Helen Kane

Helen Kane (born Helen Clare Schroeder, August 4, 1904[1] – September 26, 1966) was an American singer. Her signature song was "I Wanna Be Loved by You". Kane's voice and appearance were a source for Fleischer Studios animator Grim Natwick when creating Betty Boop.

Helen Kane
Helen Kane
Kane in 1929
Helen Clare Schroeder

August 4, 1904
DiedSeptember 26, 1966 (aged 62)
Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, U.S.
Cause of deathBreast cancer
Resting placeLong Island National Cemetery, Suffolk County, New York
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1921–1950s
Joseph Kane
(m. 1924; div. 1928)

Max Hoffman, Jr.
(m. 1933; div. 1935)

Daniel Healy
(m. 1939)

Early life

Kane attended St. Anselm's Parochial School in the Bronx. She was the youngest of three children. Her father, Louis Schroeder, the son of a German immigrant, was employed intermittently; her Irish immigrant mother, Ellen (born Dixon) Schroeder, worked in a laundry.

Kane's mother reluctantly paid $3 for her daughter's costume as a queen in Kane's first theatrical role at school. By the time she was 15 years old, Kane was onstage professionally, touring the Orpheum Circuit with the Marx Brothers in On the Balcony.[2]

She spent the early 1920s trouping in vaudeville as a singer and kickline dancer with a theater engagement called the "All Jazz Revue". She played the New York Palace for the first time in 1921. Her Broadway days started there as well with the Stars of the Future (1922–24, and a brief revival in early 1927). She also sang onstage with an early singing trio, the Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce, later known as The Three X Sisters.

Kane's roommate in the early 1920s was Jessie Fordyce. The singing trio act might have become the Hamilton Sisters and Schroeder; however, Pearl Hamilton chose Fordyce to tour as a trio act "just to see what happens" at the end of the theatrical season.


Kane's career break came in 1927, when she appeared in a musical called A Night in Spain. It ran from May 3, 1927, through Nov 12, 1927, for a total of 174 performances, at the 44th Street Theatre in NYC. Subsequently, Paul Ash, a band conductor, put Kane's name forward for a performance at New York's Paramount Theater.

Kane's first performance at the Paramount Theater in Times Square proved to be her career's launching point. She was singing "That's My Weakness Now", when she interpolated the scat lyrics "boop-boop-a-doop". This resonated with the flapper culture, and four days later, Helen Kane's name went up in lights.

Oscar Hammerstein’s 1928 show Good Boy was where she first introduced the hit "I Wanna Be Loved by You". Then it was back to the Palace, as a headliner for $5,000 a week. She rejoined her friends from vaudeville, The Three X Sisters (formerly The Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce) for one night. In a 1935 live stage performance, she harmonized with their unique banter to a novelty tune, "The Preacher and the Bear".

Kane had excellent diction, intonation, and timing, learned during her apprenticeship in vaudeville. Her songs have a strong word focus and capitalize on her coquettish voice. She blended several fashionable styles of the late 1920s. These included scat singing, a kind of vocal improvisation, and also blending singing and speech. Sprechgesang ("speech-song") was fashionable at this time in Germany's Weimar Republic in both nightclubs and in serious music.

Kane recorded 22 songs between 1928 and 1930. After 1930 and up to 1951, she recorded four sides for Columbia Records in addition to the "Three Little Words" soundtrack single recording of "I Wanna Be Loved by You".[3] She also recorded four songs that comprise a 1954 MGM 45Ep entitled "The Boop Boop a Doop Girl".


In mid-1929, Paramount Pictures signed Kane to make a series of musicals at a salary of as much as $8,000 a week (equivalent to over $160,000 in 2009).

Her films were:

Although Helen was not the "star" of most of her pictures (with Dangerous Nan McGrew being the one exception) she was so popular that in the case of Sweetie, her name appeared over the title on the marquee when the movie premiered at the New York Paramount (although Nancy Carroll was the true star). Helen provided all the fun and she and Jack Oakie danced to "The Prep Step", a big hit along with "He's So Unusual". They even performed this dance at the very first Hollywood Bowl fundraiser in 1929.[4] Another hit from this picture was Nancy Carroll's "My Sweeter Than Sweet".

