Heptune presents...

I Heard

by Brenna and Megaera Lorenz

    In 1933, Betty Boop appeared in this cartoon with none other than Don Redman, the quiet little genius who revolutionized jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, skillfully combining arrangement and improvization to produce a unique sound that eventually led to the Big Band era.
    The cartoon begins with live footage of Don Redman and His Orchestra performing Don's composition, Chant of the Weed, in front of a backdrop consisting of Betty Boop's Saloon with animal customers. (Chant of the Weed was one of Duke Ellington's favorite pieces, and influenced many of his later compositions. ) At some point the animals' heads start bobbing and the band starts swaying to add to the surreal atmosphere of the scene.

Don Redman and His Orchestra introducing "I Heard"
Don Redman and His Orchestra playing "Chant of the Weed"
Don Redman and His Orchestra introduce the cartoon.
Don Redman and His Orchestra start off with "Chant of the Weed."

    When the animation begins, Don's orchestra switches to the lively, upbeat tune, How'm I Doin'?, another Redman composition. We see men busy at work at the Never Mine, a coal mine, while a steam whistle in the foreground punctuates the rhythm of the melody with some blasts to announce lunch break. The whistle then pulls out a lunch box and begins its own lunch.

The lunch whistle eats a sandwich.

We then see a series of typical Fleischer animal gags (giraffe escalator, spider elevator, snake bus) as the workers come up out of the mine to have lunch at Betty Boop's saloon. The miners pass through a shower to clean off before entering the saloon.

Miners wash off the coal dust before entering Betty Boop's tavern.

    In the Saloon, the miners are eating. Don Redman provides the voice for a dog waiter, singing in his quiet, half-spoken style:

The dog waiter spins his tray and sings in Don Redman's voice.

        I know a gal named Betty Boop,
        My, how she can boop-boop-boop-a-doop;
        She loves to dance,
        She loves to sing,
        In fact, Betty'll take a chance on most any old thing.
        Most every night right in this hall,
        Just let that music play,
        See, Betty'll get out on that floor,
        This is what she'll say.

    Some miners call out, "What'll she say, Don?" and Don says, "Oh, she's got plenty to say!"
Betty Boop comes down the stairs, singing, with mice providing the backup:

Betty Boop sings, "How'm I doin'?" with a mouse chorus.

        Oh, how'm I doin'?
            [Mice:] Hey, hey!
        Twee-twee-twee-twa-twa!
        Oh, how'm I doin'?
            [Mice:] Hey, hey!
         Oh, gee, baby, oh sure!
        Now, I'm not braggin', but it's understood,
        Everything I do, I sure do good,
        Oh, how'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey,
        Twee-twee-twee-twa-twa!

    Don as the dog waiter then takes over the song:
        How'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey,
        Twee-twee-twee-twa-twa!
        Oh, how'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey,
        Oh, gee, baby, oh sure!
        Now, I'll admit I'm not the best in town,
        But I'll be the best till the best comes 'round,
        How'm I doin'?
        Mmmmmm, weh!
        How'm I doin'?
        Say, hey!
        Tweetin' twattin' myeh, myeh, myeh!

        How'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey,
        Twee-twee-twee-twa-twa!
        Oh, how'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey,
        Oh, gee, baby, oh sure!
        Say, I only meant to do a little bit,
        But you made me like it and I just can't quit,
        Oh, how'm I doin'?
        Hey, hey!
        Twee-twee-twee-twee-twa-twa!

    During this song, we see the usual sorts of Fleischer restaurant gags: a beaver cooks pancakes on his tail, a bloodhound cranks his jowls up into a smile to show appreciation for Betty's performance, the dog waiter spins his tray and sends drinks flying to the customers, an ostrich is done in by a heavy doughnut and so on.

The bloodhound has to crank up his face to smile for Betty Boop.
<>The words "hey, hey" are sung in one verse by a bag of hay being consumed by a couple of donkeys. Don's "myeh, myeh, myeh" is sung by cats expressing their appreciation for a large bottle of milk. The scene ends when the steam whistle finishes its lunch, lights a cigar, and whistles for lunch break to end. All the miners leave the saloon and wash their dirt back on again with a soot shower, and return to the mine to the tune of I Heard, another Redman composition.
<>The miners wash the coal dust back on after lunch.
<>
<>    We see a series of mine shaft gags in a cross-section of the mine, and then Bimbo hammers through the wall to a new section of mine. He sees something alarming, and rushes off to the phone (a cat whose tail plugs into the switchboard and whose head turns into a receiver) to call several animals and Betty Boop with his news. Bimbo sings in Don's voice:
<>        Oh, I heard,
        Yes, I heard,
        You know, it wasn't told to me,
        I only heard.
        Yes, I heard,
        They didn't buzz it to me,
        I only heard.

    Betty Boop then takes over the song, singing:
        You know, he said that she said,
        But he didn't say where she got it,
        But if she said what he said,
        I think I'm going to stop it.
        Yes, I heard,
        It wasn't told to me,
        I only heard.

    Betty rushes to the dumb waiter (which has a dumb-looking waiter in it), and uses it to travel down into the mine.

Betty Boop meets the dumb waiter.

The rope breaks and Betty has a hard landing on top of Bimbo, which results in her dress transferring itself to him, leaving Betty in her underwear.

Betty Boop loses her dress to Bimbo.

Bimbo returns the dress, and pushes Betty (by her butt) to the hole in the wall that he had opened earlier. Looking inside, they see a team of ghosts playing baseball with a bomb. The ghosts hurl the bomb to Betty and Bimbo, and then come after them. One ghost loses its sheet and we see its skeleton.

A naked ghost looks like a skeleton.

The bomb gets tossed back and forth, and finally ends up on top of the elevator that Betty and Bimbo are riding in to escape the mine. At the surface, Bimbo sees the bomb, and sends the elevator back down into the mine. The resulting explosion hurls coal and ghosts into the air. Betty neatly catches the coal in coal cars, and Bimbo catches the ghosts in a series of graves that he opens with a lever. The cartoon ends with a few bars of Chant of the Weed.

    The animation in this cartoon is not particularly remarkable, although the steam whistle is very funny. The gags are fairly standard Fleischer gags. What makes this an outstanding cartoon are the compositions and quiet vocals provided by Don Redman, and the superb accompaniment by his orchestra. Very little film footage of Don exists, and every bit of it is to be treasured.

Photos of Don Redman.


This cartoon is available in the following collection:

Return to the Heptune Guide to Betty Boop Cartoons.
Return to the Heptune Jazz and Blues Lyrics Page.

Published 10/16/00.