to share scenes on the silver screen - that was simply not meant to be - the two showbiz icons did share billing in a few Fleischer Studio Screen Songs cartoons. The first was made in 1932 and released theatrically on May 20th of that year. Just follow the bouncing ball, dear readers.

Ms. Merman preceded her appearances in Fleischer cartoons by starring in a series of Paramount 1-reel musical shorts. The first features her bravura performance of "Sing, You Sinners." She did not appear in the extremely imaginative Fleischer Studios Talkartoon that also featured the song.

Knowing an up-and-coming performer when they saw one, Paramount and the Fleischer Studio featured Ms. Merman in three more Screen Song cartoons in 1932-1933.

Betty Boop was very much a featured player in both the Talkartoons and Screen Songs series, starting in 1930.

Our favorite of the group by far is Time On My Hands. Familiar with this song from Billie Holiday's 1940 version, we find that Ms. Merman also does a fine job interpreting those dreamy lyrics . . . "time on my hands - you in my arms."

And Betty Boop, as the mermaid, was never more charming.

After Song Shopping (1933), the last of the three Screen Song cartoons featuring Ethel Merman, in this case accompanied on piano by songwriter Johnny Green, the Paramount Pictures feature films unit cast the show-stopping vocalist in the Bing Crosby - Carole Lombard vehicle We're Not Dressing.

Betty Boop? Soon would be reduced to a pale and syrupy shadow of her former saucy self by rigid enforcement of the Production Code, which went into effect on July 1, 1934.

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