Mae Questel Impersonator Impressions Imitation Impersonations

Mae Questel was a mimic from a very young age and could imitate just about anyone. She was given the name "Little Miss Mimic". Her impersonations included:

Helen Kane the Original Boop Boop a Doop Girl

Helen Kane (August 4, 1904 – September 26, 1966). Mae started her career impersonating Helen Kane. Mae won a Helen Kane contest which included a prize of $100 and was given a signed autograph by Kane which stated that Questel was another Helen Kane (another "me"). With it came a brief vaudeville tour and ultimately a radio contract. Questel's resemblance to the "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" girl was remarkable and she was known as one of the best Kane impersonators of her time. Questel also often substituted for Kane when she couldn't make an appearance (couldn't be bothered to turn up) and also imitated her on the radio. Somewhere around 1930-1931 while working in vaudeville Questel heard there were auditions for Betty Boop and auditioned for the role and won the part, sharing it with Little Ann Little and Marjorie Hines the original voice of the character who had also won a Helen Kane contest at the age of 17. The Betty Boop series was a smash hit. One year after Questel had won the role Helen Kane launched a lawsuit against the creators of the series, claiming that they had stolen her look and singing style to which they declined (even though the Betty Boop character originally started out as a one-shot caricature of Kane). Kane had worked for Paramount Pictures up until 1931 and her resemblance to the character was nil in court as many other women had also resembled the Betty Boop character, including famous 1920s singer and actress Clara Bow. The lawsuit then went down to the singing style, it was later discovered that the baby singing was quite common and had been used since the early 1900s. Including vital evidence that Kane's "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" scat lyrics had originated from Negro cabarets and were also quite common to a number of performers, most of which who were African-American. Kane and Questel were never seen together after the lawsuit had taken place and kept their distance. Although, Mae did appear at Dan Healy's Cotton Club show in 1936 where she performed a "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" number, three years before he married Helen Kane. In interviews Questel would never mention Helen Kane as her source, she would always reference her imitation as her "Betty Boop" voice. In 1983 Mae Questel was asked to do the singing voice of Helen Kane for the musical sequence "Chameleon Days" in Woody Allen's film Zelig.

Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951). Fanny Brice was one of Questel's many impersonations. Questel also impersonated Brice as Betty Boop in the 1932 animated short Stopping the Show where she performed Brice's 1921 hit "I'm An Indian". Questel would later appear in the 1968 film Funny Girl an American biographical romantic musical comedy-drama film which was loosely based on the life of Fanny Brice which was directed by William Wyler.

Maurice Chevalier

Maurice Chevalier (September 12, 1888 – January 1, 1972). One of Questel's many impersonations was that of Maurice Chevalier. Questel also impersonated him in the 1932 animated short Stopping the Show where she performed his 1931 hit song "Hello, Beautiful!". Chevalier was said to have been a massive fan of the Betty Boop series and even voiced himself in the sequence. His hit song also appeared in several other Betty Boop cartoons, as performed by other "Boop" singers who's voices were used in the cartoons before Questel had taken over as lead voice actress.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich (27 December 1901 – 6 May 1992). Marlene Dietrich was one of Questel's most favorite impersonations. Questel loved to do Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It)" a song that had been a hit in 1930. Questel would impersonate her on radio. 

Mae West

Mae West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980). According to Questel she used to impersonate Mae West and even showed West her impersonation while touring with her in the 1930s. According to Mae Questel, Mae West told her that her impersonation was really good. A caricature of West appeared in the 1936 Popeye short Never Kick A Woman. It was originally thought that Mae West had provided her own voice, which is untrue the Fleischer Studios used a sound-alike which according to animation historians was provided by actress Bonnie Poe (who was active in the Fleischer Studios voice-over department at that time and also did the voice of Betty Boop and was the original voice of Olive Oyl until Questel had taken over the role) as the vocal in the cartoon overlaps with Questel who portrayed Olive in said cartoon.

ZaSu Pitts

ZaSu Pitts (January 3, 1894 – June 7, 1963). ZaSu Pitts was an actress that was often caricatured in animated features of the 30s. Her voice and mannerism were impersonated by many. The Fleischer Studios animated series Popeye the Sailor debuted in 1933 and featured Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl. Originally the character debuted with a rough Brooklyn sounding voice as portrayed by Bonnie Poe. Mae Questel decided to create a new voice for the character. While looking at a model sheet for Olive Oyl, the character reminded Questel of ZaSu Pitts. Questel then used an impersonation of Pitts for the character including Pitts catchphrase; "Oh, Dear!" which Max Fleischer approved.The role of Olive was shared with Bonnie Poe and Margie Hines who also provided the voice of Betty Boop. According to a 1935 article unlike Helen Kane, ZaSu Pitts stated that she hated to be aped  because she knew over-imitation washes you up so much sooner.

Irene Bordoni

Irène Bordoni (16 January 1885 – 19 March 1953). Irène was a Corsican-American actress and singer who was a popular Broadway singer in the 1920s. Mae Questel would often impersonate her on radio. Irène was featured in the 1932 Screen Song, Just a Gigolo a cartoon in which also featured Mae Questel as Betty Boop. In 1934 Irène confessed that her one desire was to "Boop-Oop-a-Doop".