Heptune presents:

Betty Boop in Old Man of the Mountain

by Brenna and Megaera Lorenz

      This 1933 cartoon featuring Cab Calloway is Betty Boop's fiftieth cartoon appearance. The cartoon begins with live footage of Cab and his Orchestra playing around with the tune of Minnie the Moocher while Cab scats mildly and grins at the camera. Whereas Cab may have been caught by surprise when they used live footage of him in the earlier cartoon, Minnie the Moocher, this time he is ready. He and his band are in dress white uniforms, Cab's hair is slicked back, and he pays attention to the camera. (The drummer, Leroy Maxey, is still playing with his drumsticks, though!)
    The band brings Minnie the Moocher to a close and starts up the title song. Cab sings the title, "The Old Man of the Mountain" and the animation begins.
    The story begins with an animal community in a state of alarm. Goats pound on drums, and a lion skates into a village (on rabbits tied to his feet) to warn the villagers about the Old Man of the Mountain. The villagers proceed to evacuate in a great flood of frightened animals. Betty Boop is staying at a Tourist House. She comes out and asks, "What's the matter?" She is answered by a funny-looking owl who sings in Cab's voice. The owl has a toothy mouth underneath his beak, only one toe on each foot, and he moves around with a stiff, rocking motion while he sings:

    With a long, white beard and a crooked stare,
    He tramps along with the folks all scared;
    With a twinkle in his eye, he passes them by,
    The Old Man of the Mountain!

    Oh, he wears long hair and his feet are bare,
    They say he's mad as a grizzly bear,
    His cares are none and he fears no one,
    The Old Man of the Mountain!

    He talks with the bears when he's lonely,
    He sleeps with the sky for a tent,
    And he'll eat you up when he's hungry,
    And it wouldn't cost him a red cent!

    And he'll live as long as an old oak tree,
    He'll eat up fools like you and me,
    Oh, I often sigh and jump and cry
    At the Old Man of the Mountain!

    These are not the original words to this song. Ordinarily Cab sings a version in which the Old Man is portrayed as a harmless eccentric, but for the purposes of the cartoon the words were changed to make the Old Man more malevolent.

    When Betty hears the owl's story, she says, "I'm gonna go see that Old Man of the Mountain," and off she goes, while the owl looks distressed, and says, "Oy, oy." On her way up the mountain, Betty encounters a weeping hippopotamus woman pushing a baby carriage. "What's the matter?" asks Betty. "The Old Man of the Mountain," replies the hippo, opening up the carriage to reveal triplet babies with long white beards and snaggle teeth. (Oh, my, the implications!)

    At the top of the mountain, Betty is peering into a cave when the Old Man appears and introduces himself. He chases her into the cave, where he and Betty Boop sing You Got to Hi-De-Hi as a duet.

    Cab:    You got to ho-de-ho,
    Betty:    You got to ho-de-ho,
    Cab:    You got to hi-de-hi,
    Betty:    You got to hi-de-hi,
    Cab:    You got to he-de-he
                   To get along with me!
    Betty:    [spoken] Yeah, man! How do?

    Cab:    You've gotta learn my song,
    Betty:    I gotta learn your song,
    Cab:    If you do me wrong,
    Betty:    I'm gonna do you wrong. [She pulls his beard.]
    Cab:    You gotta kick the gong        [This means "smoke opium."]
                   To get along with me!

    Then Betty Boop says, "What you gonna do now?" to which Cab/ Old Man replies, "Gonna do the best I can!"  The Old Man begins to dance around in the cave. His crude proportions abruptly change to more realistic human proportions at this point, because his figure has been rotoscoped over footage of Cab Calloway dancing. In the background, we see the usual skeletons and skulls decorating the Old Man's cave. (All of Cab's cartoon appearances are set in caves with skeletons.)
    The song continues:

    Cab:    You got to hi-de-hi,
    Betty:    You got to hi-de-hi,
    Cab:    You got to he-de-he-de
    Betty:    You got to he-de-he-de
    Cab:     You gotta hay-de-hay-de-hay
                   To get along with hey!
    Betty:    [squeal]
    Cab:    Hey!
    Betty:    [squeal]
    Cab:    Ho!

    Their friendly duet ends when the Old Man makes a grab for Betty Boop. He starts some intensive scat singing to the tune of The Scat Song and pursues Betty as she desperately flees. A couple of bugs pop out of his beard and replenish him with a mug of beer during the chase. Finally he grabs Betty, but she wiggles free, leaving her dress in his hands. As he looks at the dress in bemusement, it punches him and gets away and puts itself back on Betty. She climbs a tree. He works on getting her down while he sings:

    When your sweetie tells you, everything will be okay,
    Just... [heavy-duty scat singing]

    If you feel like shoutin', advertise it just this way:
    [more incredible scatting]

    Cab/ Old Man continues to scat for the rest of the cartoon while the various animals of the woods team up to rescue Betty Boop. They tie the Old Man's arms and legs in knots and tickle his feet. Cab ends the song and the cartoon with an exhausted "umngph!"

    Of the three cartoons starring Cab Calloway, this one has the least interesting and least surreal plot, and the animation is the crudest. Never-the-less, the very early live footage of Cab is a treasure, and this cartoon showcases his music from beginning to end, featuring three of his songs. He does some of his most remarkable ever scat singing in this version of The Scat Song.

See other versions of the Scat Song.

This cartoon is available in the following collections: Return to the Heptune Guide to Betty Boop Cartoons.
Return to the Jazz and Blues Lyrics Page.
Read more about Cab Calloway.

Published 8/9/99.