In the opening credits of Pointed Heels, Helen and William Powell are billed on the same line just below the title, with Fay Wray and the rest in smaller letters underneath. She had equal billing with Buddy Rogers in Heads Up! and it is their faces which appeared in all the ads. And in Dangerous Nan McGrew, Helen received top billing in the film's credits.

Fleischer v. Kane

Helen Kane and Betty Boop - Photoplay, April 1932
This comparison between Kane and Betty Boop was published in Photoplay's April 1932 issue, one month before the lawsuit.

In 1930, Fleischer Studios animator Grim Natwick introduced what was alleged to be a caricature of Helen Kane,[5] with droopy dog ears and a squeaky singing voice, in the Talkartoons cartoon Dizzy Dishes. "Betty Boop", as the character was later dubbed, soon became popular and the star of her own cartoons. In 1932, Betty Boop was changed into a human, the long dog ears becoming hoop earrings.

In 1932, Helen filed a $250,000 infringement lawsuit against Max Fleischer & Paramount for unfair competition and exploitation of her personality and image. Before his death, cartoonist Grim Natwick admitted he had designed a young girl based upon a photo of Kane. Margie Hines, Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe, Little Ann Little, and Kate Wright provided the voice for Betty Boop. They had all taken part in a 1929 Paramount contest, which was a search for Helen Kane impersonators.

It was later proven in court that Kane based her style in part on Baby Esther, an African American singer and entertainer of the late 1920s who was known for her "baby" singing style. Baby Esther performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and theatrical manager Lou Walton testified during the Fleischer v. Kane trial that Helen Kane saw Baby Esther's cabaret act in 1928 with him and appropriated Jones' style of singing, changing the interpolated words "boo-boo-boo" and "doo-doo-doo" to "boop-boop-a-doop" in a recording of "I Wanna Be Loved By You". Kane never publicly admitted this.

Testimony was offered in court to convey the impression that Helen Kane adopted Baby Esther's boops to further her own popularity as a singer. Baby Esther made funny expressions and interpolated meaningless sounds at the end of each bar of music in her songs. Kane was nevertheless known as the "Boop" girl.[6] In April 1928 Miss Kane and her manager attended a performance of Baby Esther in a New York night club and just a few weeks later began to "boop" at a theatre.[7] When Kane attempted to sue Fleischer Studios for using her persona, the studios defended themselves by arguing that Kane herself had taken it from "Baby Esther" Jones. An early test sound film of Baby Esther's performance was used as evidence.

Later years

With the hardships of the Great Depression biting, the flamboyant world of the flapper was over, and Kane's style began to date rapidly. After 1931 she lost the favor of the moviemakers, who chose other singers for their films. She appeared in a stage production called Shady Lady in 1933, and made appearances at various nightclubs and theatres during the 1930s.

In 1950 she dubbed Debbie Reynolds, who performed "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in the MGM musical biopic of songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, Three Little Words. She did not appear in the film's credits.

She appeared on several TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s, principally Toast of the Town, later known as The Ed Sullivan Show. Kane's final public appearance was on the Sullivan Show on St. Patrick's Day 1965.

In addition, she was given overdue tribute in 1958, on This is Your Life with Ralph Edwards. It brought a tearful reunion with Helen's old friend, actress Fifi D'Orsay, and a lifelong fan who once sent her money when she was down on her luck. Renewed interest in Helen brought her a one-record contract with MGM Records and appearances on I've Got a Secret and You Asked for It. She sang on all of these TV shows.

Personal life

In November 1924, Helen Schroeder married department store buyer Joseph Kane and took his last name professionally. The marriage was over by 1925, ended in 1928, and Helen went to Mexico to get a final divorce in December 1932. In February 1933 she married an actor, Max Hoffman Jr. After six months he deserted her and Helen filed for divorce. The divorce was finalized in May 1935. In 1939 she married Dan Healy, with whom she had worked in Good Boy in 1928. They opened a restaurant in New York City called Healy's Grill. She remained married to Healy for the rest of her life.


