MAX and Me
by Ginny Mahoney
Granddaughter of Betty Boop’s creator, Max Fleischer
But what does that phrase mean?
By itself, ‘Boop-Oop-a-Doop’ is meaningless. The phrase grew out of ‘scat’ – a style of vocal jazz singing that was popular during the 1920s and ‘30s. Scat singers would playfully string together improvised groups of words and sounds … that intentionally made no sense at all.
Here are a few lines from a piece actually named “The Scat Song” that Cab Calloway recorded in 1932:
When your sweetie tells you, everything’ll be okay,
Just skeep-beep de bop-bop beep bop bo-dope skeetle-at-de-op-de-day!
If you feel like shoutin,’ advertise it just this way:
And skeep-beep de bop-bop beep bop bo-dope skeetle-at-de-op-de day!
Though the words are meaningless, the way the singer uses them gives them meaning. For instance, Betty’s 1932 film Boop-Boop-a-Doop takes place in a circus. During the film, Betty fights off the ringmaster’s unwanted advances. Luckily Koko, who hears Betty struggling, jumps in and rescues her. When Koko inquires if Betty survived intact, she answers, “He couldn’t take my Boop-Oop-a-Doop away!”
Do you know which other famous comic character of that era had a name based on those same Boop-Oop-a-Doop sounds?
Blondie, the flapper character made famous in Chic Young’s Blondie comic strip! Blondie’s maiden name before she married Dagwood was Blondie Boopadoop. The comic strip Blondie started in 1930, the same year that Betty Boop came to life. In both these ladies’ names we can hear the sounds of the jazz music that was all the rage in the 1930s.