Heptune presents...

Betty Boop for President

by Brenna and Megaera Lorenz

    Betty Boop's 36th cartoon is rich with political references. Leslie Cabarga gives the copyright date as November 4, 1932. We don't know how closely that date corresponds with the release date, when people would have actually seen it in the movie theater, but in November 1932 was the presidential election in which Franklin Roosevelt defeated the incumbent Herbert Hoover. Prohibition, which began in 1919, was still in place but was soon to end. The Depression was well underway following the stock market crash in 1929.
    During the credits, we hear an instrumental version of the Civil War song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom." Then we join Betty Boop at a political rally, where she is addressing an enthusiastic crowd:

Crowd: We want Betty! We want Betty!
Betty:    Some of you have money,
            While some are poor, you know,
            If you send me to Washington,
            I'll just divide the dough,
            Oh!
            When I'm the president,
    [At this point, Betty puts on a big coat with a high collar and two rows of buttons going down the front, pulls her hair down and morphs into Herbert Hoover, with his round, jowly face and squinchy eyes. In his flat, nasal voice, she intones:]
            When I'm the president,
            I'll handle all the money,
            When I'm the president!
            Hmm!
    [Then she morphs back into Betty.]
Crowd:  We want Betty! We want Betty!
Betty:        Now if you have a sister,
            And want a brother, too,
            Tell pa and ma to vote for me,
            I'll see what I can do!
Crowd:  We want Betty! We want Betty!
            We want Betty! We want Betty!
    [The scene shifts slowly to show another political rally taking place next to Betty's. The candidate's name is Mr. Nobody. Mr. Nobody is a headless stick figure with a funny, round mouth on the neck of his stick, wearing a bowler.]
Mr. N.:    Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
            I'm Mr. Nobody!
            Who will make the taxes light?
            Mr. Nobody!
            Who'll protect the voters' right?
            Mr. Nobody!
            Who fills up your flour keg?
            Who cares if you have to beg?
            Who cares if you break a leg?
            Mr. Nobody!
Crowd:    Sssss, sssss, boo, boo!
            Sssss, sssss, boo, boo!
Mr. N.:    When you're hungry, who feeds you?
            Mr. Nobody!
            Who cares what becomes of you?
            Mr. Nobody!
            If you wake some early dawn,
            Find a new milkman is on,
            Who cares if your wife is gone?
            Mr. Nobody!
Crowd:    Sssss, sssss, boo, boo!
            Sssss, sssss, boo!
    [The scene shifts back to Betty's rally.]
Betty:    Oh, when I'm the president,
    [Betty puts on a big nose and chin, and morphs into a gravelly-voiced, wrinkly-faced man with a bowler hat and a big cigar who speaks with a funny accent.  We believe that this figure represents Al Smith, who opposed Franklin Roosevelt during the Democratic primary.]
            When I'm the president,
            I won't talk on the radio,
            When I'm the president!
            Oh, when I'm the president,
    [Morphs back into Betty.]
            Uh-huh, when I'm the president,
            I'll show you how I'll run the House
            When I'm the president!
    [The scene shifts to the House of Representatives, where Betty presides over a legislature populated by elephants seated on the right and donkeys seated on the left.]
Betty:    What this country is in need of
            Is a lot of hi-de-ho,
            Boop-a-doop and chocolate ice cream.
Reps.:    We say yes!
Dems.:    We say no!
Betty:    Now we will get things for nothing,
            Movies, cabarets and jazz!
Dems.:    We accept it!
Reps.:    We reject it!
Dems.:     You're an elephant!
Reps.:     You're an ass!
Dems.:    Yeah?
Betty:    You have heard all my suggestions,
            And with me you will agree,
            Now we'll have a perfect country;
            These improvements you will see:

    We are shown the improvements: street cleaners will be escorted to litter by a chauffeur and limousine; carpet will be laid down over potholes so that horses can now wear high-heeled shoes and the horses will be followed by men with vacuum cleaners to keep the carpet clean; trolley cars will stop at everyone's door, even going up the sides of apartment buildings to reach apartment dwellers (we hear Roosevelt's campaign song, Happy Days are Here Again, during this sequence); policemen will sit in rocking chairs in intersections so that they can stop traffic if cats need to cross the street; dogs will have privacy booths around their fire hydrants; and...
    This deserves a new sentence: we get to see the ancestral Grampy! This is the first appearance of Grampy, an old fellow who works for the weather bureau. Grampy is fast asleep, and when the rain starts to fall, it activates a fancy sequence of events resulting in him awakening. He hearkens to the weather, and raises a giant umbrella over the city. We get to hear his voice when he makes an exclamation; he sounds like Grampy. The invention designed to wake him up and the unlikely solution to the problem of rain (the giant umbrella) are all characteristics of Grampy.
    Finally, we are shown Betty Boop's correctional facilities, a ribbon-bedecked prison where a big thug is being escorted to the electric chair. There is a flowered pillow on the chair, where the thug sits and is strapped in. When the switch is thrown, the thug gets a make-over, a very thorough make-over, with hair parted neatly, lipstick and mascara, ribbons, and a new slender figure. When released, he flounces off happily and exclaims in a falsetto, "Goodness gracious me!"
    The song resumes, and Betty concludes:
            Oh, when I'm the president,
            When I'm the president,
            I'll give you all a great big kiss
            When I'm the president!

    The next scene shows Times Square in New York City; all the billboards proclaim that Betty Boop has been elected; there are fireworks and a fine tickertape parade with some good Fleischer parade gags. And at the end... superimposed over the parade scene is a huge, foaming mug of beer! Now, Prohibition is not yet over at the time this cartoon was made, but the Democrats had made the end of Prohibition part of their platform, so the Fleischers are either celebrating the anticipated end of Prohibition now that Roosevelt had won, or they are campaigning for Roosevelt -- depending on exactly when this cartoon was released.

    This is one of our favorite Betty Boop cartoons, what with the eerie morphing scenes, the comical Mr. Nobody, and the glimpse of the first Grampy. The political theme makes this cartoon a valuable piece of historical commentary. There is just so much to see in this complicated and fascinating cartoon!


his cartoon is available in the following collection:

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Published 5/28/99.
Updated 7/15/99.