Helen Kane battled breast cancer for more than a decade. She had surgery in 1956 and eventually received two hundred radiation treatments as an outpatient at Memorial Hospital. She died on September 26, 1966, at age 62, in her apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City.[8] Her husband of 27 years, Dan Healy, was at her bedside. Helen Kane was buried in Long Island National Cemetery, in Suffolk County, New York.


Single Billboard charts [1] Release Date Remarks
1 "Get Out and Get Under the Moon" 7 July 16, 1928
2 "That's My Weakness Now" 5 July 16, 1928
3 "I Wanna Be Loved by You" 2 September 20, 1928 from the musical Good Boy
4 "Is There Anything Wrong in That?" September 20, 1928
5 "Don't Be Like That" 16 December 20, 1928
6 "Me and the Man in the Moon" 8 December 20, 1928
7 "Button Up Your Overcoat" 3 January 30, 1929 from the musical Follow Thru
8 "I Want to Be Bad" 18 January 30, 1929 from the musical Follow Thru
9 "Do Something" 12 March 15, 1929 from the movie Nothing But the Truth
10 "That's Why I'm Happy" March 15, 1929
11 "I'd Do Anything for You" June 14, 1929
12 "He's So Unusual" June 14, 1929 from the movie Sweetie[9]
13 "Ain'tcha?" October 29, 1929 from the movie Pointed Heels
14 "I Have to Have You" October 29, 1929 from the movie Pointed Heels
15 "I'd Go Barefoot All Winter Long" March 18, 1930
16 "Dangerous Nan McGrew" April 12, 1930 from the movie Dangerous Nan McGrew
17 "Thank Your Father" April 12, 1930 from the musical Flying High
18 "I Owe You" April 12, 1930 from the movie Dangerous Nan McGrew
19 "Readin' Ritin' Rhythm" July 1, 1930 from the movie Heads Up!
20 "I've Got It (But It Don't Do Me No Good)" July 1, 1930 from the movie Young Man of Manhattan
21 "My Man Is on the Make" July 2, 1930 from the movie Heads Up!
22 "If I Knew You Better" July 2, 1930 from the movie Heads Up!
23 "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" between 1950–51 with Jimmy Carroll & His Orchestra
24 "Beanbag Song" between 1931–51 with Jimmy Carroll & His Orchestra
25 "Hug Me! Kiss Me! Love Me!" between 1931–51 with George Siravo & His Orchestra
26 "Aba Daba Honeymoon" between 1931–51 with George Siravo & His Orchestra
27 "When I Get You Alone Tonight" 1954 with Leroy Holmes and his Orchestra
28 "When My Sugar Walks Down The Street" 1954 with Leroy Holmes and his Orchestra

The release dates of recordings 1 to 22 are derived from the cover notes of the CD Helen Kane - Great Original Performances - 1928 to 1930 (RPCD 323)[2]

In 1954, MGM records issued the last Helen Kane recordings as a 45-rpm Ep X1164 called "The Boop-Boop-A-Doop Girl!", orchestra directed by Leroy Holmes, and the songs are "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street", "When I Get You Alone Tonight, Do Something" (from Nothing But the Truth) and "That's My Weakness Now".



  1. ^ "Helen Kane (1904-1966)". Find-a-Grave.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Glenn (2003). The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia. London: Reynolds & Hearn. p. 162. ISBN 1-905287-11-9.
  3. ^ "Helen Kane - Boop-Boop-A-Doop". Amazon.com.
  4. ^ LA Times
  5. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2006). "Applause, "Natwick, Myron H. (Grim)"". Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-winning and Legendary Animators. New York. p. 256.
  6. ^ "BIRTH OF THE BOOP". The New York Sun. May 2, 1934.
  7. ^ "'Boop-A-Dooping' Floors Court Stenographer In $250,000 Suit". The Morning Herald. XXXVIII (32). New York. May 2, 1934.
  8. ^ Associated Press (September 27, 1966). "Obituary: Helen Kane". Toledo Blade. New York. Retrieved May 28, 2009.
  9. ^ "He's So Unusual" was later covered by Cyndi Lauper on her album She's So Unusual


External links

A Lesson in Love (1931 film)

A Lesson in Love is a 1931 American comedy film starring Helen Kane.

