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Late 1920s singing sensation and actress Helen Kane is one of my favourites. With her coquettish vocals, a distinct Bronx dialect and risqué lyrics, she gave the flappers a voice. One look at those big, expressive brown eyes and bee-stung lips, it is no wonder why the original “The Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl” inspired the legend that is Betty Boop. Helen Kane was like an all singing, all dancing kewpie doll come to life – armed with sass a plenty. “If it’s naughty to vamp the men / sleep each morning till after ten / then the answer is yes, I want to be bad!”, she sang in 1929.


Born Helen Schroeder on August 4, 1903 in the Bronx, Kane was starstruck from an early age. By the time she was 15-years old, Helen was performing onstage professionally, touring the Orpheum Circuit with the Marx Brothers. Kane spent the early and mid-1920’s trouping in vaudeville as a singer and played the New York Palace for the first time in 1921.

In 1928 Helen Kane was appearing at the Paramount Theater in Times Square. She was singing the popular song “That’s My Weakness Now,” when she interpolated the scat lyrics “Boop-Boop-a-Doop.” “I just put it in at one of the rehearsals,” she later said. “A sort of interlude. It’s hard to explain – I haven’t explained it to myself yet. It’s like vo-de-o-do, Crosby with boo-boo-boo and Durante with cha-cha-cha.”

Helen Kane

Helen Kane

The audience went crazy and only four days later, Helen Kane’s name went up in lights. Seemingly overnight, she came out a star. “One day I had fifty cents,” Helen laughed, “and the next day I had $50,000.”

At the height of her fame in late 1928 and early 1929, there were Helen Kane dolls and Helen Kane look-alike contests, appearances on radio and in nightclubs. “Money was falling off trees,” the singer said of her big success in 1928.

In 1929, Paramount Pictures signed Helen Kane to appear in a series of early musicals. Her first of three 1929 films was a comedy titled Nothing But the Truth, in which Helen has a small role but she got to sing “Do Something”. She next went into a cute college musical, Sweetie, starring Nancy Carroll. Kane was teamed with Jack Oakie – and the comedy couple handily stole the film.



Finger wave tutorial
My friend and frequent guest star of this blog, Jirina, does some of the very best finger waves that I’ve ever seen. I asked her to do a guest post on this 1920s and 1930s stable ‘do because I haven’t really seen any truly great tutorials on finger waving online before.

Instead of a simple blog post, we ended up filming a tutorial for your viewing pleasure!


Now, finger waves really aren’t the easiest of vintage hairdos to master; it takes time and practise to truly perfect this look. I’m still learning myself. But the results are so strikingly beautiful that it is most definitely worth any and all extra effort and time! Well done waves are like veritable works of art, in my humble opinion.

Some of the tutorials that I’ve come by online suggest finger waving on natural hair, some even recommend sleeping with wave clips on. We find this unnecessarily difficult and uncomfortable. Both Jirina and I have straight hair so we curl our hair the night before as it gives a great base for the waves. We used air rollers but you can do tight pin curls or use sponge rollers, whatever suits your fancy. Then brush the hair out in the morning, style and set the wave clips. Have breakfast, do your make-up and other morning tasks before removing the wave clips after a minimum time of about half an hour – the more time, the better. Then style, comb a little, spray – and voilà!

Well, watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.


Note: in order to keep things as simple as possible, we didn’t wave the whole head this time but only the front. You can, of course, wave the back of your hair as well with this same technique.

Tools of the trade:

  • Wave clips (waving clamps) – you can get some at Sally Beauty, for example

  • Lottabody or another setting lotion of choice

  • Hairspray

  • Hair brush and a rattail comb

  • and, perhaps, some bobby pins

  • originally posted on December 2, 2012

    February 16, 2014 Femme Stuff Tutorials
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    Welcome to 21st Century Flapper!
    My name is Riikka and I hail from Helsinki, Finland. I'm a film researcher and a freelance journalist, a sartorial devotee of vintage fashion and endlessly fascinated by early 20th century visual culture. I write about film, fashion, design, architecture - and all things old and pretty.

    Olen helsinkiläinen elokuvatutkija ja toimittaja, jolle 1900-luvun alkupuolen visuaalinen kulttuuri on todellinen intohimo. Blogi sivuaa kiinnostuksen kohteitani 1920- ja 1930-luvun elokuvista aina ajan muotiin ja designiin asti.

    Don’t hesitate to say hi or contact in case of any questions at
    riikka @ 21stcenturyflapper.com

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