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Squeaky Voiced Actress Mae Questel Dies

Fri., Jan. 9, 1998

Mae Questel, who provided the loopy, childlike voice of cartoon characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, has died at 89.

Questel, who died Sunday at her home, was a veteran of stage, screen and vaudeville. She played Woody Allen’s intrusive, omnipresent mother in “New York Stories.”

Born in the Bronx, Questel was discovered at 17 when she was signed to perform on the vaudeville circuit. She did imitations of popular performers such as Maurice Chevalier, Marlene Dietrich and Rudy Vallee.

When animator Max Fleischer heard one of Questel’s performances, he signed her to take over the squeaky voice of Betty Boop. The sound was actually modeled on the voice of another actress, Helen Kane, who created a sensation on Broadway in 1928 with a “boop-boop-a-doop” rendition of the hit song “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”

During her eight years as the voice of Betty Boop, Questel was in more than 150 cartoon shorts. Her recording of “On the Good Ship Lollipop” - in Betty Boop’s voice- sold more than 2 million copies.

The Betty Boop character was retired in 1939, but Questel returned to the character when Betty appeared in the 1988 movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

In 1933, Questel created the voices of Olive Oyl and Sweet Pea for the “Popeye” cartoons.

Among her Broadway plays were “Dr. Social” in 1948 and “Enter Laughing” in 1963.

In addition to “New York Stories,” Questel appeared in the film version of “Funny Girl” in 1968.

She is survived by a son and three granddaughters.


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