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Betty Boop, M.D.

Though it never received the same notoriety and recognition as "Snow White" or "Bimbo's Initiation", "Betty Boop, M.D." deserves the place among the best Betty Boop cartoons. This cartoon released on 2nd September 1932 and animated by Willard Bowsky's unit, is certainly one of the weirdest and most surreal entries in Betty Boop's entire filmography. Some people find it rather unsettling and disturbing, especially because of the ending. It's a cult favorite, and definitely not the kiddie stuff :)

Betty, KoKo and Bimbo are having a travelling medicine show, selling Jippo - a miracle cure for every known ailment.

Some of the miraculous benefits of Jippo:

Who wants to buy Jippo?

"If you're feeling wealthy, and want to be healthy,
Now's the time to buy Jippo..."

Now the things are starting to get *really* weird...

Bimbo's song "Nobody's Sweetheart" (with lyrics about a prostitute) is followed by some delightfully deranged "effin" scat singing. This final part of cartoon is a truly amazing marriage of music, animation and crazy gags in the best Fleischers tradition.
There's some debate about a recording artist who performed the singing and vocal effects. For many years, the voice used to be credited to Cliff Edwards aka "Ukulele Ike", known to animation fans also as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney's Pinocchio. This was never fully confirmed, and it's now believed that a Cliff Edwards impersonator is responsible for singing. Some sources claim it's William Costello, who will a year later become the first voice of Popeye. That's a very good possibility especially since a proto-Popeye voice is briefly heard during this section.

And now... the infamous ending.

By the way, this is not a racist caricature as some people claim. Baby's transformation is a direct reference to "Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde", a movie adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel with Fredric March in the title role(s). This excellent film released in early 1932 became a huge hit for Paramount, the same studio that distributed Fleischer's cartoons.

Now you can watch the whole cartoon, though the YouTube video quality doesn't really give it a justice:


Do you want to see a complete Betty Boop collection released on DVD? "Lions Gate Home Entertainment" is a company that currently holds the video rights for Betty Boop cartoons. Unfortunately, they don't have plans to release Betty or any other Fleischer cartoons in their possession (Talkartoons, Screen Songs, Color Classics). However, there might be a possibility for another company to licence this material from Lion's Gate.
"Shout! Factory" is a very good independent company that made great job with their music, TV and cartoon collections. The company is taking requests and suggestions for the possible future releases, and one thing that you can do is to join their forum, and give a vote for the classic cartoon collections. There are already several threads dedicated to Betty Boop and Terrytoons. This worthy initiative was started at GAC forums two weeks ago.


And finally, here's my own tribute to Betty Boop and Fleischer cartoons. It's a drawing I made for The Autumn Society of Philadelphia's upcoming Golden age of Comics and Animation art show. Click the picture to see it in full size on my blog HammersonLand:

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