Mae Questel was the first choice to voice Olive Oyl

She's also voiced another one of your favorite cartoons.

Enough about Popeye, let’s have three cheers and a can of spinach for sweet Olive Oyl. Without her, Popeye would never have a damsel to save and thus, we viewers wouldn’t have some of our favorite cartoons.

According to Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History by Fred Grandinetti, there wasn’t a terrible need to sift through dozens of voice actors' auditions hoping for the role of Olive Oyl. Max Fleischer, who helped bring Popeye from the comic strip to the big screen, already had someone in mind to voice the character of Olive Oyl: Mae Questel.

This wasn’t Questel’s first rodeo in the cartoon world; You might be more familiar with her voice acting as Betty Boop. In fact, a Betty Boop cartoon is where Popeye would make his first appearance, so she was already familiar with the material. The book remembered Questel’s explanation of how she began to realize what exactly Olive Oyl would sound like, a process that began with examining early Popeye storyboards.

Questel stated, “I thought there is an actress that sort of reminds me of a scrawny lady that’s always using her hands and I thought, that should sound like Olive Oyl and it was a crackly kind of voice: Yoo-hooooo! Here I yamaamm-hm-hm-hm-hm!”

She continued, “Max seemed to like the voice and we used it!”

Questel wasn’t always the voice of Olive Oyl, but she has been the most consistent. For example, Questel paused voicing the character when the studio made the move to Miami and the voice actor couldn’t make the trip. However, once the studio returned to New York, Questel was right back in that vocal booth, Yoo-hoo-ing it up!

So not only do we get to enjoy the tremendous vocal stylings of Mae Questel as sweet Betty Boop, but now you can know that she had a big hand in bringing your other favorite cartoon character to life, Olive Oyl.

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10 Comments

cperrynaples 6 months ago
Fun Facts: Questel did a series of paper towel commercials in the '70's! No NOT "the quicker picker upper"...that was Nancy Walker! She also played Woody Allen's mother in "New York Stories" where her death and resurrection are memorable!
top_cat_james_1 6 months ago
Questel also voiced Little Audrey in her series of cartoons, as well as the Sea Hag and Swee' Pea ( In fact, all the miscellaneous female and children characters) in the 1960's made-for-TV Popeye cartoons. She is a more versatile voice actress than most people give her credit for.
SammySetsuna 6 months ago
She died a long time ago. The Fleischers lineage can't seem to find a good replacement. Let alone someone who sounds like her. She cultivated those character roles. Who voices Olive Oyl today? I can't tell you but she sounds terrible. Sandy Fox who can't act or sing for toffee voices Betty Boop today. I saw Betty in a new commercial and it automatically hurt my ears. My poor ear drum. At least with Questel she could act, and her voice was soothing to the ears. Please fire Sandy Fox.
Ccook1956 6 months ago
On that To Tell The Truth show, Bill Cullen did vote for the correct guy (Jack Mercer was his name). Also MeTV doesn't show To Tell The Truth because Buzzr (another free-TV diginet that specializes in classic game shows) does.
MikefromJersey Ccook1956 6 months ago
Thanks for the update Ccook. In any event, there really was no excuse for the other 3 panelists
not choosing Jack Mercer, a blind person going just by voice would know it was him.
As for Bonanza's Hop Sing(Victor Sen Yung), that was almost as bad, he was a widely used
character actor besides being familiar to untold millions around the world when he
appeared on Bonanza. He was on the game show after getting shot when terrorists
tried to hijack his plane, he had fought them hand to hand. His acting wasn't mentioned
in the Bio presented to the panel, rather the focus was on the hijacking.
MikefromJersey 6 months ago

On a Gary Moore hosted, color "To Tell The Truth", they had the original Popeye on - sorry
I forgot his name - who looked and sounded exactly like the character. Yet none of the
oblivious panel picked him!
They did the same thing with Earl Hamner junior! As soon as he opened up his mouth,
with that unique voice, it should have been game over but no dice.
The same with Bonanza's Hop Sing(Victor Sen Yung).
To Tell The Truth is very entertaining, the color ones have aged quite well. I sometimes
wonder why MeTV never runs old TV game shows. They are chock full of classic TV stars.
Plus To Tell The Truth, What's My Line, I've Got a Secret often had on people of historical
import. One was a witness to Lincoln's assassination, another a Rough Rider, on a lighter
note the guy who invented the C-Ration, the 1st winner of the Indy 500, great adventurers.
Andybandit 6 months ago
The times that I watched Popeye. I never knew who was the voice for her.
justjeff 6 months ago
Questel said she modeled her version of Olive's voice after ZaSu Pitts...
justjeff 6 months ago
This comment has been removed.
justjeff daDoctah 6 months ago
...and it was said that both ZaSu Pitts and Edward Everett Horton were both known for their flustered "Oh, Dear!" and "Oh, My" comments...
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