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Mae Questel
Born September 13, 1908(1908-09-13)
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died January 4, 1998 (aged 89)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active 1930–1998

Mae Questel (September 13, 1908 – January 4, 1998) was an American actress and vocal artist. Her surname was pronounced "ques-TELL".

Originating from vaudeville, Questel provided the voice for the animated characters, Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. In her later career, she played occasional small roles in films and television, her best known being the role of Aunt Bethany in 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.


Early career

Born Mae Kwestel in New York City, she won a talent contest at the age of 17, and began performing in vaudeville. She was seen by animator Max Fleischer, who was looking for an actress to provide the voice for his Betty Boop character. Questel's "Boop-boop-a-doop" routine, done in a style similar to that of the song's originator, Helen Kane, while at the same time evoking something of the naughty allure of film star Clara Bow, was exactly what Fleischer wanted. From 1931 until 1939, Questel provided the voice of Betty Boop in more than 150 animated shorts. During the 1930s she released a recording of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" which sold more than two million copies.

Olive Oyl

From the mid 1930s Questel also provided the voice for Olive Oyl in the Popeye animated shorts. She based Olive's nasal vocal style, and expressions like "Oh, dear!" on the persona of the legendary character actress ZaSu Pitts, and ultimately played the role for more than 20 years. Questel refused to move to Miami, Florida when Fleischer Studios relocated there in 1938. Margie Hines was the voice of Olive Oyl during the Miami years. Questel returned as the voice of Olive Oyl when Paramount Pictures moved the former Fleischer Studios which became Famous Studios back to New York City. She filled Jack Mercer's shoes as Popeye when Mercer was temporarily drawn into war service.

When Hanna-Barbera began making new Popeye cartoons for television in 1978, Questel had to audition for the role of Olive Oyl, and lost out to another voice-over actress.

In addition to her signature voice of Olive Oyl, Questel also provided the voice of Felix the Cat (three shorts produced by Van Beuren Studios), Little Lulu, Minnie Mouse, Little Audrey in their respective animated shorts. In the 1950s, she was the voice to the title character of the interactive, and pioneering Saturday-morning cartoon series Winky Dink and You.

Questel was also the longest running actress to portray the voice of Betty Boop, starting in 1931. In 1988, she reprised the role in a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Questel's final film was voice appearance in Felix the Cat: The Movie. She continued to provide the voices of Betty and Olive in Commercials, Television Specials and others until her death.

Live-action roles

Questel appeared onscreen in the 1930s as herself, the most noted being in a 1933 "Hollywood on Parade" short. After she finishes a musical number Bela Lugosi enters in his Dracula costume and says "You have Booped your Last Boop!" before carrying her off. She made her first dramatic appearance in the 1960s and was seen as one of Fanny Brice's mother's card-playing friends at the start of Funny Girl. She appeared in Zelig and as a celestial apparition in New York Stories.

She achieved perhaps her greatest visibility in television commercials for various household products, most notably as "Aunt Bluebell", pitching Scott Towels.

Next to Olive Oyl, Questel receives heavy yearly exposure for her last live action, that of the elderly Aunt Bethany in 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.


Questel's Broadway theatre credits included A Majority of One, Enter Laughing and Bajour.


Questel died from complications related to Alzheimer's disease at the age of 89 in New York City. She was buried in West Babylon, New York's New Montefiore Cemetery.

Personal life

Questel had a withered arm; in her on-camera film appearances, she was usually photographed with elbows bent and both hands at her waist or holding an object in the crook of her elbow to make it less obvious that one arm was shorter and smaller than the other.[citation needed]

Selected filmography

External links

Preceded by
Bonnie Poe
Voice of Betty Boop
Succeeded by
Tress MacNeille


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