For decades, Bettie Page (1923-2008) was a legend -- only, she didn't know it. Around 1957, the pin-up and nudie-cutie queen disappeared without a trace. All kinds of rumors circulated, including greatly exaggerated reports of her death.
When Bettie was finally found more than three decades later, she had quite a story to tell. In Bettie Page Reveals All, (Dec. 6 at the Opera Plaza) Mark Mori's fascinating new documentary, Page tells her tale in her own words.
It's highly unlikely we'll ever see anyone quite like Bettie Page again. A devout Christian, she had no qualms about posing nude, or about appearing in S&M stills. Her attitude was simple, yet sensible: God created the human form, so why be ashamed of it? Besides, posing paid a lot more than secretarial work, and a gal's gotta make a living!
Bettie's pictures, along with short films in which she gleefully shook her scantily clad booty, were produced during the height of the McCarthy era. Sex was the ultimate sin. Commies were everywhere. Naturally there were occasional legal hassles in her line of work, but Bettie would not be moved. She stood before one judge and refused to plead guilty on obscenity charges, because she felt she had done nothing wrong.
Bettie suffered through a series of failed marriages before and after her career. After her last marriage, she had a severe breakdown and spend a number of years in a mental institution. It's now believed that her paranoid schizophrenia was caused, at least in part, by a traumatic childhood in which her father had molested her.
Through it all, Bettie's personal relationship with Jesus Christ remained steadfast.
Mori documents this highly unusual life story with stills and film clips from Bettie's unforgettable career. Archival news footage and the lady's own folksy, down home Southern drawl complete the portrait. If a Hollywood screenwriter had fabricated Bettie's story, it would be dismissed as preposterous.
But every word of it is true. Thankfully, Bettie's final act had a happy ending. She embraced her fan base, expressing surprise that she was so well remembered. But she was delighted that her work had brought pleasure to so many. No less than Hugh Hefner stepped in and made sure that Bettie was compensated for the use of her image.
Mori has done a superb job of telling an extraordinary story. Now that Bettie is no longer with us, we can all look back and marvel at how much of an influence a sweet Southern girl had on pop culture and the sexual revolution which followed her retirement.