Baby Esther

Esther Jones, known by her stage name "Baby Esther", was an African American singer and entertainer of the late 1920s, known for her "baby" singing style. She performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Theatrical manager Lou Boulton testified during the Fleischer v. Kane trial that Helen Kane saw Baby Esther's cabaret act in 1928 with him and appropriated Jones' style of singing, changing the interpolated words "boo-boo-boo" and "doo-doo-doo" to "boop-boop-a-doop" in a recording of "I Wanna Be Loved By You". Kane never publicly admitted this. Jones' style, as imitated by Kane, went on to become the inspiration for the voice of the cartoon character Betty Boop.

When Kane attempted to sue Fleischer Studios for using her persona, the studios defended themselves by arguing that Kane herself had taken it from "Baby Esther" Jones. An early test sound film of Baby Esther's performance was used as evidence. In court, it was presumed that Jones was still in Paris.

Betty Boop

Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, with help from animators including Grim Natwick. She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop film series, which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. She has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising.

A caricature of a Jazz Age flapper, Betty Boop was described in a 1934 court case as: "combin[ing] in appearance the childish with the sophisticated—a large round baby face with big eyes and a nose like a button, framed in a somewhat careful coiffure, with a very small body of which perhaps the leading characteristic is the most self-confident little bust imaginable". Despite having been toned down in the mid-1930s as a result of the Hays Code to appear more demure, she became one of the best-known and popular cartoon characters in the world.

Bud Green

Bud Green (19 November 1897 – 2 January 1981) was an American songwriter.

Button Up Your Overcoat

"Button Up Your Overcoat" is a popular song. The music was written by Ray Henderson, the lyrics by B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown. The song was published in 1928, and was first performed later that same year by vocalist Ruth Etting. However, the most famous rendition of this song was recorded early the following year by singer Helen Kane, who was at the peak of her popularity at the time. Kane's childlike voice and Bronx dialect eventually became the inspiration for the voice of cartoon character Betty Boop (most famously using Kane's famous catchphrase Boop Boop a Doop).

From January 9, 1929 to December 21, 1929 Jack Haley and Zelma O'Neal sang "Button Up Your Overcoat" on Broadway in the musical Follow Thru. They reprised the song in the film version which opened on September 27, 1930 which was also one of the first movies in Technicolor.

Dangerous Nan McGrew

Dangerous Nan McGrew is a 1930 Pre-Code American comedy starring Helen Kane, Victor Moore and James Hall.

Do Something (1929 song)

"Do Something" (1929) is a song written by Sam H. Stept and Bud Green for the Paramount Pictures film Nothing But the Truth (1929), in which the song was performed by Helen Kane. The scene of Kane singing this song is missing from the only existing print of the movie.

Kane also had a hit recording of the song for Victor Records, which she recorded in 1929. The sheet music, bearing Kane's photo, and phonograph record both state that the song is from Nothing But the Truth.

The song was also used in the soundtrack of the film Syncopation (1929) where it was sung by Dorothy Lee.Partial lyrics to the song include:

There's the moon, way up high,

Here are you, and here am I,

Oh, do, do, do something!;

I got the time and the place, and the place and the time, I know,

I got a bench and a park, and a park and a bench, and oh-oh-oh.

Oh, come on, honey, oh, come on, do something, Boop-boop-a-doop!,

Get Out and Get Under the Moon

"Get Out And Get Under The Moon" is a popular song.

The music was written by Larry Shay, the lyrics by Charles Tobias and William Jerome. The song was published in 1928.

