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    Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle (1932)


    by andythebeagle

    Bimbo visits a south sea isle, where he meets a dusky maiden who does a hot hula and looks a lot like Betty. Also a stereotyped headhunter tribe... The Royal Samoans perform in live-action.

    In some of Betty Boop's early films, the orchestra providing music in the cartoon is shown (usually at the beginning). In this case, The Royal Samoans (a Polynesian style group performing native style songs) is featured. While there was a lot of racism in Hollywood at this time (and a bit later in this film), I was impressed that Fleischer Brothers Studio often featured non-white groups in these cartoons—such as Cab Calloway and The Royal Samoans.

    The film begins with Bimbo the dog on his tiny boat. He zips about and the film is even more crazily anthropomorphic than usual—and I loved the way his trip was shown on the map. Eventually, he lands on some South Seas island and meets a dark-skinned Betty Boop. They romance* and this little get together is interrupted by savages with bones through their hair. Now I am pretty sure some folks will blanch at the way these people are portrayed—it is certainly NOT politically correct. Bimbo is scared and wants to fit in, so he darkens his face and puts a bone through his hair. The tribesmen love him and make him their leader. To celebrate, Betty dances a nice little tune---TOPLESS! She clearly isn't wearing a top but her boobs are covered with a lei. While this was quite acceptable at the time it was released, this never would have been allowed when the new Production Code was enforced starting in mid-1934—and the Fleischers were forced to make Betty more family-friendly. I thought it was actually pretty innocent and fun. In the end, Bimbo's cover is broken—and there is a crazy chase that made me chuckle. All in all, I liked the music, I liked the cartoon and I recommend you see it—even with its flaws.

    *When Betty Boop first began, she had long doggy ears. So, having her being romanced by Bimbo the dog wasn't a big deal. But once they made her 100% human, such interactions seemed really creepy. Apparently others also thought so and her romance with Bimbo soon fizzled. Later, Betty got a dog of her own (Pudgy)—one that acted like a dog!