Heptune presents:

Betty Boop in Barnacle Bill

by Megaera and Brenna Lorenz

    Betty Boop's second appearance was in the Talkartoon, Barnacle Bill, produced in 1930. The action begins at sea with a rollicking sea shanty (we couldn't catch the words to most of this), showing the sailors at their daily work on board the ship. The ship pulls into port, where the lion captain tells the sailors not to go ashore, "No one leaves this ship!" "Oh, yeah?" says Bimbo (Barnacle Bill) in a funny, high voice, and off he goes. Bimbo punctuates his activities with a high-pitched and obnoxious, "Hah, hah!"
    Bimbo in this cartoon looks very much as he does in Dizzy Dishes, mostly black with a white face and ears, and a big nose. He is perhaps shorter in this cartoon, and is somewhat inconsistent in his appearance. At times his face is drawn heavily lined so that he looks like he's wearing a mask. Overall, he is not an attractive figure in this cartoon, although Betty Boop would disagree!
    This cartoon is also notable for the care with which characters' mouths are portrayed during speech. Speakers' mouths enlarge while they speak; they enunciate slowly and carefully, and the positioning of their lips, teeth and tongues are shown with great precision.
    When Bimbo gets to shore, he takes out his black book and selects Nancy Lee (Betty Boop) to be the lucky subject of his attentions. He swaggers to her house, yanking up his britches every few steps, and knocks at her door. She sticks her remarkable head out her window, and we get our first look at Betty Boop as she appears in her second cartoon.
    This is a sleek Betty Boop with only one pair of curls across her cheeks. She still has her dog ears and little black nose. As she looks at Bimbo, she seems to have trouble controlling her head; her neck keeps elongating and she has to grab her head and pull it back. Throughout the cartoon, her proportions and features are very fluid as they are in Dizzy Dishes, and she does some remarkable, gravity-defying dancing as she sings to Bimbo from her window.
    The song, of course, is Barnacle Bill the Sailor, as follows, sung by Betty and Bimbo: (Lines in parentheses are omitted in the cartoon.)

Who's that knocking at my door?
Who's that knocking at my door?
Who's that knocking at my door?
Cried the fair young maiden?

It's only me from over the sea;
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.
I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree;
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.
I'll sail the sea until I croak,
I fight and swear and drink and smoke,
But I can't swim a bloomin' stroke;
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.

Are you young and handsome, sir?
Are you young and handsome, sir?
Are you young and handsome, sir?
[Cried the fair young maiden.]

I'm old and rough and dirty and tough,
[Said Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]
I never can get drunk enough;
[I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]
I drink my whiskey when I can,
Whiskey from an old tin can,
For whiskey is the life of man,
[I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]

I'll come down and let you in,
I'll come down and let you in,
I'll come down and let you in,
[Cried the fair young maiden.]

    As she sings and dances at the window, an accommodating couch walks into her parlor in anticipation of what is to follow.

Well, hurry before I bust in the door,
[I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]
I'll rare and tear and rant and roar,
[I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]
I'll spin you yarns and tell you lies,
I'll drink your wine and eat your pies,
I'll pinch your cheeks and black your eyes,
[I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]

    During this verse, the door shrinks with fear from Bimbo, who stomps in and up the stairs, breaking each one as he goes. At the top, Betty Boop's parlor wall lifts up like a mouth and pulls Bimbo in, where he joins a coy Betty on the couch.

Sing me a love song low and sweet,
Sing me a love song low and sweet,
Sing me a love song low and sweet,
Said the fair young maiden.

Sixteen men on a dead man's chest
Said Barnacle Bill, the Sailor. [Line sung by cat.]
Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum,
[Sang Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.]
Oh, high jig-a-jig on the rolling sea,
And a hi and a ho, you're the gal for me,
Hoorah, me boys, for the Nancy Lee,
Sang Barnacle Bill, the Sailor. [Line sung by couch.]

    The couch gets excited during the above verse, rolling and singing. Betty pulls the blind down on her window, catching the attention of the neighborhood cats, who get together to gossip in meow language about what they think is going on in Betty's house. It is curious that Betty's pet cat speaks English, whereas her cat neighbors can only meow (except for one English word they throw in: "Girls!"). They hear Betty sing:

Tell me that we soon shall wed,
Tell me that we soon shall wed,
Tell me that we soon shall wed,
[Cried the fair young maiden.]

    And we find that Betty and Bimbo have only been playing checkers.

I've got me a wife in every port,
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor;
The handsome gals is what I court,
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.
With my false heart and flattering tongue,
I courts 'em all both old and young,
I courts 'em all, but marries none,
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.

    Bimbo accompanies this verse with a display of his tattoos of all his homely girlfriends. Weeping grievously (and looking really terrible), Betty tries to press Bimbo for a commitment, blocking his way out, but he escapes through the transom. Peering after him, Betty sings:

When shall I see you again?
When shall I see you again?
When shall I see you again?
[Cried the fair young maiden.]

Never again, I'll come no more,
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor;
Tonight I'm sailing from this shore;
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor;
If you wait for me to come,
Sit and wait and suck on your thumb,
You'll wait until the cows come home;
I'm Barnacle Bill, the Sailor!

    Prancing down the stairs of her porch, he tosses these words at her as he leaves, and walks straight into the lion captain of his ship, who is coming to see Nancy Lee himself. A chase ensues, ending up with Bimbo underwater, dancing with a chorus line of mermaids with interesting and distinctive faces. The mermaid faces appear to be caricatures, but we don't know of whom. One of them appears to be Mae West. They are singing a few lines from "Minnie the Mermaid."

    Well, Barnacle Bill may be a rat, but one can't deny that he's honest!

    We rank this as one of the better Betty Boop cartoons, perhaps not in the top ten, but up there. The song is fun, the animation is bizarre and arresting, and Betty Boop's appearance and contortions are entertaining.

Go here to see Louis Jordan's version of Barnacle Bill the Sailor.


This cartoon is available in the following collection:

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Published 3/27/99.
Updated 3/19/01.