Popular recordings of the song in 1928 were by Helen Kane and by Paul Whiteman (with a vocal group including Bing Crosby). The song is now a standard, and has been recorded by many artists over the years, including Doris Day (for her album Cuttin' Capers (1959)), Nat King Cole (for his album Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer (1963)) and Michael Feinstein.

"Get Out and Get Under the Moon" was used in commercials for the American Apollo Program in 1968.

He's So Unusual

"He's So Unusual" is a song from the late 1920s performed by Helen Kane, who was the inspiration for the Betty Boop character. The song was written by Al Sherman, Al Lewis and Abner Silver. Released on June 14, 1929, "He's So Unusual" was featured in the motion picture, Sweetie. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. Inc. are the publishers of record.

Heads Up (film)

Heads Up is a 1930 American Pre-Code comedy film directed by Victor Schertzinger and written by Lorenz Hart, Rick Kirkland, John McGowan, Richard Rodgers, Paul Gerard Smith and Louis Stevens. The film stars Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Helen Kane, Victor Moore, Helen Carrington, and Harry Shannon. The film was released on October 11, 1930, by Paramount Pictures.

House of 1000 Corpses (soundtrack)

House of 1000 Corpses is the soundtrack album for the movie House of 1000 Corpses, directed by Rob Zombie. It includes artists such as Buck Owens, Helen Kane, The Ramones, Lionel Richie, Slim Whitman, Trina, Scott Humphrey and Zombie himself, along with numerous instrumentals and audio samples taken from the movie.

I Wanna Be Loved by You

"I Wanna Be Loved by You" is a song written by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, with lyrics by Bert Kalmar, for the 1928 musical "Good Boy". It was chosen as one of the Songs of the Century in a survey by the RIAA to which 200 people responded (out of 1300 asked). One of Marilyn Monroe's most famous musical performances is her singing the song in Billy Wilder's classic farce Some Like It Hot.

The song was first performed in 1928 by Helen Kane, who became known as the 'Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl' because of her baby-talk, scat-singing tag line to the song. This version was recorded when Kane's popularity started to reach its peak, and became her signature song. Two years later, a cartoon character named Betty Boop was modeled after Kane. Betty Boop performs the number in the 1980s animated film The Romance of Betty Boop.

In 1950, the song was a highlight of the Kalmer-Ruby biopic Three Little Words, performed by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter as Helen Kane and vaudeville performer Dan Healy. Helen Kane dubbed the vocal for Reynolds’ voice.

The song has also been recorded by Vaughn De Leath, Annette Hanshaw, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Rhonda Towns, Rose Murphy, Tina Louise, Verka Serduchka, Patricia Kaas, Sinéad O'Connor, Jinx Titanic, Shiina Ringo, Paul Manchin, Claire Johnston, Lorraine Allan (formerly Lorraine Gray), Eve's Plum, Barry Manilow (in a duet with the Marilyn Monroe recording) and many more.

Actress Rue McClanahan performed a humorous rendition of the song while portraying Blanche Devereaux in the sitcom The Golden Girls.

Actor and actress Robert Reed and Florence Henderson sang "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in a 1973 episode "Never Too Young" of The Brady Bunch.

Paramount on Parade

Paramount on Parade is a 1930 all-star American pre-Code revue released by Paramount Pictures, directed by several directors including Edmund Goulding, Dorothy Arzner, Ernst Lubitsch, Rowland V. Lee, A. Edward Sutherland, Lothar Mendes, Otto Brower, Edwin H. Knopf, Frank Tuttle, and Victor Schertzinger—all supervised by the production supervisor, singer, actress, and songwriter Elsie Janis.

Featured stars included Jean Arthur, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow, Evelyn Brent, Buddy Rogers, Jack Oakie, Helen Kane, Maurice Chevalier, Nancy Carroll, George Bancroft, Kay Francis, Richard "Skeets" Gallagher, Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, Lillian Roth and other Paramount stars. The screenplay was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky, with cinematography by Victor Milner and Harry Fischbeck.

