Mae Questel: Before Olive Oyl

Mae Questel’s most sustained legacy was as a voice-over actress for Fleischer Studios, where she provided the voices of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop throughout the 1930s. The latter voice was based on her Helen Kane impression, the stunt which had gotten young Mae Kwestel (original spelling) into show biz in the first place. Born this day in 1908, she won a talent contest as a teenager with her Kane impression, and was picked up by an agent. She began touring vaudeville with a repertoire that included Fanny Brice, Mae West, and many others, but it was the Kane impression that brought her to Max Fleischer’s attention and launched her voice-over career. In the decades following the 30s, she had many modest roles on film, Broadway and tv. Late in life, she had prominent turns in two Woody Allen movies, singing “Chameleon Days” in Zelig (1933) and playing the overbearing mother in Oedipus Wrecks (1988). She passed away in 1998.

To learn more about the history of vaudeville, including great stars like Mae Questel, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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