Heptune presents:

Betty Boop in Bum Bandit

by Brenna and Megaera Lorenz
   The Talkartoon Bum Bandit, Betty Boop's fourth cartoon appearance, was produced in 1931. In the beginning, we get a snippet of "The Hold-Up Rag" to set the theme for the cartoon:

Hands up! Hands up!
Stick 'em up, everybody;
And now we do the hold-up rag!
All aboard!
Look out! It's the hold-up rag!

    The cartoon opens with Bimbo dressed in black and wearing a bandit mask; he is a small white dog with a big nose (but smaller than the nose he had in Dizzy Dishes and Barnacle Bill.) Bimbo possesses two sentient, flexible, tobacco-chewing pistols. Bimbo makes a nuisance of himself by holding up a squirrel carrying a bag. When the bag turns out to contain nothing but nuts, Bimbo steals the squirrel's fur coat. Then he engages in shooting practice, in which he always hits something, but not what he's aiming for. When he finally hits the tin can, a little worm crawls out and cries, "Oy, my operation! Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy!"  Finally, a train approaches, and the cartoon gets down to the actual story.

    On the train, we see Betty Boop in the caboose. She has dog ears, huge jowls and sparse curls. Her head is particularly enormous. Her nose fluctuates between black and white, and at times actually flickers. She crawls spider-like to the front of the train, where she confronts the engineer and sings to him. She has a funny deep voice, and does NOT sound like Mae Questal! Here is the introduction Betty sings to "The Hold-Up Rag:"

Mister Engineer, now look a-here,
There's someone down there on the track.  Yeah?
See that wicked eye?
He's out to do or die;
Hear his pistol going crack?
Hold your watch and chain,
And stop the train;
Put on the brakes and let her drag.
For you certainly got to hand it
To that gentlemanly bandit
When he makes you do the hold-up rag!

    The train then stops for Bimbo, who has tied a knot in the tracks and is standing astride them aiming his pistol at the train. The train stops and rears up with its wheels in the air, while all the passengers disembark.

    Bimbo sings:

Hands up! Hands up!
Everybody, hands up!
Get out and do that hold-up rag!
Make it snappy there,
Go into your dance;
Don't you hide that diamond in your pants!
Easy there,
Shell out, shell out!
Don't you dare to yell out,
Drop your pearls and diamonds in the bag;
All aboard!
Look out! It's the hold-up rag!

    The shaking passengers fling their belongings onto Bimbo's blanket, including a hot-water bottle, some dentures and a boot. A frightened spider puts six of his eight legs in the air. A dog puts his hands up, and his pants fall down. Then Mickey Mouse puts his hands up, and his skin falls down, leaving his skeleton exposed. (Mickey Mouse makes another incursion into a Fleischer cartoon in Bimbo's Initiation.) Finally a ferocious bearded cowboy emerges, eats the barrel of Bimbo's gun, and pulling off its beard and costume, reveals itself to be Betty Boop. She sings:

I'm Dangerous Nan, the sister of Dan McGrew,
Believe it or not,
My father and brother were tough,
But I'm the toughest one of the lot.

I'm Dangerous Nan McGrew,
Pipe down or I'll fill you with lead.
I'm harder than nails and lucky as hell;
When I shoot at a body, it's dead.

Bring me a barrel of whiskey,
A barrel of good old Three Star,
A handful of tacks for a chaser,
And a light for this lousy cigar.

Who told you you were tough?
Why, you couldn't frighten a baby!
So, cut out this stunt, you poor little runt,
Before I forget I'm a lady!

    At this point, Bimbo exclaims, "My wife!" She acknowledges this, and says, "Remember the night you left me and the kids to go after a quart of milk?" He mutters, "Yeah," and she says, "Well, haven't you found that cow yet?" She continues her song:

I'm Dangerous Nan, the sister of Dan McGrew,
Believe it or not,
My father and brother were tough,
But I'm the toughest one of the lot.

I'm dangerous Nan McGrew,
Say, who are you making a goat of?
Come home and take care of your seventeen kids
Or I'll crown you with this locomotive!

    Helen Kane has recorded Dangerous Nan McGrew with a completely different tune.
    Betty throws Bimbo into the locomotive, disconnects it from the rest of the train and as they drive off, she pulls down the blind and we see their underwear emerge on a line attached to the smoke stack, suggesting that they are busy generating child number eighteen.

    This is a pretty mundane cartoon, not particularly weird or imaginative. The cartoon is mainly of interest because we get an atypical view of Betty Boop as a tough babe with a deep voice. The dig at Mickey Mouse is also interesting.

This cartoon is available in the following collection:

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Published 3/30/99.
Updated 4/30/01.