Pointed Heels

Pointed Heels is a 1929 American Pre-Code early sound musical comedy film from Paramount Pictures that was directed by A. Edward Sutherland and starring William Powell, Helen Kane, Richard "Skeets" Gallagher, and Fay Wray. This movie was originally filmed in color sequences by Technicolor, but today those color sequences only survive in black-and-white. One of these color sequences was the "Pointed Heels" ballet with Albertina Rasch and her Dancers.The UCLA Film and Television Archive has a complete copy of this movie with all color sequences, but has not released it to anyone. Turner Classic Movies airs the black-and-white television copy of this movie. A print screened at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2009 contained the color ballet sequence. Universal owns the copyright and has not allowed a release of the restored version on TCM or Blu-Ray.


Sweetie or Sweety may refer to:

Sweetie (term of endearment)

Sweetie (1929 film), a college musical starring Helen Kane, Jack Oakie and Nancy Carroll

Sweetie (film), a 1989 Australian film

Oroblanco or sweetie, a fruit that is a cross between an acidless pummelo and a white grapefruit

Sweety, a Mandopop band

Sweety (Japanese band), a Japanese female idol group

"Sweetie", a 2006 Japanese song by Fumiko Orikasa

Sweetie Irie (born 1971), British reggae singer and DJ born Dean Bent

Sweety Kapoor, British music promoter

Sweetie (internet avatar), a CGI child used by children's rights organization Terre des Hommes.

Sweetie, a character from Tiny Toon Adventures

Sweetie, a character in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Sweetie (1929 film)

Sweetie is a 1929 American musical film directed by Frank Tuttle, written by George Marion Jr. and Lloyd Corrigan, and starring Nancy Carroll, Helen Kane, Stanley Smith, Jack Oakie, William Austin, Stuart Erwin and Wallace MacDonald. It was released on November 2, 1929, by Paramount Pictures.

That's My Weakness Now

"That's My Weakness Now" is a song written by Sam H. Stept and Bud Green (words and music) in 1928. This became their first hit song together, having been made popular by singer Helen Kane that same year. Another recording in 1928 was by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, supported by a vocal group including Bing Crosby.It is used as the opening theme in the Vitaphone music and sound effects disc for the silent Laurel and Hardy short We Faw Down in 1928 and the same recording of the song is used to open the 1929 Laurel and Hardy talkie short The Hoose-Gow. It is also featured in the 1932 Krazy Kat cartoon Piano Mover and the Betty Boop cartoon Stopping the Show from the same year.

The song is about being in love with someone so much that they start to like things their lovers like that they previously never cared for.

Russ Morgan had a hit with the song in 1949 reaching the No. 17 spot in the Billboard charts.

The Best Things in Life Are Free (film)

The Best Things in Life Are Free is a 1956 American musical film directed by Michael Curtiz. The film stars Gordon MacRae, Dan Dailey and Ernest Borgnine as the real-life songwriting team of Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson of the late 1920s and early 1930s; and Sheree North as Kitty Kane, a singer (possibly based on Helen Kane).

In 1957, the year after the film was released, it received an Oscar nomination for Lionel Newman in the category of Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Three Little Words (film)

Three Little Words is a 1950 American musical film biography of the Tin Pan Alley songwriting partnership of Kalmar and Ruby and stars Fred Astaire as lyricist Bert Kalmar, Red Skelton as composer Harry Ruby, along with Vera-Ellen and Arlene Dahl as their wives, with Debbie Reynolds in a small but notable role as singer Helen Kane. The film, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was written by Academy Award winning screenwriter George Wells, directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Jack Cummings. Harry Ruby served as a consultant on the project, and appears in a cameo role as a baseball catcher. It was the third in a series of MGM biopics about Broadway composers; it was preceded by Till the Clouds Roll By (Jerome Kern, 1946) and Words and Music (Rodgers and Hart, 1948) and followed by Deep in My Heart (Sigmund Romberg, 1954).

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